The city of grey beards and green hedges - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

The city of grey beards and green hedges

ByPoonam Khaira Sidhu
Jun 16, 2024 07:54 AM IST

The act of nurturing plants mirrors the nurturing they once provided their own families; tt’s a meditative practice that provides both purpose and offers a sense of accomplishment; the gardens represent a connection to life and growth, even as the world around them seems to shrink

They call it the city of grey beards and green hedges. This nickname couldn’t be more apt for the older sectors of Chandigarh, where the air carries a mix of nostalgia and melancholy. Nestled in large homes, older parents spend their silver years in what can often feel like splendid solitary confinement. These houses, once bustling with the laughter and chaos of a growing family, now stand as quiet sentinels of a bygone era. Their children have long since flown the nest, seeking new horizons and leaving their parents behind in these vast, echoing mansions.

Through screens, grandparents catch glimpses of their grandchildren’s lives: a song recital, or a birthday. (Shutterstock)
Through screens, grandparents catch glimpses of their grandchildren’s lives: a song recital, or a birthday. (Shutterstock)

I’ve often pondered the trade-off between career and family, and nowhere is this more evident than in the lonely elders inhabiting these large, empty houses. It’s not that the children have forgotten their parents. They visit, of course, driven by a sense of duty and love to check on the well-being and health of their aging loved ones. Yet, these visits are often brief, a whirlwind of concern and affection crammed into a weekend or holiday. The reality of modern life, demands of career and distances created by geographical relocations, means that daily interactions are predominantly digital. FaceTime and WhatsApp calls have become the lifelines connecting these generations. Through screens, grandparents catch glimpses of their grandchildren’s lives: a song recital, a birthday cake being cut, or a new puppy’s antics. These digital windows are precious, yet they are mere fragments, lacking the warmth of a touch or the healing embrace of a hug.

In the absence of their own family, many elders in Chandigarh find solace in surrogate families. Often, these surrogate families are composed of the household help and their children. The bonds formed with these caretakers and their families offer a semblance of the familial connections they crave. Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated with these surrogate families, and the elders often take an active role in the education and upbringing of the help’s children finding solace in the company of hired help. This arrangement, while often practical and necessary, highlights the difficult choices and compromises faced by both generations. Grandchildren grow up without truly knowing their grandparents, and parents raise their families without the support and wisdom of the elders.

One of the ways elders cope with their solitude is by immersing themselves in the care of their gardens. Chandigarh’s magnificent gardens and green hedges, meticulously maintained lawns, and blooming flower beds are more than just hobbies, these gardens serve as eloquent soliloquies to their owners’ pain and pleasure. The act of nurturing plants mirrors the nurturing they once provided their own families. It’s a meditative practice that provides both purpose and offers a sense of accomplishment. The gardens represent a connection to life and growth, even as the world around them seems to shrink.

While these elders find solace in their gardens and surrogate families, they also try to carve out their own niches of social interaction. The women gather for kitty parties to share stories, recipes, yoga, neighbourhood gossip and religious discourse like “Bhagwad Gita” classes. On the other hand, men tend to frequent the golf course and walking the greens offers not just physical activity but friendly camaraderie. And of course, heading out to the club for a meal is not just about food, but the interactions with friends that offer genuine moments of human connection and foster a sense of belonging that is profoundly comforting.

In this city of grey beards and green hedges, the older sectors tell a poignant story of love, loss, and the search for connection. While technology bridges some gaps, and surrogate families offer companionship, there remains an irreplaceable longing for one’s own family. Chandigarh’s elders, with their rich histories and solitary present, remind us of the deep emotional currents of career and ambition that shape our lives and the bittersweet realities of aging in an increasingly disconnected world.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, July 15, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On