Our Golden Years

Sudipta Bhawmik

(Originally published in AnandaSangbad January 2006 issue.)
We are getting old! We maybe in denial, but the fact remain true. Those of us who belong to the so called baby boomer generation (that is born between 1946 and 1964) are quickly approaching the age about which we need to think and plan about. Yes, financial planning, like IRAs and 401(k)s are important, but I am talking about social and cultural planning. What are we going to do in our “golden years”? Did we ever think about it? Moving to Florida is out of the question, admit it, we won’t be able to move to an adult community in Florida and spent the rest of our lives with complete strangers. Some of us do dream about returning back to our homeland, to India. Several times we have contemplated the thought that with our retirement benefits and social security paycheck we will live like kings in India, more specifically, in Kolkata. But is it true? First of all, when we return to India, most likely many of our relatives like parents, uncles, aunts, may no longer be there. Our relationships with our cousins and other friends will likely become too loose to re-establish. The India we left behind during our youth does not exist any more. We will be once again moving to a foreign land. The cost of living in India is growing too, and it is doubtful how long we will be able to leverage our dollar advantage. Finally, with our children and grandchildren in this country, will we be able to live happily in India? So, if we rule out the above two, we are left with the only alternative of living where we are. Maybe we will downsize our homes and move to smaller condos, townhouses or maybe even to adult housing, but what are we going to do? We can however opt to blend in more with the mainstream and spend time at local senior centers playing Bingo and Pool. There is no harm in that, but those of us who have been actively engaged in Bengali social and cultural activities, it will be difficult to adjust to Bingo and Atlantic City tours.
So, I think it is high time we think about our future. We need to do something that will not only keep us happily engaged, but will also be intellectually stimulating and satisfying. My uncle in India, after he retired from his Government job, started to edit and publish a unique magazine. Titled “Phire Dekha” (Looking Back), it is a magazine for the retired people and by the retired people. Currently in its twelfth year, the magazine has grown a loyal following of hundreds of retired people from all around India. They write their own stories from their experiences, some professionals (like doctors, lawyers, accountants) share their expertise, some engage in social debates. The magazine has grown into a movement of sorts. The subscriber-members meet often just to discuss, chat and have a good time. This is the type of activity that I’d like to be involved when I retire. But can we do it here, in this adopted homeland of ours?
Anandamandir can effectively support such a movement and serve as the vehicle which can help us sustain in our old age. We need to get engaged more with the Anandamandir committee and help them develop a cultural center that can not only serve us now but can be our social and cultural retreat during our golden years. Let’s give it a serious thought.

P.S. Please send your comments to bhawmik@gmail.com

One thought on “Our Golden Years

  1. Sudipto,

    You’ve echoed the thoughts of so many of us ‘baby boomers’. My husband Santanu and I recently returned from a trip to Kolkata where we spent a hectic but wonderful holiday with frineds and family. Kolkata has certainly changed with the looming malls and the looping flyovers, but so have the people we left behind many years ago. Our jethus, kakas, mamas still welcome us with the warmth we cherished, but their greying heads and wrinkles foretell of an uncertain future the next time we visit. Like the earlier generation of Bengalis who regularly follow the migratory pattern of winters in India, we too would love to someday enjoy the luxury of over four weeks of stay in Kolkata without having to worry about jobs or the responsibility of young children awaiting us when we return. But, beyond it all, we need to develop a passion or a zest for living in our ‘golden years’.

    The magazine sounds like a wonderful idea to pen ones thoughts and experiences. Perhaps these articles and anecdotes will also serve as a bridge between our generation and the next. Anandamandir has already earned a place in the hearts of Bangalis as a cultural and social center. I am sure with some ‘serious thought’ we can all work together securing long term and stimulating goals towards our futures.

    Nandita Sen

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