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Choices and consequences

I come across articles in newspapers and magazines about how sections of some Indian cities are now inhabited mostly by senior citizens, with the children having settled in other parts of the country or abroad. I also come across articles of the lament of people settled in other countries about not being able to take care of their aged parents and the insufficient structural support in India for the aged population.

The desire of aged parents to have their children near them in the winter of their lives, and the guilt of the children of not being able to be with their parents have made reading of such articles quite relatable. Relatable, though for me it was a different road taken.

I decided to move back to India about a decade-and-a-half ago after residing for about the same time in the U.S. The reactions from some fellow Indian friends and colleagues in the U.S. were: “Are you crazy to go back to India?”, “Are you leaving your blue chip company job, your Green Card…. Seriously?” and such others. They were perhaps expressions of validation of their decision to stay back overriding their emotional connect to family back in India; while the few who did say something like “You are able to do something which I was not”, were perhaps more in tune to the circumstances they had accepted.

Of all the emotions, perhaps the most challenging one to manage is guilt. A balance between career aspirations and familial duties may not be easy to make peace with. Guilt has its way of permeating through the layers of emotional safeguards set by the coping mechanisms. Of not being physically there for the support of parents at the times of need, of having to take the help of friends and relatives, of not being physically present on important occasions — was it worth the professional growth and the purchasing power of a job and a life in the U.S.?

I had made up my mind, and my wife was supportive of the decision. Transitioning from a U.S. corporate job to an academic job on a Fifth Pay Commission pay scale had its challenges, as was moving back into a different way of professionalism in several aspects of life. Determined to make things work, I found the challenges becoming manageable with time. And with the passing years, friendly queries from friends in the U.S. about whether I was happy with my decision to return became infrequent.

Decisions in life are about choices and consequences. Most decisions are a mixed bag — win some, lose some, and we cannot have it all. We have our individual metrics of happiness, and we make choices and live with the consequences.

The satisfaction of having my aged parents stay under my roof, having that peace of mind (which has become all the more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic), not just of being able to take care of them but also of being there with them for the little, little things in life, and of seeing their joy in interacting with my son, is priceless.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 2:35:01 AM |

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