By Fakirchand J. Dalal
Lanham, MD: I read with great interest the letter —Parents deserve better treatment; help them physically and financially — by Jagan N. Gosain in India Tribune of November 27. I am now 83, sympathize as a retiree myself since May 1, 1991 with the sentiments expressed in the letter. However, times have changed and “unitary family” is the order of the day, in India as well as in the USA. The joint family system is almost dead.
Those of us, who worked and retired in the USA are financially self-sufficient with Social Security and pension, along with personal savings. Children, who grew up here, educated, married and working, have to take care of their children and household chores, both spouses generally working. When we arrived in the USA, we left our parents behind in India, for our own self-progress. Now, our children here need to take care of their own progress and we can’t blame them for living in a competitive society during difficult economic scenario.
We, retirees, have to organize ourselves and learn to manage our own affairs. There is enough information/help available here to do so. We have to assimilate with other Americans, and think in terms as many of them do. There are many retirement communities already existing around the USA in all Metropolitan areas which provide the needed services for independent living, assisted living and nursing. They provide living quarters/apartments, food, transportation, medical services, recreation, and other facilities. Many American retirees sell their houses, and pay for their accommodation from the amount received from them. They pay for their regular living expenses from income from Social Security and other retirement benefits and their personal savings. They do not have to provide for their children and grandchildren whatsoever.
Our Indian thinking has not left our minds, in spite of living in the USA for a sizeable period of working and making money. Many harbor funny ideas of helping children even after bringing them up, giving education and married. They even want to do the drudgery of baby-sitting and their household chores. It is mostly their self-inflicted wound of “insult to injury” and futile expectations of their children taking care of them in their old ages. I have seen many parents silently suffering the “aches and pains.” They can neither tell others, nor handle their difficulties themselves. Even others can’t help as they are also “sailing in the same boat.”
Talking only on the phone or not taking to the hospital or to the doctors by the children is a lame excuse for blaming them. They forget the saying — “Self-help is the best help.” There are many easily available means of managing these kinds of normal requirements. Inde-pendent carefree and active living with self-respect in the company of other human beings is readily available in all localities. Millions are living in such facilities and more are coming up with baby-boomers joining the ranks of retirees.
If we are stubborn and want to cling on to our out-dated views of the past, even God will not be able to help us, because “God helps (only) those, who help themselves.” The Non-Resident Indian (NRI) retirees themselves can organize their own retirement communities, if they want. They are resourceful enough. No NRI community organizations, including religious ones want to do this as they are busy building temples and performing rituals and celebrations. Old age is not only for doing religious rituals and serving the children and bringing up grandchildren. Aging process is going to be longer and difficult with improved health and living standards. The golden years are for enjoyment and creativity in company and warmth of other human beings.
Sooner we come out of our “frog in the well” mentality, better it will be for us all. Many have not planned beyond “making money,” thinking that money will take care of all their problems in the old age. Even now, it is not late for many to start planning for better living in retirement. It’s “better late than never.” It is time for the NRI retirees to awake and enjoy life.