Having spent 22 years in the force, sub-inspector Anirban Das was not given to crying. But a few weeks ago, he broke down in his Maniktala home while narrating his day's experience to his wife and children.
Das was going to work on a Sunday afternoon when he saw a frail old woman sitting on the pavement and weeping quietly. The 60-year-old had been driven out of her Bagmari Lane home by her son and daughter-in-law.
In August this year, a 75 year-old woman from Jatin Bagchi Road all but suffered a similar fate. The mental torture inflicted on her by her children forced her to leave home.
The aged and the abandoned, confirm police records, are dotting the city, from railway stations to parks. Most of them have been forced out on the streets by their children, not poverty, said an officer. 'It is penury of compassion,' he added.
'The children of these old people often lodge a missing person's diary, and hardly ever come back to check whether the missing parent has been traced,' said an officer.
'It becomes difficult for us to pursue the matter as we cannot coax the children to take back their parents, and neither are the parents keen to return to a life of harassment and hurt,' another officer added.
Often, parents themselves turn to the police. Take a case in Bhowanipore. An elderly couple residing on Rupnandan Roy Street came to the cops when their only son refused to fulfil his basic responsibility towards them.
The son had been handed over the family business and ancestral property months after his marriage, but then he refused to look after his parents.
'When we called him to Lalbazar, he agreed to take care of his parents, but didn't keep his promise,' said Shukla Tarafdar, officer-in-charge of the Women's Grievance Cell under the detective department. Finally, he was told that unless he looked after his parents, the property handed over to him would be taken away. That did the trick.
In February, a widow on Shyampukur Street complained of ill-treatment by her son.
Disgraced and discarded by those they had nurtured, most of these old people then drift towards debilitation and death.
A few, like an 80-year-old abandoned by her son on Sodepur railway station last month, are fortunate enough to find sustenance. The old woman was discovered by a doctor who gave her food and shelter. She now counts her days in a Bhatpara old-age home.
'This body of mine is nothing more than a skeleton' I can't walk much, neither do I eat much, and wouldn't have lived for too long' If only I knew how to end my life, I would long have been dead. My son used to tell me that I was a burden,' she rued.
And yet, like most mothers, she refuses to find fault with her son. 'He is not to blame,' she keeps on insisting as if to convince others ' and perhaps herself ' that her son's act of cruelty is not culpable.