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Home Is Where the Heart Is

April 2007
Home Is Where the Heart Is

In our incredibly fast paced lives, rarely do we pause to contemplate the equally fast pace of change. The adage, "Change is the only constant" has been true throughout history? but never with as much urgency as in current times. It has been said that the kind of change that mankind and planet Earth has undergone in the last 50 years is more than the cumulative change of recorded history prior to that.

It was while working on our cover story about retirement amongst Indian Americans that the implications of such rapid transformations—wherein the world of even a couple decades back can feel like ages ago—came into focus. For the pioneering Indian Americans who were at the cusp of a migration wave, and who are now approaching retirement in their adapted country, there is the added dimension of displacement from their roots that further compounds the effects of disorientation caused by the unrelenting pace of change.

Most of them now live in American suburbs with names like Suwanee and Alpharetta, which, for all practical purposes, could have been another galaxy compared to places such as Chandni Chowk or Bhendi Bazaar or Gandhinagars where they grew up. Indeed, their current abodes were practically forests in the days they were growing up amidst bustling masses of humanity.

While most of us go about living our American lives with poise, one can't but wonder what might be the implications to the psyches and souls of folks approaching the contemplative stage of retirement. What would the flood of memories of such diametrically diverse living mean to the senior who is caught between nostalgia for a world left behind, and the pull of their American born progeny, and their comfortable if not thriving years in America?

If home is where the heart is, what if the heart is in two places? While there are no formal studies or statistics on the number of Indian Americans who have decided to spend their golden years between the two shores, it appears to be a rising trend. For those who have the means and the inclination, living for extended periods in India is now conceivable, thanks to India's rapid race to prosperity and development. One can look forward to the proverbial best of both worlds: the comfort of living amidst the familial, albeit with the acquired worldview that incorporates the best of American values. And all this while enjoying both Pizza Hut and paans.

And yet?if nostalgia, the comfort of the familiar, and a sense of roots is what would drive one to consider going back, then too there are landmines to consider. The same old culprit—change—comes into the picture. Instead of settling back into comforting familiarities, it is quite likely that Indian American retirees may find themselves foreigners in their own motherland.

These are the inevitable challenges that this pioneering population must face. The saving grace comes in the form of the phenomenon of globalization where one is only a click or a call away from where one wants to be. If not physically going back, one can virtually live in two worlds right here in the States. Watching world cup cricket on our American TV sets, going out for a dosa dinner, and watching grandchildren go to yoga and Bharatnatyam classes can bring back a feeling of rootedness – a feeling of home.

- Parthiv N. Parekh

[If you are an Indian American senior who has considered the above issues, we would love to hear from you for a possible follow-up on this cover story. Please write to editor@khabar.com]

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