Blockbuster hits The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 1 and 2 were adapted from a book of a different title These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach. The movies have a rom-com feel despite the serious examination of the problem of aging. The adage is true, “old age is not for sissies” and both the movies and the book take a poignant and humorous look at the often undignified treatment of the elderly in our society. But the book includes a further dimension, that of the curious relationship between Britain and India as well as the moral implications of outsourcing senior care to a place where services and carers are cheaper!
The days of the Raj may be long gone, but echoes of both cultures are evident in each. In UK, next to the Sunday roast, curry is a popular national dish and in India, Victorian houses rise up from the squalor. Gymkhana Clubs still abound. The colonial mindset sadly still persists and using a foreign country for cheap labour and call centres, is not likely to change that.
Imagine therefore, India as a solution for outsourcing elderly care from Britain! Why not use clever marketing to make it sound exotic with old world charm and modern conveniences? When the seniors arrive, it will be too late to complain about the dodgy plumbing, decrepit buildings, and poverty on the doorstep…they will already have entered the ‘waiting room’, and will spend their time trying not to look at the departure board, as they enjoy their evening gin and tonics! Seniors residing in hotels is not a new idea in Britain. I am reminded of Elizabeth Taylor’s classic Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. In fact, with the cost of seniors homes, it is true that some enterprising and able bodied seniors find that back-to-back cruises keep them better fed, entertained, and housed, and for much less.
The book more clearly backstories the characters and their families none of whom correspond exactly to those in the movies, although there are similarities. The book also portrays the younger generation using this entrepreneurial idea as a solution which tidily takes care of even needing to visit regularly and if there is a visit, making it much more interesting! The endearing part of the story is that the old folks do adapt and form a marvellous community and show more pith and adaptation than their children ever expected them to, or would even be able to muster themselves. Unusually, I didn’t mind reading the book after seeing the movies, in fact it enriched the story for me.