WINNERíS NAME: Kusla Manrakhan

SCHOOL: Mahatma Gandhi Institute

TITLE: Should the present rising number of persons above 60 be regarded as a burden on society? What positive role would you like these senior citizens to play in our society in the next millennium in the light of the teachings of Hinduism?


Mr Chairman Sir, members of the Adjudicating panel and dear guests, a very good morning to you.

"Bald head, receding hair line, greying hair, wrinkles

on the face, emaciated, lean body, slowing down of the

reflexes, debilitated vital physiological functionsÖ"

This is how Ayurvedaacharya Caraka portrays old age and is how many of you here visualize it. I agree with you that old age is all these but yet there is much more to it. The designation of 1999 as the Year of Senior Citizens shows a growing interest for the welfare of our old persons. There are actually 580 millions people in the world who are aged 60 or above. Ladies and gentlemen let us be realistic. If these 580 millions people were really a burden on our society, were really unproductive, would not this world sink into chaos? Now I will expose a couple of unfounded prejudices vis-à-vis old persons and will consequently refute them.

 Prejudice 1
Older People are frail and need constant caring.

Actually the vast majority of older persons remains physically fit well into later life. It is true that with age, our bodily faculties weaken and thus we cannot expect an old person to act as energetically as a young one. Yet the old people are able to carry out the basic daily task of life and still play an active role in community life. Science has proved that what really decreases the functional capacity of an old person is not ageing as such, but vices contracted during youth such as smoking, drinking and so on. In the same way, the declining functional capacity of a person can be reversed if he quits the bad habits and strives to make himself productive. However let us not forget that some external factors such as poverty, lack of education, harmful working conditions also cause old people to be unproductive.

The vast majority of senior citizens remains fit and are able to care for themselves. It is only the very old ones, who at times even become disabled and require assistance. But many a time we see that older people are both the receivers and the providers of care. In an elderly couple we would see the "young" old caring for the very old. Such care is provided out of affection, but also out of a sense of obligation and the expectation of reciprocity.

Prejudice 2

Older people have nothing to contribute and are an economic burden on society. How ironical! Gautama Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Ramakrishna, Nelson Mandela, Boris Yeltsin, the Pope, John Glenn! All these names immediately connote greatness, not because they are great seers, political or religious leaders, or famous astronauts, but because despite their old age, they have been heroic in many ways. Old people make innumerable contributions to their families, societies and economies. Nowadays technology has a big hand to play in the emancipation of elders. Indeed, the physical requirements of many jobs have been reduced through technological advances, thereby permitting old people to be economically productive. But due to lack of proper assessment, the contributions of these persons often go unnoticed and unvalued.

Having thus shown and hopefully proved that old people are not a burden on society, let us consider their role in the Hindu religion and what roles they can play in the coming millennium in the light of the teachings of Hinduism. The ancient Hindus obviously coveted old age and a beautiful verse in Atharva Veda rightly depicts it:

"Let not this treasure of old age be reduced,

Let it increase Ö"

In fact old people were venerated and held in highest esteem. However, when we think of the association of old persons and Hinduism, the first thing that comes to our mind is the Nivritti phase of life, which constitutes the last two ashramas, namely Vanprastha and Sannyãsa. Adjustments could be made to integrate the Ashrama Dharma in the present day society. If this was done, the world would be such a better place to live in. What we actually lack are moral values, concern and respect for the human life! The vanprasthi and sannyãsi are epitomes of morality and humanity. They could largely help to set the world right by propagating enriching teachings. This would certainly lessen national, regional and international conflicts and who knows one day we might claim high and loud that we are living in a world where understanding, cooperation and harmony reign! However there exists a problem. If the Vanprasthi and Sannyãsi were to reside in forests then how could they possibly be of any help to us? Besides, the lack of peaceful forests is more than a discouragement for any elderly aspirant of Immortality. Does Hinduism, therefore, admit that old persons have no role to play in the coming ultra-modern millennium? No.

While doing some research works, I came across an astonishing piece of information. Actually there is no evidence showing that the theory of the stages of life ever became a total and practical reality, and it was probably only a minority mostly constituted of Brahmins that observed the prescribed order. I wonder how many of you here have heard of the vedasamnyasika? By your faces I see that not many. No, it is not a word that I have coined to impress you. Actually this is a category in the Manusmriti. This particular category legitimizes the wish of many ancient elders to spend their last year in semi-retirement in a small hut erected not far from the habitation of their family members.

Under this ideal, which strictly speaking lies outside the stages of life scheme, the elderly persons would stay near their loved ones. They would be readily available as consultants when called upon by the younger and inexperienced members of the family in charge of worldly affairs. The roles best suited for the persons would be those of guides, advisers and counsellors. They have had a life-long experience to direct them. They are personified pools of experience. Our values are degenerating and we are crying for leaders. Actually there is no dearth of such leaders, but it is the arrogance of our youth and the lack of humility that makes us consider these elders useless and senile masses. How blind can man be? It is high time to recognize their values. In family life, who teaches the young daughter-in-law the traditions of the family? Why the elderly mother-in-law? Who teaches the newly-married son about his responsibilities? Why the elderly father? Mr. Chairman Sir, the nuclear family is more of a curse than a blessing.

