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July 6, 2013
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OLD IS GOLD
Nimish Dwivedi, a banking professional based in Singapore, writes in The Wall Street Journal about how India's younger generation is paying little attention to the elderly who in their youth devoted all their energy and resources to bring up their children so that they could take care of them in old age. Sadly, life has not panned out this way for seniors. Dwivedi compares India with Japan and Singapore, which too are viewed as "young" societies. However, unlike India the Japanese and Singaporeans take adequate care of citizens on the other end of demographic spectrum. "We seem to have become a society where it is widely accepted that children are supposed to be independent and there is no longer a burden on the oldest children, as there is in Japan and Singapore, to look after their aging parents. But let's look at that attitude from the mindset of this older generation. This generation devoted their entire lives to creating just one asset class: Well-educated children ready to take on the world. This was their only retirement plan and their health care insurance provider for old age. Now, suddenly, this generation finds itself with little protection from the asset they invested their lifetimes in. " Dwivedi warns of serious social implications of this lopsided social development in future. At the same time he says that "this is also an opportunity for enterprises given that elderly services in India have meant little more than reserved seats on buses and trains and higher-yielding deposits from banks. " For instance, elder-friendly furniture, health insurance, money management for the elderly and elder-care givers could expand into booming businesses.
NIGHT TRAIN TO DHARAMSALA
'India by night train, with a nice cup of chai', Belinda Jackson's travelogue - about her train journey in India - published in Sydney Morning Herald is rife with clichêd impressions of a westerner travelling second class sleeper in India for the first time. Jackson is impressed with almost everything in 'modern' India from McDonald's at New Delhi railway station to air conditioning inside the rail coaches. She is travelling in Jammu Mail on her way to Dharamsala to meet the Dalai Lama. "Armed with dinner, the stage is set for the night train north to Dharamsala, exiled home of the Dalai Lama, and therefore a drawcard for every yoga-loving, omchanting, fisherman's-pants-wearing, dreadlocked Westerner. The second-class sleeper is an open affair of double-decker bunks that double as seats in the daytime. It boasts power points and each bed has a brown paper bag containing two sheets and a hand towel. The bag tells me this linen is washed 'in an advance mechanised laundry', gives an email address for complaints and wishes me a happy journey. " Her co-passengers amuse Jackson as much as India's on-going transition to developed world. There is a family from Moscow, a bunch of NRIs from Canada, a Tibetan couple and an Ukranian who is into meditation and tantric sex.
" I have spent 52 days in a dark room meditating and I want more, ' says Yuri, the happiest Ukrainian I have ever met. " As passengers settle down to sleep after eating hearty dinners spread out on Jackson's berth she is roused from her sleep by raucous snores of an Indian traveller on the opposite berth. The next day she is woken up by early morning chants of the Tibetans, Ukranian man and the din created by chaiwallahs. Thankfully, she has now has reached her destination.
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