A look at how some Indian parents are ageing together in Australia, where their children are busy with work commitments and their grandchildren are at school for a better part of the day.
Poker, politics and parents swaying on '70s Bollywood music is what one would spot during a regular meetup at Club 60, a unique group that hosts soirees for visiting family members of Indian migrants settled in Melbourne.
As the name suggests, none of the guests is under the age of 60 and the meetings are hosted thrice a week in the city’s western suburb of Tarneit.
A brainchild of Sunil Abbott, the club was formally set-up four years ago and is today 400-member strong. It is fast becoming a ‘home’ for elderly couples whose children are entangled in their own work and social obligations.
“The unique thing about the club is that 95% of the members who are enjoying the club’s facilities are here on a tourist visa. They have a lifetime membership and are welcome to attend the meetups whenever they’re back in the country,” Mr Abbott told SBS Punjabi.
'Home away from Home'
At any given time, the club has over 90 active members, and whenever they get together, they bond over food, movies, games, shop talk and often go out for picnics, besides teaching each other the ways of the world Down Under-inadvertently giving each other the strength to belong in this new world and a reason to stay a little longer.
Bhushan Sood, a retired agriculturalist from Muktsar district in the Indian state of Punjab, who joined Club60 last year, said: “Life would have been colourless without his friends at the club.”
“Initially when I came here, I would yearn to go back to Punjab. But now, it’s the other way around. Now I don’t feel like going back, because I have an independent life here in Australia, outside of my family,” said Mr Sood.
Hakam Singh, a retired businessman from Ludhiana said the club has helped him combat loneliness to an extent that he feels “he has found a home away from home.”
“These friends have become my lifelines. I feel like I have known them forever. The best part about the club is that we all feel equal here, whether he/she is a retired principal or a farmer from Punjab.
"We all have a common thread which is our background, our children and of course our age,” said the 62-year-old grandfather.
‘Silence can be deafening for some Indian parents’
Every year, hundreds of parents come to Australia to spend time with their children settled in Australia and to check on their well-being and be a part of the significant events of their lives, be it shifting to a new home or the birth of a grandchild.
But while the likes of Mr Sood and Mr Singh have found support in the club, anecdotal evidence indicates that many Indian parents battle loneliness and social isolation when they first arrive in the country.
Dr Sandeep Bhagat, an experienced general physician based in Melbourne, said being home alone can be injurious for most elders who are used to the constant company of other adults back at home.
“I can’t quantify it, but can say that the impact of being left alone in this country where life is extremely fast-paced can be grave,” said Dr Bhagat.
‘If children can’t give you time, give yourself some time’
He added that both parents and children need to manage their expectations of each other in order to have a healthy relationship.
“While children need to be conscious that since they have invited their parents to stay with them, it is their duty to make time for them. Parents, in turn, need to understand that their kids are grown-up adults who have financial obligations.”
“There is no magic fix, but social clubs are a good starting point towards finding that equilibrium. I’d say if children can’t give you time, give yourself some time to stay happy and healthy,” he added.