Sachin is the only son of Kamala, 72. He has one elder sister, who is married and has a daughter. But she has not been able to live in her marital house, being more often than not, forced to live with her mother. Reason? Her mother is aging and all alone in her house. In the absence of a husband, Kamala is being looked after by her daughter. But, is this not what is supposed to be done by and son in a middle class Bengali family? Yes, of course! And Sachin is doing it. After all, he is earning a big six figure salary all of which is tax free from his job in Kuwait as a Design Head of a Company. His remunerations come into his ICICI Bank account and he has instructed his mother and sister that they can withdraw money without being at all stingy about it. His mother must have every need fulfilled. A beautiful white marble house, three floors, with modern, western amenities and restrooms, although she can live on the ground floor. The house is fully air conditioned. A battery of servants serve the elderly lady. His elder sister, lives close by with her family but is usually living with her mother in Sachin’s house. The mother is ailing and asthmatic and has a heart condition. She is a frequent patient at Kolkata’s plush Belle Vue Hospital with heart or lung problems.
And although, she longs to be and see her son, Sachin, who comes every six months or so for a week, is rarely at home when he is in Kolkata. After all, Kolkata is his city. He has friends to meet up with and girlfriends he must take out for dinner. So Kamala must bottle up her feeling.
Sachin does make pretentious statements that he will return to India. But, by now her maternal heart knows he will not. The primary reason being finances. What she does not know is Sachin has a free life in Kuwait. He call daily, wraps her in abundance of goods and finances and makes six-monthly visits. This should suffice, he thinks.
But his mother wants him to return to India. After all she is not sure how long she will live. But even the best offers in India, are less than a quarter of what he receives in Kuwait. No, it’s not what will satisfy Sachin. After all, by staying in Kuwait, he is giving his mother all the luxuries that money can buy. His sister is there to look after her on a daily basis, while he makes the money most needed for a luxurious life he wants for his mother and himself. He knows his mother hankers to see him, but there is this business of providing for a good life too. So, something has to be given up to get something else.
Only that something is a human need. The need to be close to her son and feel secure in the knowledge that he is around, when she breathes her last. He could have taken her to Kuwait to live with him, but that would mean giving up his freedom to a certain extent. Besides, India was a cost effective option, in all respect.
At the face of it, it seems that everything is in exactly the best place as it should be. But a closer look gives out some of the startling facts of this Case Study. Please note, we are making some interpretations, based on life in modern metropolitan India.
Sachin comes from a middle class family although today he is among the nauveau rich. He has been brought up with middle class values, which come as a package with the class. So we can assume that he is aware that he must be responsible for looking after his parents. And even if he has an elder sister, the onus of that responsibility will be his. Hence, in this case already there is a gap in what was taught and what is being practiced. But, Sachin has been involved with bread-earning and although there is enough, the taste of higher remunerations and career improvements has displaced the old learning for the new image he likes to see himself in. There is however, a cost to pay as well. Only his elder sister is paying that price. Normally, she aught to be more involved with her own marital home, but since her mother is widowed and aging and ailing, she must put her own home aside to take care of mother as Sachin is out of country. There is no dearth of money, but Sachin is not willing to return as he also will have to forego his carefree life for a life of responsibly. He feels by keeping the financial abundance in his family, he is doing his duty. But his mother is not happy. She longs to be with her son. But, that poses many discomforts for Sachin. It is better, if this responsibly is managed by his sister in Kolkata, even though she is paying the price by sacrificing her own need to be with her family.
Strength: Sachin has a great job in Kuwait with prospect of career and higher income. He is able to afford the best for his mother because of this. The quality of their lives as a middle class family has improved in leaps and bounds. They can in fact live a life of luxury now.
Weakness: Sachin cannot fulfill his mother’s wishes to have him close to her. He cannot keep her insecurities of breathing her last, without seeing him at bay. His sister is sacrificing her own home for her mother. Sachin is not sensitive to this because there is the business of finances to look after as well as his carefree life in Kuwait. Hence, the balance is tilting on his side.
Opportunity: He can put an end to his job in Kuwait, and take on one in India, albeit with a sizable drop of salary. His prospects in India, now that he will return from working abroad will get better. With India becoming a global major in many sectors, his prospect increases as he has worked with teams worldwide and hence, he becomes the Best Choice for any company. Hence, his salary and benefits will increase likewise. He also has the opportunity to go on his own and start his own company here, because he has money as well as global experience. He can start up a 100% EOU. He can even become a Consultant to many companies interested to venture into India. Most importantly, he will be with his mother and thereby fulfill the demand of middle class values he had imbibed but which he now has compromised for want of a carefree life and high financial returns from work.
Threat: He will have to adjust to lower remunerations. To start up a new company requires time and finances which he may not be willing to invest, although being in Bengal, he may be able to generate the finances from Banks. Last but certainly not the least, he will lose his freedom and carefree life to a certain extent.
Summary: Sachin is suffering from tunnel vision. He presumes that money can replace or completely take care of old age health problems. He cannot see the emotional needs that are crying out for fulfillment in his mother. Nor does he really mind that his sister has to compromise her family, to look after their mother on a day to day basis. His middle class values have been replaced by the lure of money. Besides, he prefers his life of freedom to the life of bondage and responsibilities. He is coving this guilt with abundant finances for his family in India. He has actually decided not to return under any circumstances, and subconsciously, he is aware that the time is limited for his mother’s life and hence, once that is over, which will at some time or the other, he can break free to another country altogether. It is only a matter of time and he can maintain status quo. It serves him best, whatever be the other cost he has to bear to achieve this end.
Really, it is a Win situation for him only.
As far as his mother’s wishes are concerned, he is speaking to her every day and he does come to India every six months and he hopes that in case of an Emergency, he will be there beside her, without having to make any shifts now. He has logically put away the middle class values and replaced them with needs of a different kind. These values are looking after his mother meaning being there in person rather than replacing his presence with his money. Which for the mother is unfulfilling.
It has never occurred to him that there are advantages of becoming an Entrepreneur in India, as both timing and place right now are just right. No, after all, India is not Kuwait, Canada or Australia, Europe or America, where he is a frequent traveler and Project Head. Plus, he has his own life to lead, which cannot be compromised.
Conclusion: Is this the price to pay? Money, for love and a life carefree?
Note: The present Case Study is to be published in Dignity Dialogue, a magazine for Senior Citizens. The Case Study is based on real life situation, in exactly the way it is presented. Any resemblance to any other case of this nature is purely incidental.