Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NRI Parents: Empty Nesters, But Lonely No More

Here's a social sub-group that my parents belong to, but it never crossed my mind until I read this article in the Feb 6, 2006 edition of Outlook magazine - NRI Parents.

In other words, parents of Non-Resident Indians.

These parents have a lot more in common than just their children living away from them in foreign lands. They face common issues at home - loneliness, lack of a support system, travel issues, management of funds, etc. So they banded together to form associations. Many such associations are already up and running in almost every major city in India including Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Baroda, Ahmedabad and Coimbatore.

How do these associations help? In more ways than you can imagine:
They meet every month; organise excursions, get-togethers and recreational activities; celebrate festivals; bring out newsletters and directories of members; and in times of need provide a rock-solid support network. At a more practical level, they provide lists of recommended vital service providers, hold lectures and workshops on typical concerns like travel, insurance, healthcare, and foreign exchange; teach members to become computer-savvy enough to stay in regular e-mail contact with their children; help those travelling abroad, especially first-timers, with visa and passport modalities, ticketing, medical insurance and the like; and stand guard over each other's personal and material well-being. Some associations even advise their members' NRI children on investment, property ownership, taxation, repatriation of funds, inheritance, and dual citizenship, and help returnees relocate and resume careers and children's education.
One aspect of this banding together that I love is the fact that these parents watch out for each others' well-being, especially in times of medical crises. The article tells the stories of aged parents having to go through medical procedures, but not having to have their children catch the first flight back home. Because this time around they had their buddies accompanying them on doctors' visits, staying with them at the hospital and taking them back home with them to recuperate after the procedures.

What a sense of comfort this must be, not just for the parents but for the children as well.

So if you're living abroad and have parents living in India, directing them to these associations may not be a bad idea.

Crossposted on Desicritics.org.


karrvakarela said...

Thank you for sharing this. It's a great initiative and yet I found it a bit sad as well.

When I was training in Karachi, we would often have elderly couples come into the clinic for checkups. A lot of these people had children and grandchildren settled abroad while they had stayed back. The loneliness was so painfully evident sometimes. I used to be much younger and - maybe they saw their own children in me or something - the old ladies would caress my cheek or weep softly as they remembered their children.

It's very difficult sometimes.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi KK, thank you for the comment. It IS very sad.

If you come across any more such people now, perhaps you could have them form these associations.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi M, thank you and welcome to my blog. I do agree that it is sad, but given the situation, it is absolutely wonderful that the parents are making the best of it, rather than feeling miserable and making their children feel miserable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sujatha,

Thanks for this info. I agree, it is a nice initiative. I have suffered pangs of guilt thinking about my folks back home. .

I agree though with the other commentors. I feel happy to know my parents have some support, but in my heart, i know that nothing can replace me being there for them. I agree with your comment about parents making the best of the situation, but i do wonder sometimes whether them making us feel miserable is perhaps the only way we would ever think about going back. Many of us are too comfortable in our new lives abroad and are not willing to sacrifice material comforts. 15-20 years ago, the brightest used to leave India to go live and work in the US and nobody faulted them if they didn't come back because there really weren't opportunities for them back home. But things are different in India now, and I wonder why we shouldn't be thinking about going back. You are lucky to have gotten an expat opportunity, but for others, it will mean leaving a life of comfort and adjusting to the mess that is India. And very often, I find people are just not open to it, even it means their parents are feeling miserable and lonely back home.

Anyways, I have rambled enough....just wanted to say, i like the initiative, but somehow, it doesn't seem enough.

good blog, btw. i really like your style of writing.


Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi Anjali, thank you for your comment and rambling is perfectly all right on my blog!

I can completely understand your sentiments. I've been in your shoes for more than a decade. So many life events pass by without you near your parents and without your parents by your side.

And you're right. I am lucky to have this opportunity to live here for a few years. It's a win-win situation all around - for my son, my husband, my parents, and my in-laws.

But I also know that my parents will not for a minute wish that I were living back in India solely to look after them. We manage somehow with phone calls, with our parents staying with us for a few months and with as many visits we can make. It's a balancing act and on in the grand scheme of things, everyone is doing fine.

