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With Love To The Indian Grandparents Visiting the US – Varalotti In The US 7

Discussion in 'Wednesdays with Varalotti' started by varalotti, Sep 27, 2007.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    I had settled down comfortably in my host’s big home in a place called Issaquah, a very quiet, beautiful residential suburb which is about an hour’s drive from Downtown Seattle and about half an hour’s drive from Downtown Bellevue.

    On a sunny Saturday morning, my very first week-end in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>, I was taking a long walk on the <st1:Street><st1:address>Klahanie Boulevard</st1:address></st1:Street>, a beautiful three mile road with trees on the either side and with very little vehicular traffic.


    I had heard from my host that it is the custom of this place to smile even at total strangers and ask, How are you doing today. Well I should say that I was not discriminating in favour of beautiful women while practising this wonderful custom.

    I was stopped on the road by a sixty year old man who looked like very much like an Indian. When he asked me, ‘Are you from India?’, in a modulation-less accent which only Indians, and that too South Indians can manage to deliver, I switched over to Tamil. “Enna Thamizha?” . The man grabbed my hands and we were talking for a long time. Let’s call him K.

    I met K several times. Every time it was holding each others hands and talking of every thing under the sun, or walking by the side in friendly silence.

    K is visiting his son, a software guy who had made his millions pretty early. He and his wife had come down to take care of their grand children. They had first come for a 3-month-stay. But then it got extended to 11 months.

    I casually asked K, “You should be enjoying your stay in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>?” . I was expecting a casual reply, ‘Oh, yes.’ Or at the worst, ‘It’s just about OK. Nothing like our life in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>.’

    But to my utter embarrassment this man burst out right on the street. He was quite passionate in condemning the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region> life. He told me that he was virtually counting the days and hours to go back to <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>. He was terribly bored and virtually had nothing to do.


    And oh yes, the winter was a different story. With the thermometer neatly sliding below 0 degrees Celsius and with the roads covered with sheet-ice and occasionally snow, it was prison-life. Summer and Fall was MI (mild imprisonment) and winter RI (rigorous imprisonment.)


    I have been living here for almost a month. Well, I do not share K’s hatred for American life. In fact I have almost started loving everything here. The half an hour car drive along I-90 to Bellevue, the quick lunch of Bean Burritos, Fire Sauce and Potato Veggie Delight at Taco Bell, the vastness of the Home Depot, the pricing strategy of Wal-mart, the beauty of a typical private school, the disciplined traffic, the way husbands share the household work with their wives, the work-ethic, the respect for labour, the material abundance and the existence of a system even for something as mundane as taking out the trash.

    Do K and I see different worlds in the same place? Yes. What should K and people like him do to enjoy their stay in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>?

    When your son or daughter call you to assist them during pregnancy, make it clear that you will be there only till the lady in question (daughter or dil) returns to normalcy or ready to go back to work. Staying after she goes back to work is gratuitous baby sitting and I cannot think of a more cruel punishment than that.

    Grandchildren are no doubt sheer happiness but only if taking care of them is what you choose to do. It is a chore when it is forced on you and it is a punishment when you have to do it 24 X 7.

    Plan your trip well in advance. Just observe how you are spending the time there in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>. You may be going to the neighbourhood temple or chat with the lady in the next flat or go to a discourse in Vani Mahal or simply walk around Gandhinagar in Adyar or shop around in Renganathan Street.


    Remember you can do nothing of that sort here in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>.
     
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    So try to develop interest in actitivites which are not India-specific. You can spend time on the Net. Or develop the habit of reading and carry a load of books.


    Or learn embroidery and bring the whole kit here. Sign up for Yoga class about six months before the trip so that when you are here you can do yoga for hours on end.


    Or enroll yourself in Gita class and take the holy book with you. You can go to US even without a change of clothes but you cannot go without an activity that can keep you occupied for five hours during the day. You can spread these five hours between <st1:time minute="50" hour="17">ten to six</st1:time> allowing yourself the luxury of an afternoon nap in the middle.

