‘Oh, going to the United States? Three months? Won’t you get bored there?’ This is the standard response we get, each time we are about to start the journey. They seem to refuse to believe that we do enjoy the stay.
There are two sets of parents. One set have their children in almost-feel-Indian places like Dubai (and such Gulf centres) and also Singapore (‘It’s more like our Tamil Nadu, yaar! shashti, utsavam, etc., etc.’). The other group goes to countries with a different culture, such as the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and so on. For obvious reasons the former never feel out of place and the latter, never a part of the place. Still, for people like us, there are many advantages: we don’t have to plan the day or the daily chores, so no tension about the maid’s non-appearance. Stuff that the Indian stores give, the son or son-in-law buys, the daughter or daughter-in-law cooks, and we eat. Simple.
There are the other pleasures, besides the grandchildren: the spur-of-the-moment decisions to go out, especially to the movies (reserving the seats or driving is not your department). There’s a long list of movies you’ve not seen, and the home theatre is at your beck and call — you don’t have to step out even! Better because your kid has the best of movies, suited to your taste, picked and lined up for you. They even have subtitles. So the afternoons are gone.
Your stay is a time to catch up with a lot of things or re-invent yourselves. My husband’s colleague recently moved into a gated community with a swimming pool in Bengaluru; now they are visiting their daughters in the U.S. and attending swimming classes there! There are others who spend the free mornings catching up with old friends. Some are more enterprising: they attend satsangs or themselves hold free spiritual classes, thus cultivating enduring friendships.
For me, it’s reading. I have a weakness for forensic science, the case studies, rather, and more books are available here than back home — and anything on American presidents and their first ladies, especially the Kennedys. The same books provide the topics for conversation when you go for morning walks. Ah, that’s another bonus, the walks, I mean — if the weather doesn’t play spoilsport. Walking is not going to take away the extra kilos off your extra-large frame, but it feels good to meet more and more 2XLs or 3XLs on the way!
There are parents who have taken extended-period visas or even green cards, and they are there for six months a year, making it a virtual second home. Their practical formula is: once out of your home, lose and forget your identity, merge with the rest, and then it won’t matter where you are. Adaptability is what matters. Even in the case of food it matters. Experimenting without compromising your ‘ism’ will bring in a variety that you will learn to relish.
When the going is good, come out and enjoy the life out there. When you become really old, thank your stars for the good times and stay inside your Indian home. That’s practical wisdom for you.