The Gateway by Hariharan Balagopal draws attention to the plight of senior citizens who are susceptible to a multitude of crimes against them — ranging from petty robberies to murders. Within the bracket are several other crimes committed against the elderly, often undetected and unreported, like ill-treatment, rape, deliberate neglect, and physical harm by own kin.
Bonding over food and drinks is one of Delhi’s essential characteristics, and The Gateway employs it effectively for a cause. The gripping novel also stresses on the importance of preventing self-isolation by senior citizens. “The more they isolate themselves, the more they need us,” says a quote in the book, and the context cites the depression that old people often grapple with due to loneliness.
Perpetrators of crime, leading to demise due to ill-treatment over a period of time, often go scot-free in the absence of social contact of the senior citizens, and the book draws attention to this essential point.
The book delves further into the lack of security faced by senior citizens. If one observes any suspicious movement outside a senior citizen’s house or no movement inside, one should call for an investigation immediately. This implied meaning does not sound out of place in a city like Delhi.
The Gateway further documents the awakening of a gated urban community to its responsibility after three of their senior citizens were brutally murdered. Material wealth, successful children who live abroad, loneliness, the bane of the well-to-do urban senior citizen are poignantly delineated.
The novel is unhurried in noting people, places, relationships and social dynamics and meanders towards awakening, forging bonds and deep and abiding joys. The characters are finely sketched as are their lives and relationships.
The author notes the finest details of social interactions, but does not offer any sermons and leaves it to the reader to process what they want to make of it through the prism of their own experiences.
The whodunit angle also reaches its logical conclusion and delivers a satisfactory poetic justice making it a must-read for the young to take on the mantle of social responsibility and create a peaceful social order. The film adaptation, in association with Arun Govil who has endorsed the book, will unravel several other layers in the novel and will develop on many of the key characters.
‘The energy of the younger generation combined with the experience of senior citizens can move mountains,’ this thought forms a vital spoke of the storyline. The storyline of the book shows how some like-minded residents in an upscale colony counter crimes against senior citizens by coming together and bonding over frequent meetings and create means and ways to work for the well-being of the elderly in the colony.
Many obvious points of safety and security both indoors and outdoors, that one often overlooks, are brilliantly portrayed in the novel, and emphasis on a sensitive approach to the needs of the elderly underlines the sentiment of the book.