    The food is going to be way different because the lady of the house in all probabibility would not have as much time to cook as you have back home in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>.


    You need to take a lot of ready-to-eat foods. Paruppupodi, Appalam, Pulikaichal, Vathakuzhambu mix- there are lots and lots of them. You will do better to practise living on these items for a while, even when you are in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>.

    One unwitting thing that most mothers and mils do they immediately assume the role of cooks and try cooking all the Indian varieties. You can do it once in a week, on a week-end but not every day.

    Go consult your family doctor in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region> and insist that he should prescribe drugs for every possible contingency – paracetamol, antibiotics, painkillers, anti-acidity drugs, everything. Buy them all there in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region> itself and carry them here.


    Your son or son-in-law will think not twice but a hundred times before taking you to a Doctor here. I wont blame them because going to a doctor has a whole new connotation here in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>. It is not just throwing a couple of hundred Rupees to the Doctor and the pharmacist. Some medical emergencies have devastated the finances of many middle class families.

    Once an old couple visited their son and dil here in <st1:city><st1:place>Seattle</st1:place></st1:city>. The lady had some protracted medical problem and she used to visit her Doctor back in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region> once in fifteen days just to get a word of reassurance.


    When that problem caused a little more pain than it should, the lady wanted to consult a Doctor. The Doctor said that to fix the problem would cost something like $5000.The son almost had a heart attack. Almost a month’s salary for him.


    He expressed his fears to his father. The father, a kind old man said, “Sonny, I don’t have any control over her illness. But we’ll do one thing. Tomorrow is Saturday, right? I and your mother will sit in the puja room for an hour and pray Lord Venkatachalapathi that this problem should go away, if not for her, at least for your sake. My Lord has never let me down.”

    The son remained silent. The old man woke up his wife early in the morning. They both sat teary eyed before the Great, kind, Lord for an hour. The pain went away later in the evening. The Doctor said that the $5000 procedure was not necessary for the time being. The family heaved a sigh of relief.

    A scan of a body part costs something around $5000. In the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region> even if you have a medical insurance, your co-payment (the minimum payment you have to make over and above your insurance company’s payment) could be more than the cost of the treatment back in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>.

    I would suggest that you go for a good overseas medical insurance policy for the period of your stay here in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>. If your stay is for 3 months the policy will cost about 10% of your return airfare. Having this policy will give peace of mind to your children/hosts in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>.

    And finally you need to remember that people do things differently here in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region>. Please do not have the Indian way as the standard and develop a dislike to the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region> way of life. Develop curiousity and look at their way of living with the idea of learning something.


    Don’t miss any chance to go out, be it for the street-corner grocer or the downtown supermarket or your grand kids’ school, a few blocks away. You will learn a lot about American life in schools, malls, offices and shops than in <st1:place><st1:placename>Disney</st1:placename> <st1:placetype>Land</st1:placetype></st1:place>, <st1:place><st1:placename>Niagra</st1:placename> <st1:placetype>Falls</st1:placetype></st1:place> or in front of the Liberty Statue.


    As I am closely observing the <st1:country-region><st1:place>US</st1:place></st1:country-region> life I am getting a better idea of my life over there in <st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>.


    They asked Armstrong about what was the great thing in going to Moon. He said that it is not that I am seeing Moon at close quarters, but that I am seeing our earth from a distance. A potent statement.


    While knowing about the American way of life you will know more about our own way of living. Who knows, some day you will write a wonderful book on the subject.

