“My parents are alone in India as both my sister and I live here. Aged 70 and 80, they should not have to fend for themselves when we are willing and able to look after them.”
Ravi lives in the UK with his wife and daughter. Having arrived here in 2009, Ravi is now an ILR holder and eligible for citizenship in March 2016.
An IT professional and entrepreneur – one of the brightest and best UK politicians go to India to woo – Ravi provides his services to clients across the UK, mainly in the engineering and banking sectors, often thought to be the backbone of the UK economy.
Ravi chose the UK as much as UK chose him, as he was offered a very good career opportunity, because he believed that UK respected family life and certainly afforded its citizens and residents with fair opportunities to live with immediate family, especially when with no recourse to public funds!
Ravi’s wife, also an ILR holder is a highly skilled professional working in the R&D department of a multinational company, which has its development centre in the UK.
The couple has worked very hard – with no recourse to public funds – to build their life and career in the UK, returning to the country in multiples by way of taxes and contributions to society, for the opportunities they have been given.
Ravi’s mum and dad are aged around 70 and 80 years respectively; they live in India by themselves, in an apartment belonging to Ravi, on whom they are dependent – financially and otherwise. Both parents have mobility issues; neither can drive and there is only so much even good-hearted neighbours will do.
Ravi is very close to his parents; prior to moving to the UK he lived in the same household as his parents. There is no other immediate family around as Ravi’s only other sibling, Veena, also lives in the UK where she is a doctor working for the NHS. As Veena tends to the needs of those already in the UK, her own parents are left to fend for themselves, even in times of ill health.
Ravi’s daughter is also very close to her grandparents; even when Ravi and his wife lived in India, she was looked after by her grandparents who provided the day to day care she needed as both Ravi and his wife worked.
When Ravi’s wife joined him in the UK in February 2010, the little girl stayed alone with her grandparents, who then became her primary carers until September 2010, allowing Ravi and his wife to establish a life for themselves without worrying about entrusting their child’s care to strangers in a foreign country. When in December 2011 the grandparents indicated they were lonely and missed their granddaughter, Ravi and his wife agreed she could spend an extended period living with them in India again, where once again the grandparents became primary carers until April 2012.
The little girl is therefore especially close to her grandparents, and for them, she has been the focal point in their lives when they otherwise would have been alone. The three miss each other very much; the cuddles and affection so often a part of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
Contrary to the impression many have, that domestic help in India is cheap, the cost is increasing at a dramatic pace, but the real problem is that it’s unreliable, disorganised and requires placing a lot of trust in complete strangers – the concept of criminal checks equivalent to UK’s CRB checks, doesn’t really exist. Elderly known to have their only family overseas are likely to be vulnerable to scamsters.
Earlier in 2015, Ravi’s dad was hospitalised. His mum neglected to inform Ravi, not wanting him to worry from afar. She thus tended to her husband alone whilst also battling her own diabetes and severe arthritis. Later when Ravi discovered this, he indicated this ‘pained me a lot, I cursed myself for the helplessness’.
The guilt invoked at being unable to be there for those who gave us life is difficult to explain in words; not only can he not be there physically for his parents, or have them join him in the UK, but that they feel as if they can’t even tell him when one of them is ill, lest it cause him more stress, is hard to accept, especially when Ravi is only in the UK because of sacrifices his parents made. Ravi curses himself for being unable to be there during both the hard and happy times.
Ravi indicates that because of work commitments, it’s not possible for either him or his sister to leave their work and take a long-haul flight to India every time they are sick of need medical attention. But this means that despite having raised two caring, financially-independent children, his parents are now in fact forced to be all alone.
With his mum suffering from depression, Ravi’s father also looks after her even while having health issues himself. Its symbiotic relationship as families so often involve.
But it’s not just about providing care for physical ailments. It’s about being there for each other. Having a cup of ‘chai’ with your dad, watching sitcoms with your mum, playing with the drapes of your grandma’s sari for the little girl – it’s the small things that end up being memorable and thus missed.
Ravi’s sister, Veena, did consider sponsoring their parents citizenship back in 2010, under the old rules. However they did not want to move then. They had a good social life in India, in familiar surroundings. Moving to a new country at this age, did not really appeal.
However, now their friends in India all live with their own children and grandchildren; at social events, they are the only ones alone while others come with their complete family – there is a clear void in their lives.
This elderly couple is lonely, understandably pining for what they see around them on a daily basis. However, as parents who do not even let their children know when they are hospitalised, lest it cause worry, the couple is keen to not disrupt the lives Ravi and Veena have worked hard to establish here and have indicated that they want to move to the UK ‘if it is not too much trouble’ for Ravi and Veena.
Ravi is bemused as to why his parents can’t live with him. A hard-working, law-abiding, net contributor, he just wants to be able to spend some time looking after his own parents in their old age.
His parents would have no recourse to public funds, but Ravi is willing to also sign a bond that as their sponsors, the rest of his family, even when British citizens, will not avail of any benefits for whatever number of years is required. He is also ready to take out private health insurance to address the NHS concerns.
Ravi and his sister are perfectly capable of taking care of their parents, and ensuring they won’t be a burden on the state. Yet they are made to feel like second class citizens denied the basic human right and responsibility to take care of family.
There is also concern for the impact of the absence of grandparents in Ravi’s daughters life as grandparents so often are the ones who teach their grandchildren about their language, heritage and culture; it’s a very special bond.
If the rules are not changed to allow sponsorship of his parents, Ravi will leave his adopted country - now his country of nationality - and live where he can look after his parents. However, it is not right that a British citizen is forced out of his own country for simply wanting to look after family without recourse to public funds.