Well, here I am, again, like a bad penny. Although why anybody should hang on to one, if they are sick of it turning up again and again, I don’t know. Maybe it is a lucky penny, even if a bad one.
It has been more than a year since I was last here. Since then I have completed several journeys, both actually and figuratively. After returning without too much damage from the actual journey I had written about, we decided to finally move ourselves lock, stock and barrel, to a distant slower paced life in a smaller city about two thousand kilometers away. Before we could move, we had to undertake the major task of selling our apartment and winding up thirty years of life in the city which gave us a lot and took a lot out of us as well. In this city I had never forgotten I was alive, even if there was nothing much I seemed to be doing. This was perhaps the only city I really loved because it was where I grew into an independent person and learnt to assert myself, though it did take me several difficult years. I was not really happy to be leaving.
But life is like an assembly line that has a way of moving us along, whether we want to move on or not. So we moved, to a smaller town which promises more challenges to be met. It is not the retired people’s paradise that Western people move to in their sixties and seventies. There is no paradise in India except for the very wealthy who can make their own world with money.
This late sixties move in India is a recent phenomenon, which came about with growing up of the baby boomers’ children. They moved out of India and our generation of parents moved into smaller towns. While the children seek to make their lives in Western pastures where they find careers and choices which they find fascinating, we are realizing the need to live our own lives after years of frugality and self-denial. Suddenly we have more money than we ever had in our youth and middle age – which were years of genteel poverty really – and we have discovered that it is now or never. If we don’t spend the few years of good health and mobility left to us now in fulfilling our modest desires, we will die with regrets as our parents did. Every baby boomer couple I know is traveling either in India or abroad, even if with a little trepidation, never having traveled before. The satisfaction lies in the accomplishment of the journey itself and sometimes this is the payoff more than the experience of new places.
On a smaller scale, the elderly now feel free to venture out on mild adventures of eating out without penny-pinching and in indulging in impulse shopping.
The cinema we used to frequent in the metro inevitably had elderly couples forming the bulk of the audience, especially if it was a film appealing to limited audiences. Women-centric films seem to be a hit with elderly women who have finally come into their own. I have had R accompanying me to such films and promptly falling asleep. But no matter. I enjoyed watching them without his sometimes irrelevant comments.
During all these escapades, our generation is busy rethinking their own lives, and making far-reaching decisions to uproot and face the challenge of putting down new roots far away. Some of us play safe by merely finding a good retirement community where they feel secure in being looked after. But some others like us find it appalling having to live in the midst of an aging community and being reminded of our own age every minute of the day. So we have preferred to face the challenges of a different life in a different city. This would have been a difficult challenge even with the support of an official network in earlier times, and it is much more difficult now with no support or family around, with the added frailty of age. But we are nearly there and knowing that life is not a rose garden – it never was and never will be – we are prepared.