Elders are also worthwhile assets on the labour market. Old persons have been made to give up their jobs so as to provide employment for the younger generation. Research has shown that withdrawal of the elder workers from the labour force does not necessarily translate into jobs for the young. The young worker may not have the necessary training or skill to take the place of the older worker. Hence, the advice and guidance of the older but more experienced worker is indispensable.

We must not forget the prominent role that old people play as grandparents. Being the issue of working parents, I spent most of my tender childhood with my grandmother. She inculcated in me the right moral values, the right code of ethics. It is through her that I learnt to respect old persons. She made me love my religion and made me proud of being a Hindu. I did not learn the Mahabharata through the serials but through the enchanting stories of my dear old grandmother. Today she is dead but I realize that nothing can replace the soothing encouragement, strict guidance, care, warmth and love of an elderly parent. Elders not only contribute to the development of the society but to the strengthening of the personality. It is through them that we first become aware of our Hindu traditions. In the next millennium, who can be better moral teachers than grandparents!

Our religion is different from others. It encourages the principle of extended family. But due to western influence, we are forgetting our basic values. We shamelessly abandon our elders in homes. This is not the essence of our religion. I appeal to the future adults here. Please donít ever shun from your responsibility as a child and reject your parents when you become self-sufficient. Remember, if you are the youth of today, you will undeniably be the elders of tomorrow. So donít do anything that you wonít like being done to you. With this I thank you all for your attention.


WINNERíS NAME: Sharda Seekun

SCHOOL: St Bartholomewís College

Should the present rising number of persons above 60 be regarded as a burden on society? What positive role would you like these senior citizens to play in our society in the next millennium in the light of the teachings of Hinduism?

Dwijanah sajjano bhuyaat sajjanah santim Apnuyaat

Santo mucheta bandhebhyo Muktaschanyam Vimochayet

That is, may the wicked turn good, may the good attain peace, may the peaceful be freed from all bondage and may the liberated redeem others.

Salvation to all the Brahmacharis

Pranam to all the Grihasthis

My respect to the Vanprasthis

My oblation to the Sannyãssis

Today itís a great pleasure for me to be in front of you to express my views on the following topic.

Should the present rising number of persons above 60 be regarded as a burden on society? What positive role would you like these senior citizens to play in our society in the next millennium in the light of the teachings of Hinduism?

  Mr. Chairman Sir, thereís a very divine thought of Hinduism movement that I would like to quote, " one heart, one voice, one goal ours rise to promote truth and dharma." So, if this divine song is the motto of Hinduism, how can the question of burden rise in society? Hindu law states that the whole world is one family.

From a certain angle, the entire history of old persons has been a constant process of challenge and response. But the youth of today is losing respect, love and faith in its cultural heritage.

My dear friends, Hinduism teaches us that we should not oppose them but instead, we must invite them in order to share their knowledge and experience of life from which, we, the youth of today, can fully derive maximum benefits bearing in mind that those who will come after us will definitely treat us in the same way.

My dear friends, if now, for you, the elderly is a burden, it means that you are the future burden of the society. Would you like to be considered as a burden? If no, reject the thought of inferiority and superiority, reject the thought of yours and mine and accept every individual as part and parcel of the society.

Remember well, one has to go all the way back to our ancestors to find a parallel for the relationship of the old and young. So, give such beings your support, your love and tenderness and youíll see how theyíll make your life successful.

Mr Chairman Sir, the coming millennium is really a turning point of an age and if we want the society to be perfect, pure and sanctified from the existing evils such as nudity, drug addiction, broken homes, prostitution, juvenile deliquency and so on, we must seek the guidance of senior citizens. Infact, these persons are those who have contributed a lot and who still have a lot to offer for the coming generation. Thus, turn up your radical thought of burden and accept every individual as a creature of God. Treat others as you would like to be treated because what we are today is the result of our past deeds. Hence, it also follows that we are the makers of our future.

Mr Chairman Sir, in some cases, when an old person is still alive no honour and respect is given to him but when the latter dies great bouquets and garlands are offered to him. People pray their picture or statue. Do you think itís a fair treatment? What is the purpose of such honour for the dead person? When they were still alive, there was no place for them in your heart. So, Man! where is the noble teachings of our forefathers? Reject the quality of evilness and behave as true santans of Rishis, that is to respect our dada, dadi, nana and nani. Just think, if these persons were not present, who would have taught you to do pranam, who would have related stories to you, who would have sung lullabies (e.g chanda mama durke), who would have infused the true culture of humanity and Hindu ideals in you?
My dear friends, youth is a stage in human development, when the personality is bursting with energy, enthusiasm and dynamism. It is also a phase in life when receptivity and retentivity are at the optimum. So, arise and be ready to welcome these elderly. Because in the Manu Smriti it has been said that the trouble which parents undergo while bringing up their children cannot be compensated even in a hundred years.