Given this scenario, the kind of associations the article was talking about is icing on the cake. Not to say that children and parents will fall back on those newly-made ties every single time - I'm sure children will still continue to be by their parents' side whenever necessary and parents will still call their children back home when they feel like they need them.

But in the meantime, this is really something that makes everyone breathe just that little bit easier.

Anonymous said...

yes, i completely agree with you on that. :)

as an aside, how do you like expat life in india? are you looking forward to moving back to the US or given a chance, would you stay back? i will probably be moving to india as well (as an expat) and am curious about your experiences. i live in europe now, but lived in the US before that.


Sourin Rao said...

This is a good and important bit of information. My dad, without his sons near him in Bombay is always bemoaning the fact about missing the grandkids. Besides loneliness, its also the fact that they are so away from family. In my case the issue gets compounded because we lost our mother in 92.

Yes these associations make the days go faster, but I imagine its that much difficult to go back to an empty house and to the solitary recesses of a silent house.


Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi Anjali,

I'm so totally the wrong person to ask that, unfortunately! While my husband and son miss our life in the US and wanted to go back home desperately (we finally did, after a year, this past December), I was cool to that notion. I would have been happy either way. I really do not mind where I live. I'm busy with my life here and really do like living here, but would be equally happy going back there as well.

That said, there are a lot of things we would miss out, and did miss for a long time, in the US - family, a sense of the history of the place in which we live - that cannot be bought or replicated. On the other hand, in India, we can get all the things we had in the US and may miss here. You see, those are all material things. And believe me, after a few months, you just get used to everything, including the sandpaperish toilet paper!

I think my frame of mind has served me extremely well here. At this point, I'm open to anything, but the scales would tilt in favor of moving out because of my son and his sense of who he is (as far as he's concerned, he's a thoroughbred American - and all I can say is, thank God the US doesn't play cricket) and because we came into being as a unit in the US. As of now, at least, we see India as a stopover before we move on.

Hope this helps. A few posts on this issue are scattered around the blog. Please do look at them when you have time.:))

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sourin, please do let your dad know about this. However little it might help, I do think this might be a useful thing for him. I'm sorry to learn about your mother. It must have been hard on everybody.

BaapBechara said...

Yes, yesterday there was an article about similar association with 950 members in Pune. A copy posted on my blog.
The way to go.

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Unknown said...

I'd like to get more info on these organisations in bombay / mumbai..please post some info on the listings o fthese organisations...thanks..

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Kirti Content Solutions Pvt. Ltd. said...

The last decade has seen a major trend of migration of young people from India to countries in the developed world. This trend has become necessary as many young Indians seek better employment opportunities which are not always available in India. In taking this option, young people are often forced to leave their parents and other elderly people in their family.

A well-established elder care program in India will address the problem and not allow the elderly to feel abandoned by the society. One such initiative has been taken by DoorStep Doctor (www.doorstepdoc.com) which provides one-stop senior home health care and medical services for parents of NRI community in India.

Doorstep Doctor has been extensively featured in prominent Indian media including NDTV and Indian Express for healthcare services provided to NRI parents.

Hip Grandma said...

I have 3 children in the US and keep hoping that they'd come back to India sometime in the future.i've tried living for short periods there but was never too comfortable having a career and caring friends back here.retirement is due in 2 years and husband is already retired from work.The arrangement mentioned in the Outlook is perfectly okay with me and I'd never want the children to relocate just to look after me.

Sands said...

Suj, lovely post. Do you know of any such organization in Chennai? I struggle with just this for both my parents and in-laws all the time. The downside of moving to a different country :(

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sands, did you check the NRIPA website? I'm hoping there's something there for you.

always indian said...

Hey Sujatha,

Thank you for sharing this. It's an amazing thought to create such initiatives.

We salute the effort taken to organize such associations in almost every major city in India.

We would appreciate if you re-write the same article for our NRI readers at www.alwaysindian.com. Please let us know if your interested.

We anyways like what you have written here and read some of your posts often.

Always Indian

Sujatha Bagal said...

Always Indian,

Thank you reading and for your interest in this post. You are welcome to put up my NRI Parents post with attribution to me and a link to my blog.

Please let me know if you are interested.