Saturday, January 3, 2015

NRI CHILDREN – ASSET or LIABILITY?

NRI CHILDREN – ASSET or LIABILITY?
Short Fiction – An Apocryphal Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

My peer group comprises my classmates from school and college, my ex-navy and ex “fauji” military veteran buddies, and my friends, all in their late 50’s or early 60’s.

Whenever we meet, I realize that one notable fact pertaining to my peer group is that almost everyone has NRI children.

[I use the term NRI (Non Resident Indian) quite generically for all Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) settled abroad, including those who have adopted citizenships of their host countries]

At one such gathering, I met a friend – my school classmate.

She was an “NRI Mother” – or to put it correctly – she was the “mother of an NRI daughter”.

Her only child, a 27 year old married daughter, had settled down abroad in America with her husband.

“Nice to see you after a long time,” I said to my friend.

“Yes – I was abroad for almost one year – in the US,” she said.

“America? Wow!” I said.

“Last year, my daughter got pregnant – so she called me to America to look after her during her pregnancy days – and then, after her delivery, she wanted me to stay and look after the baby – so I stayed on there in the US for almost 6 months,” she said.

“Isn’t it our tradition that daughters come home, to their mother’s place, for their first delivery? Your daughter could have come here to Pune for her delivery,” I said.

“Are you crazy or something?” she asked.

“Why?”

“My daughter wanted her child to get US citizenship by birth. If the baby is born here in India, how will the baby get American citizenship?”

“Oh!” I said, “So you stayed there in America for 6 months after her delivery, did all the baby care, and then came back,” I said.

“Yes – but my daughter called me again for child-care “nanny” duties, till her baby was old enough for day-care, since she wanted to get back to work – it was important for her career that she started working as quickly as possible,” she said.

“So you went to America again?”

“Yes – for 6 months – till the baby was almost one year old,” she said.

“Oh – but now it is finally all over – and you’ll be staying here in Pune now…” I said.

“No – I am going again…” she said.

“You are going again to America…? Why…?”

“My daughter’s job is very hectic – so she wants me to do “nanny” duties and look after her child.”

“But your daughter’s child must be around one year old now – can’t the child be kept in a day-care centre?”

“I don’t know,” my friend said, “but my daughter insisted that I come because she wants her child to be looked after properly by me – so that the child imbibes our culture.”

“Culture…?” I said, astonished – and as I recovered my wits – I noticed that an old lady had walked over and joined us.

I knew the old lady – she was my friend’s mother.

I knew the old lady’s husband (my friend’s father) too.

My friend – their daughter – was their only child.

The old couple lived in a beautiful bungalow in the Lonavala – a picturesque hill station near Pune – and I had once visited them over there a few years ago.

I did not see the old lady’s husband around, so I asked the old lady, “How is uncle?”

“You don’t know…?” the old lady asked me.

“What…?”

“My husband died 3 months ago…” the old lady said.

“Oh – I am very sorry…”

“It’s okay – he was 84 years old – but he was absolutely fit till the last day. Though I miss him very much, one consolation is that he died when he was fit and healthy…” she said.

I did not say anything.

The old lady looked at me, and she said to me, “And by the way – I have shifted to an old age home…”

“Old Age Home…?” I asked, shocked.

“What to do…? I cannot live in that huge secluded bungalow all alone…” the old lady said.

“But why go to an old age home…? Why don’t you live with your daughter in Pune…?” I asked.

“Of course I would like to live with my daughter,” the old lady said, “given a choice, I certainly would not like to live in an old age home – but do I have a choice…?”

I did not say anything – I just kept looking at the old lady, not knowing what to say.

Seeing the confused look on my face, the old lady said, “Didn’t my daughter tell you? Her daughter, my granddaughter, has called her to America for babysitting and nanny duties – she will be away in America for 6 months – and then she may have to go back to America again and again – for the next delivery – and babysitting and nanny duties for the next child – so who is going to look after me here? I am 80 now – so it is better for me to live in an old age home…”

I looked at my friend, and wondered at her predicament.

On one side stood her recently widowed mother, pleading not to be sent to the old age home.

On the other side stood her daughter, beseeching her to come to America to take care of her baby.

She had a duty to look after her old widowed mother.

But she felt the strong pull of motherhood towards her daughter.

She was torn between her loyalty to her mother and her love for her daughter.

And in her case – her motherly love for the daughter had prevailed over her filial duty towards the mother.


EPILOGUE

Persons of my generation, in their 50’s and 60’s, who are parents of “NRI Children”, are in a Catch-22 situation.

They are expected to look after their parents, who may be in their 70’s and 80’s.

But their “NRI Children” also have “expectations” from them – especially from their mothers – during childbirth for “midwife” duties, and later, for baby care and surrogate parenting “nanny” duties.

That is why I often wonder:

Are “NRI Children” an asset or a liability?

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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