Thursday, August 27, 2015

OLD AGE WOES – Do You Depend on the Kindness of Strangers

Do You Depend on the Kindness of Strangers ?


Sometime ago  during my early morning walk  I passed by Mrs. J’s house. 

I saw  an 84 year old widow  struggling to walk in her garden. 

I wished J good morning  and I asked her how she was. 

She answered: “I depend on the kindness of strangers.”

For a moment  I was speechless. 

Then  slowly  I let her words sink in  and perambulate in my mind – “I depend on the kindness of strangers” – and  these words struck a chord. 

I was transported back in time  almost 35 years ago  to the year 1981  if my memory serves me right  when I had seen the play called A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE which had a lasting impression on me. 

I witnessed a performance of the indigenous Indian Production of this 1948 Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece by Tennessee Williams at the Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi directed by Alyque Padamsee with terrific performances by Dalip Tahil as Stanley Kowalski and Sabira Merchant as Blanche DuBois. 

I still remember the heart-rending scene  when  after being totally destroyed by Stanley, while being taken away to a mental asylum, a shattered Blanche holds onto the doctor’s hand and says: “Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

Though the context in the play is different  I realized the universal all-encompassing truth encapsulated in those profound words  which were spontaneously uttered by the old lady J – who I am sure has not read or seen the play “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

As I observe in Pune – I realize that there are so many senior citizens living alone  so many old people who “depend on the kindness of strangers” – especially in the middle-class

In most cases  their children live abroad in the USA pursuing their American Dream  while their parents live a life of loneliness awaiting their deaths back home in India

Also  I notice that the longevity of women seems to be more then men  since there are far more senior citizen widows who heavily outnumber the widowers.

Before you blame the “ungrateful and selfish children” for “abandoning” their “hapless” parents  I think you must consider the fact that there are always two sides to a coin (or two points of view in every story).


Let me give you a bit of a background.

In the 1960s and 1970’s  I lived in a “middle-class” locality in Pune  where parents had two dreams:

1. First  their son must get into an IIT and go abroad to USA to realize the American dream and achieve “success”.

2. Second  they must get their daughters married to a “successful” American NRI so that she too could go the USA to live a life of prosperity and happiness there.

Many such parents  like the old lady  achieved their dreams.

And they are paying the price today.

Even today  I see so many parents who are desperate to send their kids abroad for higher studies and to settle down there. 

In the earlier pre-globalization pre-liberalization days prior to 1991  it was difficult to go to America unless you graduated from an IIT or topped from a premier University. 

Today  it is much easier to go abroad for studies or for work. 

Post liberalization  in the globalized world of today  if you are willing to spend your money  you can easily go for higher studies abroad  or you can go there via the IT Route – by first going abroad to work onsite  and then sidestepping into a job over there in America.

This is the main reason why there is a beeline for jobs in the IT/ITES industry – it is the easiest way to migrate overseas.

Then or now  the fact of the matter is that it is the parents themselves who encourage and monetarily facilitate their children to go abroad.

Parents inculcate ambitious values that create in the minds of their children the urge to migrate to America or some other prosperous country for a “better life”.

So who is to blame – the parents or the children?

I ask the old lady  “Why don’t you go and live with your son or daughter in America? Have they refused to take you there? Are your children unwilling to have you live with them?”

“No – not at all. Far from it,” the old lady says, “my children want me to live with them over there and keep calling me to relocate permanently to America and stay with them in the US. I have gone there so many times  but I don’t want to live there with them in America. I don’t like it over there.”

I am puzzled. 

It seems very strange. 

Why should the old lady prefer to live a difficult lonely life out here in India  full of hardship  when she can live a comfortable life of luxury in America with the best of facilities and healthcare  and in the company of her children and grandchildren?

Why do so many senior citizens prefer to live alone in India and depend on “the kindness of strangers” – when they can enjoy the evening of their lives by migrating abroad to live with their NRI children and exulting in the love and care of their near and dear ones?

Is it ego? 

Is it something else? 

Is there some other reason?

I don’t know. 

I don’t have the answer. 

Do you?

If you do have the answer  or wish to share your views on this subject, please comment and let us know.

And  you better start thinking  about the evening of your life  when you become 70 or 80. 

You have to decide from these 3 Choices:

1. Do you want to live with your children...?

2. Do you want to live alone...? 

3. Do you want to live in an old age home (retirement community) which has assisted living facilities and where you will be well cared for and looked after...?

Remember – if you choose the second or third choice above – you will be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Think about it.

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1. This article is just food for thought, my musings, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt.
2. While planning your old age – please do your own due diligence. 
3. All stories in this blog are 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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