    Love,
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2009
  3. Shal

    Shal Senior IL'ite

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    Heartfelt apologies for missing out :(

    Hello Sridharji,

    Firstly, please accept my apologies for not making it to the lunch at Vandhana's. As she might have mentioned, it was my first week at work. I have successfully completed my master's program and will be done this december after this internship. I am working at a biotech company in its total rewards (comp and benefits) team. The company is situated in a beautiful place called Foster City and the building that I am in is surrounded by a bunch of serene lakes with swans and turkeys all around! I mainly work on numbers (salary, bonus, merit pay, exec comp, arghh!) and hence it does get crazy at times. I walk around the green walk-trails around the campus after lunch and feel better :)

    After reading your account of your visit, I now view the US differently! I was trying to look for Part 1, 3 and 6 and could not find them somehow . Have you posted lunch at Vandhana's already? Would love to read what you thought about Cali.

    Given that I love talking to parents/grandparents of friends or strangers, I can totally relate to K's feelings. Nevertheless, I think it also depends on how you make your stay interesting, just as you mentioned. Life here teaches you a lot about your country, probably even more than what you would (care to) learn while you're there...

    The GPS, huhh!! It only reminds me of my recent trip to New York. I love my California for it is such a pleasure to drive here compared to the crazy NY. One doesn't need a GPS and can do quite well with just maps in hand. Whereas, in NY, where we drove quite a bit (as Prem was working there), we got totally frustrated with the lack of signs/sign boards. It reminded us of India, though the only difference being that in our country, we can just hop off the car, ask for directions from a local vendor and hop back in. In NY, you're better off staying inside the car!! Nevertheless, we fell in love with the city once we started using trains/local transport and didn't want to come back home!!!

    Dinosaurs...yeah, I saw them at Universal Studios, Hollywood. They didn't quite excite me as much... I guess because they scared me to no end as a child when I watched Jurassic park. Might want to go back and change my mindset!

    I guess I'll stop myself here before boring you and others to death!

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    Make it a great day!
     
  4. Shal

    Shal Senior IL'ite

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    By the way, that's a nice list you've put up for parents to carry along before they visit the US. I liked the medical insurance part.

    My mom's planning to visit me next summer, so I'll be sure to hand this out to her for her reference, thanks!!
     
  5. Vandhana

    Vandhana Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar,

    Thats was really a very informative piece , bound to be usefull for all the grandparents yet to visit the US. But there are few things that need to be mentioned.
    Life for Indians here is not the same as what it used to be say 15, 20 or even 30 years ago. It is much more easier to spend ones time here frutifully than the last decade. I do remember a time when there were none of the Indian TV channels, no internet, non availability of Indian magazines or movies. Very few community centers where one could go to.
    But all these have made an appearence on the US soil in the past decade making life much more easier for the parent/grandparents.
    Regarding my own Parents the first time they came here( more than 10 years ago) , books were their only companions.They fell in love with the public library here and spent hours digging up books and reading them. They also love to go for walks and this really helped them as they used to venture into different streets daily and come back with stories.The second time they came, internet had started to take off and they really got hooked to the internet. Not only that, they got hooked to PC games. At one point it was so difficult to get the PC from them to do our work!!
    The third time they visited, all the Indian channels were available, and then so much to do on the internet. Not only that, so many Community activities for all the seniors. The only problem is one of transportation. Thats the only thing they missed. They were dependent on one of us to drive them around. But all in all they really enjoyed their stay each and every time they have come. As you said more than the big name attractions, they were more interested in the day to day lives of the Americans. My dad made a lot of friends. To the extent that , they let him pluck flowers from their front and back yards for the navarathri pujai at home on their last visit here.
    My inlaws too have a good time, every time they have visited the US and each time, they do an exercise of how things have improved for Indians in the US on every visit. .There are various ways to keep one's mind occupied here as you have already mentioned, we just need to have the mind set to do it.
    Also, i think we kids too should not bring our parents with the mind set of getting free baby sitters. I think thats when then whole US trip/visit starts to get bitter.

    And yes, Overseas Medical Insurance is a must for all parents.

    vandhana
     
  6. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    A kutti post to take the thread to the top.
     
