A place to roost at sunset: Choosing a retirement home for myself

Musings about everyday life

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Published: Thu 9 Nov 2023, 8:50 PM

“The grass is always greener on the other side” (of your mind) is an understatement when it comes to picking a retirement home. Typically, a non-resident Indian would proudly restitch his umbilical code and make a dash home to build what would not only be the envy of his neighbours but would put the seven wonders of the world to shame. For most of them, the dream to build a museum of nostalgia back home and a little heaven on a yonder shore is the holy grail.

In my case, life has never been so eventful. I had forgotten to pick up the umbilical code that had fallen off in a pile of scorched leaves by the wayside during this unstoppable journey. I had taken the Ulyssian oath that “I cannot rest from travel”. I had forgotten, or avoided, to look in the rear-view mirror until the low-fuel warning constantly blinked of late.

I was recently looking for a place to park myself until the chariot gently stops for me. I had always dreamt of a little space by the side of the placid Phewa Lake in Nepal's Pokhara where I could watch the first rays set fire to the ice cap that the Annapurna sports in freezing mornings. A cottage amid the lush golf courses in Malaysia's Skudai Johor was another fantasy.

A water cottage in Port Dickson, a busy Strait of Malacca port; a shikhara in Kashmir's Dal Lake; a chadar tent on the banks of Pangong Tso, the saltwater lake at an altitude of 5,360 metres above sea level on the Indo-China border; a little nest in the picturesque Bavarian Schliersee; Bacharach On The Rhine, a medieval village of castles and vineyards straight from a story book — the mind meanders through the magical places you fantasise or have experienced. Strangely, none of the American destinations stayed in my cognition. The solitude I always dream of wasn't the sort that nestles in the isolated and eerie communities around San Jose in California.

As dreams make way for reality, I am looking at options that are down to earth. India, where I come from, is a place where you can always blind-pick. Drop a hat from the sky, and go and live wherever it drops: plains, hills and mountains — snow-capped or lush green — small towns and metropolises, beaches and banks, islands and atolls. Destinations are aplenty in the subcontinent but the heart refuses to stay put even at the place where you learnt to toddle into the realities of life.

They say home is where happiness is. Home is where peace is. Home is where freedom is. Home is where safety is. Home is where tranquillity is — the attributes of life that my home town doesn't offer. The waters of streams and wells smell of human blood. The sandy beaches have turned red. The human tear has lost its salty tang. Innocence has worn thin in the air you breathe in. Fear lurks in the little bends on village roads. The pastorals have lost their poeticism. I have been living in metropolises ever since I left my village at the age of 21. My desire to rush back to the busy streets of Singapore and Dubai is ever compelling. Living in the scenic Pasir Ris in east Singapore, I rushed back to the bustling streets of Little India in the weekends. Life throbbed over the clinking of bottles in the quaint kopitiams of the old town. The townhouse living off Al Qudra in Dubai never offered me the kick of the Karama bustle. The banalities of class and aristocracy are sickening.

As the sun slants over the horizon, I am still in search of what I want. Maybe, a green canopy over my head with a little Louvre down under.

“Dad, what about a small ranch in the heart of the Amazon forest, surrounded by a Mall of the Emirates, a Dubai Marina in the backyard, an Irish Pub across the driveway and a Maidan at a stone’s throw?” my daughter shot back.


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