After spending 15 years in the United States, my parents decided to move back to their homeland. India was always home for them. I remember their friends thinking they were crazy. "You're leaving the land of opportunity," they'd warn them. Then they would turn around and gossip, wondering if a layoff or family discord had resulted in the decision.
Two decades down the line, my parents realise that moving back was the best thing they ever did. There is hardly a month when a friend doesn't call to whine about his hectic life in the States. "I hate travelling to work in the snow every day," one says. Another complains about the expensive health insurance plans. My father smugly reminds them that they chose to live the American dream--which seems to have evaporated in the recent years.
Yes, it isn't like life in India is smooth, but there are advantages. For instance, social security benefits converted to Indian Rupees can give comfort that it cannot in the US. Then there's always the family support. Most people have something to bank on like a parental house, furniture and the like. Even for the ones who are self-made, like my father, emotional support is a plus. And who doesn't love to have conversations in the language that they grew up speaking at home? Think about the pleasure your dad feels when he can sit and watch a cricket match while he and his friends swear away at the opponent team in their mother tongue. Complete bliss, I say.
Well, a lot of retired people are doing their best to grab what India has to offer--without giving up their social life and property in America. A lot of my parents' friends do the 6 month here, 6 month there thing. That means that they avoid the cruel Indian summers by staying in their American homes at that time, and then they avoid the very cold US winters while they sip tea in their homes here. Of course, there's the added benefit of relatively cheap domestic help. My mother was always the envy of her friends after she moved here. "We have to go to the office and then come home and cook and clean," they'd tell her. In the United States, a weekly cleaning lady is more of the norm than daily cooks and maids and drivers. So when a couple spends half the year in India, they can lie back and let people take care of them and their house.
Travel into the mind of one of these 6-month-plan couples, and what do you see? A sincere effort to keep in touch with their roots? Or the end of a long road of trying to be as American as possible? It could be both.
I once asked an uncle why he couldn't just choose between the two lands. He sighed. Then he said: Child, we built our home there. It's where we have our homes and our friends and our children. But we spent too much time away from India. He also admitted that it was like taking a holiday.
If you ask me, it isn't about making up for time lost as much as it is about trying to get the best of both worlds. It seems that the 6 month here, 6 month there plan gives them just that!