A generation earlier when a person retired, he used to think of money for future sustenance often having been a little short of it, now he thinks of man (usually to mean children or else relatives)! The latter is becoming rarer due to the children going abroad in many cases which now multiplies further due to the enhanced opportunities for those with rather modest abilities.

The latter is becoming a commoner due to the children going abroad in many cases which now multiplies further due to the enhanced opportunities for those with high or modest abilities.

However, in a small- size town such as Ranchi, if not abroad, children also move to bigger cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore and so on as a part of spatial mobility for employment and livelihood due to the lack of opportunities locally. 

This is responsible for creating a void for parents, more so when age starts advancing, and it becomes difficult to fill-up or substitute for the same. 

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A new social matrix hitherto unknown seems to have emerged-bringing in a few important issues in its wake.

Having gone out of town for work, children get used to up-scaled facilities and life-style of the more urbanized cities harbouring no-desire to return. 

With familial bonds diluting and mutually distant dispersal of settlements, relatives, particularly those themselves aging, cannot often be relied upon for constant care on a sustained basis. 

The same gets accentuated further by the absence of the children of such relatives themselves for the same reason, that is, employment elsewhere.

Recently, I was startled when a friend of mine stated that a few years hence he and his spouse were planning to shift to an Old-Age Home Society by buying a flat there as their children otherwise well placed in the overseas were unlikely to return. 

Another acquaintance straightaway bought a flat in such a Society rather than waiting for the age to advance further, again due to the same reason. 

What looked like a social stigma and embarrassment once or for that reason some sort of an oddity in life in the past,now has started emerging as a practical and convenient proposition due to the compulsions of the altered social milieu caused by the absence of children and dependable relatives.

While the impersonal world of a metropolitan presents pressing issues of its own, comparatively even modest size towns have started posing new social challenges for a large section of the retired and aging population primarily due to the children settled elsewhere or abroad.

Large independent houses or bungalows  which were proud possessions for the owners and a source of identity in the past,are now getting converted into flats.In case these elderly couples happen to shift out to be with children for security and support, eventually even these flats get sold off and thereby, so to say,go! 

Many have undergone this process while many others are in different phases of the same. Ironically enough, in many cases this seems to be happening not so much because of the need for money but just because there is no one to take care of them and their property.

The middle-class which very often fell short of money a generation earlier for a variety of family needs, suddenly finds itself in an enviable or one may even counter-argue in an unenviable position of having large houses or flats with children not there to take care of and are unlikely to return. 

At times some get handsome amount of money from the proceeds of sale but do not know how to enjoy the same at a relatively advanced stage of life coupled with having not been used to splurging due to the tight budget they have otherwise been used to live on all along !

One may add that indeed these properties for many look to be millstones round one’s neck as disposal of the same in itself imparts great emotional and physical distress.The process itself is also arduous.There was a time when selling a house was deemed to be a social stigma and a sign of pecuniary distress, and indeed a stain on personal honour. 

Such thoughts are now suppressed or disappearing due to the evolving social milieu.

Those of us who have retired and are now aging, when we were young, we had to respond to the oft-asked query about the home-town we belonged to. This was one of the ways in addition to a person’s surname to understand his antecedent. 

As we mentioned the home-town, what we automatically conjured up was our independent house which was a part of what then looked like our inalienable identity.

However, when the house got converted into flats we started telling about our home-town with almost a guilty-conscience and an element of mixed -feeling, wondering if we still had a right to mention the said home-town as a home-town having literally and figuratively lost touch with the earth below. Now even with the flats gone or going, what type of home-town it will be without a house or even emotionally non-satisfying flats!

The identity of a man gets converted into the number of a flat once the apartment- which even otherwise seems to pock-mark the beauty of a quaint town like Ranchi- gets built and with the flats even gone, the word home-town becomes a mere barren expression no more suffused with the meaning that it once automatically carried!

Unlike houses which were symbols of lasting bonds for families tied to the land and locality at times going from generation to generation, flat looks more like a commodity easily bought and sold devoid of any deeper sentiments towards it. 

There are many who keep on shuttling between their homes in Ranchi and the places of posting of children in relatively larger towns. If the children are abroad, the frequency obviously diminishes.

Earlier marriages were family-affairs between broadly two equivalent families within the framework of endogamy. Love-marriage was an exception which due to a variety of reasons has now become the norm.

Hence, now parents are finding themselves increasingly drawn away from children many of whom want to lead their own nuclear family lives without the constant presence of others who need to be taken care of on a regular basis. Social conformism and social control are dwindling.

The premium on the experience and wisdom of old age that was placed earlier is now getting questioned in this fast-paced changing world. Social values are also changing and families are becoming filo-centric.No wonder the old guys are getting relegated to the background!

Very often parents themselves,who are also the product of nuclear family, prefer to lead a separate life of their own.However,advancing age creates its own imperatives for care and support -not necessarily monetary in the middle-class which is upwardly mobile now -which may or may not be forthcoming!

Thus, taking care of property or day-to-day life is becoming increasingly difficult for many.

About a couple of decades or so back one friend remarked that he could not understand as to how one could live in a flat in which if one were to laugh loudly,the other flat-owners would end up hearing, questioning! Ironically enough, now he himself lives in a flat and perhaps merrily enough.

In not-too-distant future one may get used to live in the old-age home likewise as a possible option. In many western countries it has become so very widely prevalent.The awkwardness and sheepishness in acknowledging the new reality is vanishing,and will go.

In so many places and in large numbers the Old-age home societies have started mushrooming with mutually competitive myriad facilities. Sensing the opportunities, one surmises that the builders with their sharp nose for business will eventually avail themselves of such opportunities even in those places like capital city of Jharkhand where it has not become a trend till date.

Afterall even now with children gone, for couples with advancing age, their own homes in the town where they live often have a creeping sense of loneliness coupled with absence of support and some other semblances that an old-age home as an option is expected  to remove, when compared to the life in the past amidst family -members. 

This is contrary to the way they had envisaged the future to unfold. Now they are trying to come to terms and grapple with the new realities!

{The opinion expressed in this article is based on a random survey conducted by the writer Pradeep Kumar Sinha.

pradeepsinha@rediffmail.com}

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