  7. Blondie

    Blondie Bronze IL'ite

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    Hi Varalotti,

    This post of yours reminds me what happened to dear friend of ours. i am recounting that here so that the importance of your post will be reiterated to all future visitors.

    My friend's mother has severe case of diabetes but she didn't know of it. When her visit to US was planned, my friend asked his mom to get a thorough check up with a qualified doctor and asked his sister to accompany mom. In the preperations his sister could not make time to accompany mom and the lady went to the doctor all by herself first time . The doctor did the physical and asked her to come back when he got the results. The second time too only the mom went to the doctor's.

    Now 2 weeks after the mother came to the US my friend's wife called home from work to see wether mom had eaten lunch or not and no one answered the phone. After the third attempt she panicked and came home (works close to home) to find mom unconscious on the sofa in the living room. emergency crew arrived and airlifted the mom to nearby hospital. When the doctors tried to revive her they found she is in a comatose state. The doctor's asked friend's wife about her medical history and she responded that she never had any problem before. They further questioned her and in the mean time my friend arrived at the hospital in a very nervous state and even he could not give them any feed back. Later that night he remembered about asking his mom to get checked up in india and called his sister to find out if that had been done. His sister responded that yes mom had visited doctor two times and she remembered packing a lot of medicines in the suitcase. The search of mom's suit case yielded the doctor's priscription and medicines bought in india. They immediately took those medicines and prescription to the hospital to show it to the doctors there. The son felt like a complete idiot when the doctors told him what the prescriptions were for and the medicine bottles were not even opened (seals not broken)

    Bottom line is the mom turned out to be severely diabetic, even though medicines were prescribed in her ignorance she didn't get started on them. She came out of the comatose state 3 days after and immediately suffered a stroke. Her condition became better after 2 weeks.

    She didn't have insurance. My friend was in the process of closing up on a business deal and was very busy and depended on his sister's in india to take care of things for his mom's travel. They(sister & her husband) thought it was a waste of money to purchase traveler's insurance for the mom who looked very healthy outwardly.

    Now the medical bills we can only imagine. None of us had the gumption to ask him for the fear of depressing him. modest estimate will be 150k+$$.

    A mother's life is precious/ priceless but all this could have been avoided each step of the way. She just simply fell through the cracks and the consequences are tough to face. With god's grace mom is fine now but don't know about the state of my friend's finances.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2007
  8. PushpavalliSrinivasan

    PushpavalliSrinivasan IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sridhar,
    We went to US twice and both times we had our Insurance policy. By the Grace of God both times we did not pay a visit to doctor. But the first time when we went to Niagara falls there was too much crowd. My hubby's spectacles was pushed out in the melee and it broke to pieces. As we were at the end of our visit my hubby told my son not to bother and he would get it in India. But my son told him strictly he would not allow him to travel without spects. My hubby had the old prescription ( not too old) but in the optical shop he was told that after check up only he would give the glasses. Though he got the lenses fixed in the old frame, he was charged exorbitantly. So we learnt a lesson that we have to carry an extra spects wherever we go.
    My close friend also visited US with her husband with a four month's visa. She had told her hubby not to get an insurance policy for her as she was hale and hearty and to get only for himself as he had some chronic problem. It so happened that within a month while going for a walk she slipped and fell down. Her wrist got fractured and when she was taken to a doctor she was told to wait for three days for operation. She consulted her family doctor in Chennai and she was told to return by the next flight. So she had to return within a month. She also had learnt a lesson.
    As medicines are also too costly we have to buy all medicines for our full stay in US. For us time passing was not at all a problem.
    Only disadvantage was we have to depend upon them for transportation. Any way both times we enjoyed our stay. Yet we are reluctant to go and stay there permanently.
    With warm regards,
    Pushpavalli
     
  9. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sridhar,

    You may be in the US for your own training and work reasons. But you are seeing to it that not only you, but others too can profit from your visit!
    This thread is very interesting and more than that, it is very important. As this is mainly an Indian forum, I can see many here benefiting from your observations.

