Power of Collective Living- A Fresh Perspective

NewsBharati    13-Apr-2024 09:16:16 AM   
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“We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”
—Joseph Campbell
‘Man is a social animal’ we were taught in the schools and most of us wrote short essays on the subject too. We remained animals but became pseudo social. Very synthetic, materialistic and self-centred. Blame it on technology, greed, impatience or a combination of all three. Nuclear or joint families became atomic or molecular families.
Joint family system had its own charm and advantage where at least three generations lived together. There were elders, there were matured, healthy and there were children. Each was a joy for the other. There was a solid support system- emotional as well as physical-you always had someone to laugh with or a shoulder to cry on or at least share your problems. The family dined together, at least one meal a day together was a must and everyone looked forward to this. Those were the happy days in the true sense. The best part is that people listened to each other, There was something wisdom wise as a contribution to the family by the elders, the younger ones in thirties and forties provided energy and the kids the laughter and innocence. There was a huge sense of security for everyone.

collective learning 

Hit hard by hedonism

Today hedonism is at its peak. I, me, myself- this is my life- is in fashion. ‘Compromise, adjustment’ are looked down upon and defiance and disrespect or agitation are taken as being modern, and with times even cool. ‘Don’t listen to your parents, don’t listen to teachers or advise by elders- you know it all’ is the global gyan by the cool middle aged confused elders and everyone plays to the gallery. If a son looks after his parents he is labled as ‘Shrawan Kumar’. Which is so down townish you see!

For the last two decades or even more, children go abroad and have no time for parents. Some are in different cities and have no time. They have made their own life very complicated and cluttered. Mother’s instinct goes from womb to tomb which one feels is a ‘manufacturing defect’ by nature. Parents cling to their children and children don’t want to.

What is the answer? To let go? Easier said than done?

Let me draw an analogy. Three or four decades back divorce was a taboo in India. Parents and society never accepted it. Even couples thought ten times before getting into a divorce which was a big thing. And people managed to live together for even fifty years in a marriage. Yes managed.

Personal intolerance started from the west and we quickly pickup morals of convenience- so be it. The most fashionable statement is ‘we tried to make our marriage work- tried very hard’ but couldn’t pull it off- Oh my god, you must have gone through hell is a socialite’s answer. Good you kicked him or her out.
We were ‘incompatible’ is a broad idea. ‘Bro, only plugs and sockets are compatible- humans need to learn to live with each other’. Result. You spend millions on a marriage then spend millions on court cases only to pay billions as compensation. One of them gets screwed for sure.

We can start a new business model for divorce lawyers. At the time of the wedding give your visiting card to the parents of the couple with a message ‘Chchehh mahiney main zaroorat padegi- sampark karen’ ten percent discount if you register today! Pun intended.

A bump in our heads

The bug of independence, that fake cool rebellion for the sake of it hit us hard. Of course greed to earn more took the young couples far and wide to different countries. They were two with their one or two and their parents were left alone in their native countries or towns. That is when the idea of going solo or nuclear families started. This bug first hit the west and then trickled down slowly then hit like a Tsunami down to the East part of the world that was traditionally a joint family way of life. The young couples found their independence and a carefree life. But missed out on emotional support of their parents.

In 1970 or so this was at its peak in the US where Americans were happy with this disintegration and stayed for years on. Now the trend is changing and more Americans want to live as a joint family. Better sense is prevailing?
Parental syndrome- it is a gift of nature turned sour?

If children are busy and happy with their life, so be it. If you hang on to it, you will hurt only yourself- and that is what has slowly but surely dawned upon the greying society. They are gradually becoming more ‘practical’ as their kids- no, adult babies. Western society was quick to adapt and said good bye to children as soon as they got adulthood- now manage bro. only in India, may be other eastern cultures too you hear parents talking about a forty-year hulk ‘Bachche ko settle karna hai’.

When children require parents, it is expected from them to oblige but reverse is mostly not true. To me this seems to be a ‘God’s conspiracy’. God made mothers to protect children and mother’s instinct was hard wired- nature forgot to put that ‘love chip’ in kids, or the chip burnt out after a certain age and freedom!

