In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

1 Introduction: The Remaking of Aging 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. He reflected to me one humid summer morning, as we sat under a quietly whirring ceiling fan in the home’s library: RB: ‘Old age homes’1 are not a concept of our country. These days, we are throwing away our ‘culture.’ The U.S. is the richest nation in the world and therefore has won us over. Now we, too, are only after material wealth as a nation and have become very unhappy. Some are here because their families dumped them here, and there are others whose children are living abroad and can easily afford the money [to pay the oldage -home bills]. But ‘old age homes’ are not our way of life. My parents died right with us. . . . I have a granddaughter and my world revolves around her. I miss her so much when I don’t see her for a few days [he paused, with glistening eyes]. Here [in the old age home], there is a little hardship regarding food and all, but that’s OK. I have time to read and such. The real hardship comes from missing family, like my granddaughter. . . . We as a nation have become very unhappy. Material wealth [artha] used not to be the prime value in life; rather, family and social closeness were. But now it has become so. I myself am against the ‘old age home concept’—but ‘old age homes’ will stay and increase in India. Residences for elders are in fact a strikingly new phenomenon emerging rapidly in India’s middle-class cosmopolitan centers, replacing for those 1-LAMB_pages_i-132.indd 1 5/12/09 3:46:56 PM  introduction who live in them the more conventional multigenerational co-residential family that many have long viewed as central to a proper way of aging and society in India. To Dr. Banerjee, old age homes signify not merely a new form of aging, but also much broader social, cultural, and national transformations. In Palo Alto, California, Matilal Majmundar lives with his wife in a small guesthouse on the grounds of his daughter’s spacious home, having come from Gujarat, India, to be with his U.S.-settled children after retiring as a Government of India railroad official. He himself is delighted, almost exuberant, about his life in the United States where, while living right near his wider family, he has actively cultivated what he sees as certain American forms of aging based around individualism, independence, and lifelong productivity. He resides in a separate house, receives financial support not only from his children but also from the U.S. government,2 takes a class on Shakespeare at a nearby senior center, and writes a regular newspaper column on aging. He is well aware, however, that not all Indians who have followed their children to the United States find the situation unambiguously easy or desirable. In his witty and incisive reflections to me about the pros and cons of “Indian” versus “American” modes of aging, Majmundar opened with a telling anecdote about giving advice to a newly arrived friend: One gentleman came from India, old man, just to find out whether he would be comfortable here with his children. I met him. I said, “How are you?” [He replied,] “Oh, I’m not happy.” . . . He gets up at six o’clock, he requires a cup of tea, he is moving here and there, waiting for a cup of tea. The children, they get up at 8:00, or 7:30, busy with all their activities. . . . At 9:00 or at 8:00–8:30 there will be a breakfast table, so many cups of tea and all these things. “But what is the use of all this?” [my friend complained.] “Early in the morning I don’t get it.” I told him that it’s very bad of your children, huh?, to lock up the tea and the sugar material! He said, “No, no, they’re not locking.” I [MM] said, “Then why don’t you prepare?” He said, “No, I don’t like.” Then I [MM] said, “You better go to India. You better go 1-LAMB_pages_i...

pdf

Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.