    My mom is now visiting me and she had some problems to get a health insurance from the firm they used till now because of age. A lot of thinking was done, should she or shouldn't she have a cover. Many told us how their parents Never get an insurance cover, but our gut feeling was she should have one, at any cost. Well, my bil and sis managed to find a company which gives a cover regardless of age...at a whopping amount !

    Unfortunately these insurance covers pay Only when some health hazard occurs while here, but not for already existing problems..like diabetes or heart problems etc. So there is really no win win situation. And the American medical system is one big mess.:-( Whaterver one may or may not like in the US, one simply cannot like the way health system works here. So, as the parents age, it sure is becoming a problem to deal with the health coverage.

    I loved the way you neatly summed up all the things you appreciate in US. Yes, those are things most of us like. Things are all streamlined and organized.
    It is also true that food habits change here!

    Like Vandhana has mentioned, life for visiting seniors are also getting better and better with all the entertaining facilities and computers and the availability of almost all the Indian grocieries be it ready mixes, veggies or even Glaxo biscuits!

    And still my mother finds it alien and is already heavily home-sick :) I know what is missing in her case...the cleaning women and daily househelp who also become part of your household members in India ! Every morning and evening she gets to chat with them and share their problems and day to day life !!! Where am I going to get her such a maid from ?:confused2: Only poor Me is available...No, she is not happy here...she want to go back soon ....and before the winter sets in!

    L, Kamla
     
  10. GayathriSundar

    GayathriSundar Senior IL'ite

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    Hi Sridhar,
    This is a really good thread and will benefit all the parents and would-be grandparents visiting US of A. You have given this issue your usual objective treatment. It is nice to read the opinion of someone who is not here on a long-term basis - which gives you the objective edge.

    My parents visited us twice in the last 3 years. The first time they came for a couple of months and we took them around sight seeing - the usual places - Niagara, New York and local Washington DC.

    The second time they came to help with my child's delivery and stayed for 6 months. Even though we all enjoyed each other's company - it did get too close for comfort for all of us. My parents were living in their "daughter's" house and you know what that means! Even though my hubby tried everything to make their stay comfortable - it was still not the same as their own home.
    Though they were overjoyed to help with my Valakappu and taking care of the baby - they did express the fact, in passing, that these customs are supposed to be taken care of in their home in India.

    My generation of software engineers in USA have taken for granted our parents' assistance in taking care of our newborns. To me this is a form of heartlessness on our part!

    We own a townhome here in Virginia - which translates to staircases!!!! My mom is an arthiritis patient for ages and it was difficult for her to climb up and down these stairs. She was downing aspirins and ibuprofen everyday. In India my parents never lived in a multi-level house! I have heard other moms complain of the staircases. And taking care of the child 24/7 in a foreign country is no easy job especially when you are no longer young. My parents went back to India when my child was 5 months old and we had already put the baby in day care before they left. Also I made it a point to take care of the baby at night even when I was working 9 hours a day. Of course my friends suggested that my mom or father should take over the care of the baby at night - but that is so ridiculous. They are with the baby all day!!

    And yes winter is house arrest - we are afraid for their health and in their hearts they probably resent that fact. My father slipped down couple of stairs and had a back sprain. My hubby's reaction was not something I was happy about. (My parents both took medical and travel insurance). In any case this incident had a happy ending as the doctor declared he was fine and she did not charge a dime. (She is a Maharashtrian!!!)
    My in-laws are yet to visit us. They refused to come so far as my MIL's health is not good. She is a diabetic for past 30 years and has had laser surgery in one eye. My hubby and I think that is fine. But others keep asking when they will come!
    Once again thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront. People in India probably think that the life here in USA is a bed of roses. But I think everyone of us here would beg to differ.

    Warm Regards
    Gayathri
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2007

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