Sarah Lamb – Aging and the Indian Diaspora

Aging and the Indian Diaspora Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad

Sarah Lamb – Aging Indian Diaspora: This book uses aging as a lens to examine and reflect upon profound processes of social change underway in India and the world today. It focuses
on older middle-class Indians and their communities in both India and
the United States, concentrating on the proliferation of old age homes (a
a startlingly new phenomenon in India), the growing prevalence of living
alone, and the transnational dispersal of families amidst global labor markets. Based on intensive ethnographic fieldwork in several U.S. and Indian
cities extending over nearly fifteen years, the book investigates the unique
and complex ways that older persons themselves are actively involved in
the making and remaking of society.
Sarah Lamb – Aging Indian Diaspora: The book’s epigraph comprises the final lines from “On the shore of
endless worlds,” a prose poem of the beloved Bengali author and Nobel
Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, from his 1913 collection, Gitanjali, or
“Song Offerings.” The poem depicts children meeting on “the seashore
of endless worlds,” unaware that death is abroad in the vast deep as they
frolic delightedly in the waves. Three of my older Bengali informants—
one couple and one single man—invoked the poem to me when reflecting on how their children, and the Indian public at large, are frolicking
exultantly in the new opportunities of the present, unaware of the angst
and sacrifice involved in entering these new worlds. But the older couple
was not so terribly pessimistic, offering that this is a beautiful poem and
that perhaps we all are delightedly playing on the shore. Here is the poem
in Tagore’s own English translation:
On the seashore of endless worlds, children meet. The infinite sky is
motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the sea shore of endless worlds, the children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand and they play with empty
shells. With withered leaves, they weave their boats and smilingly float
them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of
worlds. They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets.
Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, and children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.

On the seashore of endless worlds, children meet. Tempest roams in
the pathless sky, ships get wrecked in the trackless water, death is
abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the
great meeting of children.
—Rabindranath Tagore,

Gitanjali (Song Offerings), 1913

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