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7Moving Abroad 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?” he inquired eagerly when I met him at an Indo-American seniors meeting. “Well, you must visit me.” He had spent much of the past few years reflecting on “Indian” versus “American” modes of aging. When I arrived at his home, he apologized for having no tea (his wife was visiting their other daughter, and his daughter and son-in-law were of course at work). I quoted at the beginning of chapter 1 from his anecdote about an acquaintance who complained of the difficulty of getting his morning cup of tea in his children’s American home: “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.” The acquaintance was put out that there was no one to prepare tea for him but was also disgruntled at the prospect of doing it himself. Matilal Majmundar teased the man: “You better go back to India. In India, if you take a second cup, or a third cup of tea, they will object, they will object. Here, you can take even ten cups of tea, prepare yourself, any material you use, your children will never object. But, if you want their time, they will object. They will object if you want their time. So, better go to India. Here is not the place for you.” This anecdote points to what I soon learned to be common images held by older Indians living in the United States: that even if maybe there is less material prosperity in India (i.e., people cannot always afford as many cups of tea as they might want), then at least families in India are closer, and old people are better served. America is the land of material prosperity; India is the land of intimacy, and time. 2-LAMB_pages_133-342.indd 206 5/13/09 3:35:43 PM  Moving Abroad In this chapter I focus on older Indians who choose to move to the United States in late life to live with or near their U.S.-settled children. I found it interesting that many Indian Americans hold more idealized and conservative views of life in India than do those still living in India, and they see themselves as self-consciously grappling to create new, complex forms of family and aging across what can appear as gaping divides between nations and generations. Since the passage of the 1965 U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act, which allowed Asians with preferred occupational skills to enter the United States, Indians have been one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups.1 Especially at first, the majority of Indians came as young professionals or students in graduate and professional schools. Thus, the Indian American population has been very “young” as a whole.2 However, as earlier migrants have matured and put down roots, they have increasingly begun to express a deeply felt moral obligation and desire to bring their aging parents over from India. Many elders also speak of finding it natural to come to America in old age, to be with their children. As I outlined in the book’s introduction, most of my fieldwork with older Indian immigrants and their families took place in California, while I was living in the region as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco. I joined as a volunteer and then as a board member the Indo-American Community Senior Center in the South Bay near Silicon Valley. Through the center, I spent time with many Indian American seniors and their families3 —serving as a volunteer chauffeur; attending meetings, cultural programs, religious ceremonies, and latemorning tea breaks; and interviewing people about their life stories, hopes and dreams, losses and struggles. I also recruited research subjects through hanging out at a mixed-ethnic community senior center in Fremont, California, a city with a robust...


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