Itni Si Hansi. Itni Si Khushi. Diwali in the Golden Years!


A Little Bit of Laughter. A Little Bit of Joy.

A section of the audience at the October 2022 Diwali celebrations of the Federation of Indian Seniors Associations of North America, FISANA. PHOTO: ITV Gold

There was a time when Diwali brought excitement, and also brought a lot of monetary tension, especially if you lived in a city like Mumbai. Diwali fell in the middle of a long line of expenses. A major stop on that track would be Navratri. Then would come Diwali. And right after Diwali would come New Year for some and, Bhai Duj wouldn’t be far.

Perhaps people, who are above 65 and have the label of seniors assigned to them, should try to recall those days when they were young. They would recall life was full and festivals made it colorful. They would also recall the expense zones.

For Diwali, especially, there was not one big expense. Rather, there was an ocean of expenses. The list was almost unending. There was the expense of getting new clothes for the whole family and of cooking lots of snacks and good food. Then there was the expense of buying of Gold as prescribed by tradition. One had to be prepared to hand out Rupee notes to every young person who sought blessings on Diwali day. And one would not be allowed to forget the whole month’s salary for the maid, along with boxes of sweets and snacks.

Did it stop there? Of course not. There were mailmen who had to be given monetary gifts or ‘baksheesh’. There were telephone company’s workers who also had to be given their annual monetary gifts at Diwali. For householders, there were married daughters, their husbands and grandchildren for whom expensive gifts were to be purchased. Then there were daughters-in-law who had also to be pampered with very expensive gifts of Diwali.

Anyone left? O yes, friends, friends’ children, neighbor’s children…..

Those were beautiful days but extremely stressful too. Perhaps life in the U.S. without any of those stresses offers more today to seniors.

Many Indian seniors in the U.S. have been living here for years, attending to their children’s households and young children. A little over ten years ago, there was no entertainment or social circle for them. If they became lonesome, or homesick, or physically sick, they could not walk over to a friend’s house uninvited and be fed ginger chai and offered a sympathetic ear.

All that has changed a few years back. Earlier, living in small American towns and far off cities, all they could do was to remember the excitements of festivals, especially Diwali, relive them in memory. Everything around them was so different than what it used to be. A major part of their lives encompassing many happy years was just cut off and all they could do was to talk about it when they met people their age.

Seniors now can go to senior centers which have come up over the years in large numbers. These centers have regular programs and also special programs during Diwali. Most of the centers boast a very active and satisfying year for the seniors, whether they lived in India or whether they lived and worked in the U.S..

Seniors can also visit a day care center near by on their own. A lot of day care centers funded by the city and state governments or the Department of Aging provide transportation back and forth from their homes. Now the seniors can look forward to spending one or two days of the week with new friends they have made at these centers, engage in fun and educational activities, be entertained and fed delicious meals, and have any troublesome issues and concerns related to their health or home taken care. More than that, they can look forward to ‘Diwali parties’.

Most cities have at least one major Indian American Senior Center operated many times by a community center. There are well-known active day care centers in Milpitas, Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, Houston, New Jersey and countless ones in New York City.

The last two decades have seen a reaffirmation of the Indian identity and of its aging population which has now come into its own. Many retirement communities established specially for Indian seniors offer private housing along with the choice of a community life. Here and now is the golden age for Indian seniors. And, hardly any of them would be ready to exchange it for the good old days which they still remember very fondly. Festivals like Diwali have acquired new traditions. After all, life is better with ‘a little old tradition, a little new tradition, a little cake, a little gulab jamun!!



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