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Aging and the Indian Diaspora

Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad

Sarah Lamb

Publication Year: 2009

The proliferation of old age homes and increasing numbers of elderly living alone are startling new phenomena in India. These trends are related to extensive overseas migration and the transnational dispersal of families. In this moving and insightful account, Sarah Lamb shows that older persons are innovative agents in the processes of social-cultural change. Lamb's study probes debates and cultural assumptions in both India and the United States regarding how best to age; the proper social-moral relationship among individuals, genders, families, the market, and the state; and ways of finding meaning in the human life course.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Tracking Globalization


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This book uses aging as a lens to examine and reflect upon profound processes of social change under way in India and the world today. It focuses on older middle-class Indians and their communities in both India and the United States, concentrating on the proliferation of old age homes (a startlingly new phenomenon in India), ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Many people and institutions have contributed to this project, in ways more profound than I can express here, over the years that it has been in the making. This book would not have been possible without the generosity of the many people in India and the United States who valued my fieldwork, offered me hours of interviews, ...

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Note on Translation and Transliteration

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pp. xvii

Unless otherwise noted, all statements and conversations reported over the following pages came from interviews and conversations that I either tape-recorded or jotted down in field notes during or several hours after the discussions. All translations of conversations, stories, and printed materials are my own, unless otherwise noted. ...

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1 Introduction: The Remaking of Aging

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pp. 1-28

Dr. Ranjan Banerjee is a retired psychiatrist living in an exclusive old age home in the Kolkata (Calcutta) suburbs. At seventy-five, he is in good health and shares with his wife a spacious room with a simple kitchenette, attached bath, and modest balcony overlooking radiant green rice fields and a small grove of coconut palm trees. ...

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2 The Production of Tradition, Modernity, and a New Middle Class

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pp. 29-52

Perceived as both a lure and a threat, modernity was experienced by many I grew to know in India in the early 2000s as a time, indeed, when “all that is solid melts into air.” Such perceptions of modernity were intimately tied as well to visions of the past; for as scholars have long pointed out, ...

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3 The Rise of Old Age Homes in India

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pp. 53-89

One late morning in the winter of 2006, my research assistant, Hena, and I were chatting with Sri Ashok Bose, a warm, articulate man in his early eighties, who had been living in the Ramakrishna Mission Home for Aged People since its inauguration twenty-two years earlier. ...

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4 Becoming an Elder-Abode Member

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pp. 90-132

One early afternoon I was greeted in the front lobby of an elegant old Kolkata club by Monisha Mashi (“Aunt” Monisha). She was dressed in a fine embroidered blue-and-white cotton summer sari with matching blouse that complemented her jet-black hair, cut stylishly short in a fashion popular among modern professional women. ...

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5 Tea and the Forest: Making a Western Institution Indian

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pp. 133-171

One of the most important contributions anthropology has made to the scholarly study of globalization over the past few decades has been its emphasis on the complex and crucial ways that people around the world do not simply passively receive commodities and other phenomena that travel to their nations from the West. ...

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6 Living Alone as a Way of Life

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pp. 172-205

Death from Loneliness at Eighty” reads one newspaper headline. A man’s only son—an Indian Institute of Technology graduate—has settled in the United States. The story reports that the old father “jumped off the landing between the 8th and 9th floors, ending a solitary existence. . . . Neighbors said the loneliness was probably too much for the octogenarian to bear, ...

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7 Moving Abroad

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pp. 206-234

Toward the very beginning of this research project, when I was living in California, I met Matilal Majmundar, a retired minor railroad official from Gujarat who had come to be with his U.S.-settled children in his old age. He lived with his wife at his daughter’s spacious Palo Alto home. “You are interested in Indian aging?” ...

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8 Changing Families and the State

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pp. 235-267

During my fieldwork period in Kolkata, a recently retired man in his sixties committed suicide by hanging. In the suicide note published in the local newspapers, he blamed his son and daughter-in-law, with whom he lived along with his wife, for causing his death by the mental and physical torture he received at their hands. ...

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pp. 268-272

One spring evening, toward the end of my fieldwork for this book, I was sitting on the narrow front veranda of the modest old age home Aram with two of my closest resident friends, Kalyani-di and Uma-di. A luminous moon was rising, a few pedestrians and cyclists were making their way down the adjoining lane in the thickening dusk, ...


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pp. 273-298


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pp. 299-322


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pp. 323-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003607
E-ISBN-10: 0253003601
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253353436

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 8 b&w photos, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Tracking Globalization