Second Childhood

Residents chose to buy into The Retirement Community for different reasons.

Some residents, like us, had moved into Anandam for the services offered, hoping to be looked after, as we aged.  The villa was secondary.  Others bought a villa , for the real estate value. The services were secondary.

Some bought a villa , with plans to move in later when they were truly retired. Others bought it as a holiday home, to be used only during vacations, when they utilised the services during  their short stay. Some bought them for their parents. Some bought a villa as an investment, with no intention, whatsoever, of ever moving in. Ever.

This constant state of flux in the community, was the Promoter’s nightmare. At no point in time, did Anandam have a full complement of all the residents living in the Retirement Homes, using all of the services available. This would  have worked out well for the Promoter and the Residents.  The services needed the numbers to break even. Even the STP,  the Sewage Treatment Plant needed a minimum number to fuction effectively.

The Promoter promised better services, when the full complement lived permanently in the retirement community and used all the services offered. The come-and -go-residents, smiled and hinted in unconvincing tones that they would come and settle down permanently, if the services improved. Many summers came and many summers went, but they never came and they never did.

The average number of permanent residents in Anandam never exceeded 20, on a good day. Some residents said that they were waiting for the new Clubhouse and all its amenities to open, to come and settle in. Some just watched silently, recording the progress , or lack of progress they saw, on every visit.

It was clearly a Catch 22 situation.  The ones who suffered because they  were caught in the middle were the permanent residents, the ones who considered Anandam the only home they had.  They had , like us, burned all their bridges and their boats to  arrive lock , stock, barrel to settle into the Retirement Community.  The permanent residents, like us, had no choice but to roll with the punches.

The come-and-go-Residents watched from the comfort of their alternative addresses, in the safety of the miles that separated them from Anandam, dictating changes they wanted done, on Whatsapp groups and E-mail groups. The further they were geographically, and the less likely they were to settle into the Retirement Community permanently, the louder their instructions. They probably wanted everything worked out hunky dory and in place, humming like a well oiled machine, by the time they came a few years later.

When elderly strangers like us , the Anandam residents, the permanent and the come-and-goes,  are strung together in groups in social media, we  can sometimes develop personalities we ourselves do not recognise.  An alter ego, alien to our normal selves.  In a second, any one of us,  even the most mild mannered benign resident could transform from a stalker, a silent spectator into a ‘Shoot  and Scoot ” Resident.  In the cozy comfort and safety of cyber space,  spewing offensives and unfounded insinuations,  which cannot be supported with evidence  and declaring  a discussion closed when cornered is easy. All  of us sported a  contemporary Jekyll and  Hyde of sorts.

Faceless exchanges in Cyberspace, allow people to take liberties they would not dream of, in real life. People mind their manners, when face to face, in the real world . They will not pick their nose  or chew with their mouth open. They will not burp or pass wind. They will mind their language, especially in mixed company.  But in a group in Cyberspace, anything goes. They will twang the rubber band to see how far they can go. Etiquette is just another French word, lost to antiquity. Only the indelible posts remained on the threads as tell tale evidence.

This stoked a great deal of unrest amongst residents, both  the permanent and the come-and-goes, who were peeved because they felt that they were not given all that they were promised. It was llike cooking from a fancy recipe book. What appeared on the table never looks anything like the photoshopped final Dish that appears on the glossy pages. Initially we all simmered with resentment and kicked against the pricks, trying to make our demands heard.

Some demands were reasonable. Some demands were not. Some demands were addressed. Some demands were not. Some of the demands bordered on the ridiculous, when we presumed, singly and in groups, to dictate to the Promoters what to do, or not to do, with their own Land. We forgot that our ownership ended at the colourful hedges of our gardens. We thought that the entire 240 acres of Bahri Beautiful Country at the Foothills of Kodaikanal in Theni District,  belonged to the residents of the Retirement Community individually and as a group.

What is mine is mine , what is yours is also mine……

Eventually, good sense prevailed when some of us, who were actually living in Anandam as permanent residents, weary with combat, realised that this was not the reason we had moved into a Retirement Community in our twilight years. We had certainly not relocated and uprooted ourselves from our comfort zone, our hearth and home , to spend the rest of our mortal lives fighting and biting and scratching.

We thanked the Good Lord above for what we had. What we did not have, we did without, or we made available ourselves, as we would have if we had lived on our own.  A symbiotic relationship developed imperceptibly, setting the tone and tenor between the Promoter and most of the Residents, though some continued to confront the Promoters and the Management, singly and in groups.

Most of the permanent residents settled down to accepting life at Anandam. Some of us installed firewalls around us to insulate ourselves. Some of us thanked the Good Lord above for the  kindness of rendering us hard of hearing , sparing us the tittle tattle of the idle.  Some of us withdrew into shells we crafted in defence. Some of us practised Yoga and Pranayama individually and in groups.  Some of us played Table Tennis. Some of us sang Anthaksharies. Some of us wore out the soles of our walking shoes, walking through all the main roads and byelanes of Bahri Beautiful Country. Some of us sat around plotting the details of the next controversy.

Some of us watered our gardens with a vengeance. Some of us did waste management and composting as if our lives depended on it.  Some of us walked uphill, backwards.  Some of us cycled around the countryside clicking scenic landscapes, as if there was no tomorrow.  Some of us dived headlong into water bodies , be it a swimming pool  or a bore well in the village.  Some of us gathered in houses to conduct religious events. Some of us learned a new language from a neighbour. Some of us planted trees. Everyone worked out a safety  mechanism for survival and surprisingly everyone survived.

I wonder if  this is what  “second childhood” means ?  Had we regressed to revisit our kindergarden playgrounds in our old age ?  Was all this nit picking we did naturally, effortlessly and so very efficiently ,  physiological ?  Was this a normal process of aging ? Did we behave as children when we aged ? Was this what we saw in our elders while we were growing up and had hoped we would never inherit at that age ?  The ancestors we swore we would never become ? Were we, horror of horrors,  turning into our crochety ancestors ? The ones we never wanted to be ?  Dont we remember telling our kids, ” If I am anything like Aunty Jane, when I grow old, Shoot me .” ?

Despite all these innate differences, the residents formed their own circle of friends, to walk with, drink with, smoke with, cycle with, gossip with, shop with, go on excursions with, go to hospital with and to accompany them on their final journey with. Residents socialised as best they could. Whenever they could.

They unfurled the National Flag on Independence Day. They celebrated the major festivals. They celebrated Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, Senior Citizen’s Day, they met for discourses on the after life, they gazed at stars singly and in groups, they played Tambola to win and they welcomed the new residents who came to collect their house keys when their homes were completed. They attended their Griha Praveshams, their House Warming ceremonies with saplings of fruit trees from the nearest Plant Nurseries as presents . If a resident cooked anything special in their homes, they sent it to their friends. When the containers were returned,  in true Indian tradition, they were returned with a little something in it. Never empty.

Anandam is the only home that we, the permanent residents have. We do not have an alternative, a home in a Metro to run off to. Nor do we have a dual passport or a NRI status to escape to far and distant lands.  The very thought of relocating at this age is exhausting. Anandam with all its warts and pimples is our Home, till we swap it for a heavenly abode when the call comes .

Till then and for now,  Anandam is home. Our only Home.

God give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Lord give me the serenity to accept stupid people the way they are, courage to maintain my self control and the wisdom to know that if I act on it, I will go to jail.

And lastly , perhaps the most honest of all the Serenity Prayer Twists,

God grant me the serenity to accept the people that I cannot change., the courage to change the one person I can and the wisdom to know its me.



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