“Forty cents,” the girl at the McDonald's cash register said. Knowing that the Company gives 50 % discount on coffee to the seniors, I still asked, “How come, the price is 99 cents (for a small size equivalent to 200 ml)?”. “You got a senior discount!” “How do you know I am a senior?” a bit teasingly I said. Suddenly, the girl was apologetic for calling a senior, senior!” The US is a land of the young in age, heart and spirits!

Gently I took my cup, added cream and sugar, and looked for a seat. In a restaurant or any public place, I am particular about my seat. I refuse an arbitrary seat ushered to. A seat is my place to reflect and think too. I care as much for my butts as for my mind. While walking around, I noted that everyone was a senior on a Thursday morning!

The seniors were in singles and couples, taking their favorite breakfast while reading books, filling out crossword puzzles as mental calisthenics or discussing. It amused me. This franchise is miles away from any highway or freeway. Being situated on a main arterial road through a residential suburb, it seems to be a popular meeting place for the seniors. I too on my morning walking loop decided to stop for a coffee with my power candy bar carried in a pocket.

My thought flew to the seniors from India in the US. Never have I seen them in groups. In big cities, Indian seniors are very isolated in their homes when their working sons and daughters in laws are gone out. Indian languages are barriers in socialization as most don't have speaking skills in English. The Hindu temples that are financially endowed open up the temple premises for the senior groups. The Sikh gurdwaras lead in this respect. The only successful Indian senior group started in San Francisco area is Chhaju ka Chabara. Its model just started in Washington DC area.

The first wave of seniors (retirees) from India came in mid-1980's when the first generation of Indian professionals sponsored their parents and siblings. Its influx accelerated when the immigration tightened on the sibling category in 1990's. Consequently, first the parents were sponsored, and then the parents sponsored their adult children. Let me add, that the first generation of Indians coming in 1960's have yet to retire! Retirement is based upon performance, not age. Quite a few of my friends are actively employed beyond 70.

A note book or a diary is there to ground my flying thoughts. I also took time to read a local paper. Its copies are placed for customers to read and sip. It was a wonderful feeling. A few years ago, McDonald's paid a couple of million dollars in compensation to a senior citizen who burnt her thighs by spilling her coffee accidentally. Her charge was that the coffee temperature was too high! It can happen only in this great land, called USA. I went up to the girl, thanked and smilingly walked out.

Satish Chandra

March 24, 2005


Ted. Sibia
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