Team Spirit in Twilight Years
Organizations across India are filling the lives of the parents of NRIs with energy, hope and vitality.
The very mention of parents of Non-Resident Indians usually brings to mind looming images of empty nests and parents with longing in their eyes. And this indeed was the case for many aged citizens who have children living outside the country, until they decided to take matters into their hands. Groups of parents in similar situations, formed at many cities across India, have not only given them a support system, but also made lives simpler for the old, as well as their NRI children, in several ways.
The Non-Resident Indian Parents Association (NRIPA), an organization based in Bengaluru, aims to mimic an extended family. Founded in 2004 by Ambuja Narayan, NRIPA today has nearly 400 members, belonging to all walks of life, including working professionals in their 50s and retired citizens well over their prime. What brings all of them together is their loneliness. They bond over similar experiences abroad, whether it is about travelling to foreign countries, exchanging views on interesting venues in different countries or reminiscing their old days with children and grandchildren.
“I really look forward to the monthly NRIPA meetings,” says Pramila Nagraj with a sparkle in her eyes. “I enjoy the picnics and trips as it gives us a chance to get to know more people within the association and have a good time without being dependent on our children.” She credits her late husband who introduced her to the organization during its very inception.
Bonding and Bonhomie
The association, which requires a fee of Rs 1,500 per couple or Rs 750 for single-parent membership, is run by a managerial committee that is re-elected every two years. Together, they organize one-day picnics, longer holidays and tours, and festivals to create a sense of excitement in their daily lives. Members even put up shows such as skits, fashion shows and women empowerment programs.
Such cultural shows are also a regular feature at the Non-Resident Indian Parents Organization (NRIPO), which was founded in Pune in 1994 by Narayan Abhyankar, a retired high court judge and a social worker. NRIPO today has over 400 members, who keep their spirit alive by organizing festive gatherings, picnics and excursions, including overseas trips. But what sets NRIPO apart is the effort that the organization puts to look after each member.
President N Swadi points out that meetings are conducted in small groups of 15 to 20 persons, so individual attention can be given to the problems and aspirations of members. “We organise health check-up camps and even counselling facilities from eminent doctors for geriatric problems,” he says. “Presentations from insurance companies, travel agencies, security agencies, banks and legal experts are also held. Pertinent issues like will drafting, and property management are addressed in these presentations.”
Age has caught up with many members of the organization, and the members do their bit to look out for the elderly in their community. “We have tie- ups with reliable organizations that provide facilities for day care and assisted living as most of our members are retired personnel and elderly,” Swadi adds. The latest initiative the members have taken is the formation of a Member Support scheme, in which two members in the group take care of the medical requirements of another one, especially in the event of a medical emergency.
Members are also encouraged to express their views and write on issues pertaining to the organization in the in-house quarterly journal, NRIPO Jagat. The journal also helps members solicit matrimonial proposals for their children.
Age is just a number for the members of NRIPO as they have kept up with the changing times and the website as well as the Facebook page of the organization is abuzz with activities, adding to its popularity. The energy levels of the members are at par and sometimes even higher than the youngsters.
“Their energy levels can put the younger generation to shame,” says Sumana Bhatt, a United States-based engineer whose parents are active NRIPA members. Sumana adds that NRIPA gives her a sense of peace and contentment as her parents are always engaged in some activity or the other within the organization and have no time to brood.
Cities like Vadodara, Nagpur and Coimbatore also have similar organizations that provide care and emotional comfort to such parents.
Even the quaint city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra is not far behind. They are an “informal group of sorts,” says director Ramesh Kapadia. “There is an unspoken understanding and the members provide each other strong emotional support,” he says. Kapadia has bolstered the frequency of group meetings by providing Skype and WhatsApp lessons.
The main practical purpose these organizations serve is extending knowledge to the elderly about various visa options, provisions of laws for NRI investments in India, tips for planning lone overseas trips and medical insurance, and implications of receiving NRI remittances to one’s bank account.
Many members, however, feel that the activities, meetings, tours and picnics help them get over the constant feeling of loneliness. “Most of my cousins are abroad while their parents are here,” reveals Vandana Nadig Nair, an entrepreneur who co-sponsored the NRIPA Diwali festivities through her latest venture, Elder- Aide, a “proxy- child” organization that provides assisted living facilities to parents of NRIs in Bangalore. “Such organizations alleviate feelings of loneliness these parents feel in a concerted fashion, by providing emotional and social connectedness.”
Reaching Out to Others
The rise in the number of NRIs has led to parents in more cities get willing to start their own NRI parents’ organizations. In fact, groups across the country are now beginning to share notes with each other. The NRIPA members, for instance, recently shared their memoranda with certain like-minded people in Nasik who wished to recreate the theme in their city. “It certainly makes us happy that more parents of NRIs are taking the much-needed initiative to form such mutually beneficial organizations throughout the country,” says Retd. Group Captain Ashok, the 70-year-old president of NRIPA.
The welfare of the members along with activities that bind the members together is at the core of these organizations. The members also try to support noble causes like sponsoring the education of underprivileged children and contributing towards the hospice of terminal cancer patients, through the funds raised by them.
These organizations are more than just a welfare group, they are an extended family for the members. The parents now feel that there are no empty nests.