“What is the purpose?” That’s what 78-year-old Irawati Lavate and her husband, 87-year-old Narayan Lavate want to know about their continuing existence.
The couple has been in the news in the past few weeks for a letter they have addressed to the President of India with an appeal for ‘active euthanasia’. The Lavates are registered as organ donors, and reason that it’s better they die while their organs are still functioning perfectly, instead of later, from an ailment or disease. The couple’s utilitarian view of life includes leaving behind their bodies for medical research and their property to the government. They also believe it’s unfair that they be made to live up to a point where they contract a disease or infection, and are forced to spend money on treatment, before finally dying.
The media coverage of the Lavates verges on the sentimental, but the two seem perfectly at ease cracking jokes about their deaths. To a question on why they chose not to have children, Narayan responds, “What is the use of having children? There are already so many, (this world is) already overpopulated. Why should we add to that? Furthermore we didn’t want the responsibility of raising children, (they're) of no use whatsoever”. His answers to most things get at least a chuckle out of his wife.
Iravati, a retired school principal, and Narayan, an employee with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, had an arranged marriage in 1968. Though Narayan claims it was his idea to not have children, Iravati bore the major brunt of that decision; since being childless is considered "inauspicious" by many communities, she often wasn't invited to traditionl/religious gatherings, but she doesn't regret that decision.
Narayan has several different responses to what they plan to do if the President rejects their appeal. He has said to some media outlets that they will hire people to kill them; to Firstpost he said they will try committing suicide (with Iravati whispering “Don't say like that”) since it is no longer a punishable offence. “Try and try again,” he says, as both of them break into smiles. There is also a darker plan that involves him killing Iravati and then spending time in jail because he feels his continuing existence is prison-like in any case.
Post-retirement from the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, Narayan Lavate has taken on many responsibilities: he worked with the State Transport Employees Union for 25 years and became a Right to Information activist — his undertakings are listed in a CV that he hands out to the media. Possibly his most significant achievement is that he compelled the government of Maharashtra to do away with the unconstitutional post of deputy chief minister.
Iravati has largely been confined to their home since she had surgeries on both her knees. She used to visit her school until the metro construction began on their part of Charni Road, leading to traffic snarls and a lack of taxis.
Their letter to the President says:
“The petitioners would urge that it is unfair to compel them to wait till some serious ailment/deformity befalls on them and would urge that they may be saved from such a contingency by passing sentence of death, against them for their crime of continuing to live beyond 75 years of age, being of no use either to themselves or the society, only to die later on due to terminal illness and hereby wasting scarce resources of the country (and also theirs) on keeping them alive, against their wishes.
The petitioners believe that such a course of action would certainly be covered by the term mercy in its true philosophical sense…”
They have also put together a document on the procedural formalities that can be followed in case voluntary termination of human life was legalised.
Updated Date: Feb 12, 2018 12:48 PM