The elders need to change their way of thinking and today that is happening fast. In India senior citizens homes or assisted living has picked up. It is a need of the hour and powers that be must look at this seriously and give subsidy to builders and care takers to make things better for senior citizens.

“For fear you will be alone, you do so many things that aren’t you at all.” —Richard Brautigan
Collective living- a way forward

The biggest advantage of collective living or living under the same roof is company and being away from loneliness. One still finds the western society to be too lonely. Not that India is very much far behind. Loneliness is the biggest killer of all times.

Senior citizens face this every day. They have money and wisdom but no one to share with. There is a flux- the society is in transition- into a backward loop. You know it but you cannot do it or you know it but don’t want to do it.
Problems are different for different groups of people two convenient buckets of haves and have nots. But both have this problem, after all it is across human kind.

Poor need cheap affordable place where they need a crutch or help. For them basics is what they need. Those who can afford, the business model is different- and why not. If you have earned then why not be comfortable?
We always look for solutions

Old age homes was a creepy name for some one to opt for. The whole idea of looking for a better brighter life was diffused by this ‘name’ which could put you off. In this case name and nomenclature matters- remember as one grows old one becomes wise and emotional too- you become hyper sensitive in most cases. What did we earn all this for? Is the moot question.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” —Mother Teresa

Different strokes

The have nots need just a shelter, having been abandoned or duped by children or those who belong to economically weaker society- they look for survival. NGOs and charitable organizations do play up on this.

Those who have money want a comfortable retired life and why not. Builders and those who build these cozy nests do it not only as a philanthropic act but also take money and give back value for money. They are aware that in this case fortune lies at the top of the pyramid and they cater for these fortunate ones with fortune! Demand for Fivestar facility is very much on the cards and those who can afford are demanding this. Market is fragmented as far as demand is concerned. You have a Life Bouy, you have Haman soap, a lux and a Dove too.

So, it is pay and park and rest is taken care of. Most of these are flexible. You can get any help on demand- medical facilities ambulances and the works.

Some argue that when everyone around you is old it may have a negative impact psychologically. The flip side is that even at your home, you call friends for a meal or tea who are your age group, your batchmates, your former colleagues. A sixty plus couple seldom or may be never socially engage with a teenager or a couple who is in their thirties. So, this point does not have much merit. Instead, there will always be occasions when children of some residents would come and stay for a few days with them as visitors and that will add a spark to the environment.
Another trend is for elderly couples to share one large house. Say two or three likeminded couples can share a home. It gives security, company and sharing of chores and saving on rentals and electricity. You can get good people to look after you and share the cost. One can hire a driver and use own cars- which most have. Style and comfort is a matter of taste and attitude. You can engage a good cook, a butler and a man Friday for all errands. One can keep a common pet- a cat or a dog depending on common likes.

Misty moods

Some singles don’t want to more than just mingle. A single man and a woman may like each other’s company but don’t want to stay together. This is called LAT- Living away together. You are close yet not too close for each other’s comfort. This is silver grey courtship if you want to look at it differently. It could be just company to beat loneliness.

It could be all girls/ladies living in one house or all men together too. There could be different multiple ways of doing this- it is the mindset that needs fine tuning or a bit tinkering.

In the armed forces across the world officers stay in a mess and most have lived half their lives in officer’s messes. Field areas where families are not permitted, your survival is on company and camaraderie. In several organizations of army you have separate messes as per rank and that is how the officers get segregated as per age group automatically. So, you dine with same age group. Therefore, one could look at these senior citizens dwelling units as hostels or messes.

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What's the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” ― Haruki Murakami

Virender Kapoor

A thinker, educationist and an inspirational guru. Kapoor is an Indian who wears many hats. An educationist of repute, he was the Director of a prestigious management Institute under the Symbiosis umbrella. He has emerged as a leading think tank in human behavior, motivation and success. As a celebrity author, his name appears with the likes of Thomas Friedman and Dale Carnegie. He has authored more than 30 books as of now which are on Amazon worldwide and several of his books are in the pipeline.