So what you require is a clear vision of the goal in life and that you must exercise for the cultivation of the right values of life to enable them to mould your personality and share their inner resources along constructive channels. In order to handle yourself, you must use your head, but to handle others you must use your heart.

Hopefully Mr Chairman Sir, this year the international year of old persons, will raise everyoneís awareness of the needs and importance of the elderly. Saying about the importance of senior citizens a modern thinker Stephanie Cole has said: "This year is a real chance for all of us whatever our age is, to recognise the value of the old people and treasure their rich life of experience."

The next millennium is really a new age for us and what we youngsters want is the guidance, the core and the inspirations of the elderly, because our past is the root of the tree and without watering, without any protection the tree itself will be damaged. We always need to be a sweet fruit and the flower which is full of fragrance. We must share our knowledge to expand it in our life and experiences.

We are the fruit bearing the seed and the seed of today is the fruit of tomorrow. My dear friends, Aristotle has said that the child is the father of man and we are going to set an example for our future.

Ladies and gentlemen the elderly is an enormous tree full of shadow but we must think that we should sit under the tree to get the shadow, the shadow is not going to come on us. So if we youngsters, we are thirsty of knowledge and protection, love and care of the pujniya elderly and we have to seek refuge from them.

Thank you



WINNERíS NAME: Karishma Dhunnoo

SCHOOL: Modern College

TITLE: What contribution can old persons make to society, according to Hinduism.

  Mr. Chairman Sir, members of the adjudicating panel, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I wish you a very good morning.

"What contribution can old persons make to society, according to Hinduism?"

This is the very question put forward today infront of the house. Mr Chairman Sir, is this not irrational to ask everyone this question "What contributions can old persons make to society?" I would like to ask everyone this question "Old persons, were they born old?" The answer is certainly No. To become old is not a disease my friends. Every individual must pass through this stage.

Mr. Chairman Sir, old persons have been working like beasts of burden and today we are reaping the fruits of their toil. So, why canít they continue to do the same when they have become old. They can still make positive contributions to society. Through their long experience and wisdom, they are in a position to advise the younger generation.

Old persons can give expert advice how to gear the country towards economic prosperity just as we have in U.S.A. This quotation fits well here;

I quote "Hum kaun thé

kya ho gayé

kya hogein abhi

Awo vicharein aaj milkar yé

samashyayein sabhi." Unquote

I translate

Who we were? What we have become and what we will become? Letís together think of these problems now.

Things which at one time were unthinkable are todayís daily occurences. Moral values are at their lowest ebb. The elders can inculcate moral values in the minds of the rising generation and transform them merely from biological organisms to human beings.

Youth have learnt about the past in its historical perspective which we now regard as "Riche Patrimoine". Old persons can become a stabilizing influence and the very image of king Dashratha who sacrificed his life just because he had to honour his words as the quotation says:

I quote "Rama Rama Kahi Raama

Kahi Rama Rama Kahi Raama

Tanu parihari Raghubar birahou

Rahu gayi soordhaam". Unquote

In this way the children, youth and even adult can preserve truth as Dashratha did.

Mother Teresa dedicated herself heart and soul to the needy and poor. She was old physically yet she served the world till her death.

The twentieth century is a youth oriented society. It is true that some old persons are physically weak but they are mentally fit. Many among them have a very high sense of professionalism. It needs not remind the house of the old saying that "old is gold". For example the Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpaye travelled by bus from India to Pakistan just to bring a reconciliation between Pakistan and India to consolidate bilateral relationships. His holiness John Paul second is a religious missionary and a messenger of peace and harmony.
Mr Chairman Sir, this shows that old age cannot be considered to be unproductive. The old persons can teach the new generation to change their life and reform themselves by preaching the doctrine of karma and rebirth. The law states "As you sow so you reap" and the concept of "Vasudeva kutumbakam", completely establishes unity in diversity.
Regarding old persons Manu said:- I quote "Let him be ever collected, Let him be a giver not a receiver" unquote

The old persons are the architect of the history of a country. Mr. Chairman Sir, actually despite we being physically and mentally well built, the so-called well educated people, still need the help of old persons.

Gandhi through the weapons of Truth and non-violence made the British colonies tremble with his words. Although he was old yet he had the zeal and enthusiasm of the young generation.

Old persons Mr. Chairman Sir, can act as torch bearers, thus showing light to those who have sunk in the darkness of ignorance. The presence of old persons acts as a great contribution to society.

Ladies and gentlemen, old persons are indivisible like the root. They have grown into vast trees with innumerable branches, giving everyone their shade.

Mr. Chairman Sir, in fact old persons personify the very essence of Hinduism as they have nothing to achieve at this particular age. Their main concern is the happiness of everyone hence "sarve bhavantu sukhinatha".

With this I end here and thank you very much for your kind attention.