In this, the third and final instalment of this enlightening and entertaining documentary, where famous folk have been living communally for a month in the colourful and vibrant Indian city of Jaipur; we cover the most important aspects of life in the autumnal years.
Property, Culture and Death itself.
India has beguiled and enchanted all of the celebrities. Each has found something they know will bring them back. For Rosemary and Wayne it is their spiritual and mental wellbeing that had been invigorated.
They join Jan and Bobby at the crack of dawn in a local park to join a laughter club, where laughing yoga is practiced by a group of older residents. A number of exercises are performed whilst (at first at least) simulating guffaws of laughter, there is a lot of gesticulating and tongue work, but mainly just very loud giggling. Bobby finds it hard to be free in such an absurd situation, but the rest enter into the spirit with gusto.
As someone whose hysterical laughter is hard to curtail once started (hearing myself chuckle just makes me laugh harder) I think this practice might be one I can adopt myself as it seems prolonged laughter helps the mind and body as it oxygenates as it invigorates.
Rosemary has found a peace that she did not have in England, when you compare her appearance in the first instalment to the third, there is a veritable light inside her that was not present before. Her constant need to be in motion, to be forever forging on in life, business,; everything had prevented her from being truly aware of the beauty of life and by practicing meditation she is able to just “be” in moment for what one suspects is the first time in an age.
She is still determined to work until she drops and is pleased to see that Indian attitudes are more progressive, that ageing means New challenges not being put out to pasture and think we're she to retire to India she might open a café or get a job to pad out her savings.
Wayne too has been searching to re -connect with the more spiritual side of himself and seems to have wholly succeeded. His adoption of yoga and in this episode meditation technique has allowed him to access his spirituality. His Prostate cancer diagnosis had been a determined prod to re-examine what gave him peace and serenity. He seems determined that what he has learned, be part of his everyday regime.
Jan Leeming has taken to the community spirit in Jaipur, she feels accepted and cosseted by the way Indians accept you without question into their midst. She lost both parents a year ago and her son is grown and living in Australia. Having lived alone for twelve years, she has been much impressed by Ex Pat Emma who has sung the praises of living the Haveli lifestyle. Emma lives in a self contained flat within a family home so always has access to people and advice, but still able to have an independent life. Jan says this is a great thing, she is concerned that were she to have a fall and die in the UK , no one would know for days. Here we have a most luxurious and beautifully appointed warden controlled flat in the world at only £300 a month with a further £35 charge for a maid and cook. She has an extensive roof terrace and marvellous views and Jan is seriously considering a partial retirement of three to four months out of the year.
Emma takes her to another Haveli run by family of her landlady and it is palatial and beautiful right at the edge of the main shopping bazaar. It seems the perfect place for partial let and seems to be a great solution for Jan whose Loneliness has been palpable throughout the series.
Bobby has been considering retirement in India for a while so the programme has been perfect to seriously examine the practicalities.e ventures forth to look at property and get an idea of price and availability. Due to his incapacitation steep stairs are not ideal. With his wife coming over for a reconnoiter very soon, he is unimpressed by the craftsmanship at the first place he visits, but the others are surprised by the amount you can get for your pound.
Three bedroom properties in Jaipur are approximately £90,000 which is exceptionally cheap in comparison to UK standards , a recent retirement complex close to my home with frankly weeny one bed flats costs £279,150. A three bed shell they are shown costs £75,000 but the Indian government prohibits foreigners from being sole deed holders so either you go into partnership with a national or Rent. The same shell costs £280 a month to rent with access to a large pool, tennis court, games room, poolroom and a cafe.
Bobby ventures out again and finds a property much more to his liking. A five bed, five bathroom apartment would be £600 a month! It is sparkly and impressive and belies the rather frightening scaffolding set up outside!
Miriam, Sylvester and Wayne want to experience some of the performance culture of India before they leave and so Tuk –Tuk driver Dinesh is engaged to take them to a actors quarter , part of the Kotputli Slums where acrobats,musicians,, snake charmers and puppeteers have congregated for generations. The houses are cramped. Their guide, 23 year old Dinesh lives in a tiny house with thirteen other family members.
Their trade is puppets and they show the celebs the puppets that Dinesh and his Father carve and his sister paints to sell to the tourists and are treated to a show right there in the street which is a resounding success.
Dinesh is not a victim of poverty, he is happy and contented with his Lot in life and all the slum children look happy and healthy despite the lack of space, privacy or monetary wealth. Gifts of pens bring the same joy as a million pounds would to us!
Life is simpler and they know that true Happiness comes from within and these people are able to express themselves and enjoy life.
The group attend the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations with their trusty guide Raju. A fabulous time is had by all as they celebrate the birthday of the Elephant Headed God.p
Miriam decides to capitalise on the cheap prices for healthcare by getting her eyeglasses prescription filled. In an unassuming alley, she is able to buy glasses of good quality for a fraction of the cost of UK Opticians. One pair costs the exorbitant price of £8.
Her fame precedes her, as the manager recognises her from the Harry Potter films and tries to flog her his prestige range at two hundred and seventy pounds, she is having none of it though. When you consider that my glasses cost almost four hundred pounds, even this seems veritably cheap to British eyes!
As a small crowd gathers, she attempts to pay for the four pairs she has chosen by card, but the swipe machine has been rendered unusable by Rats. Only in India!!
The group travel to the famous city of Varanasi, situated on the banks of the Ganges, it attracts five million religious pilgrims a year who go to help loved ones pass over into Heaven or Nirvana as it us called in the Hindu Faith , thus halting the Karmic journey of reincarnation.
It is crowded, more humid and the stark reality of real human bodies being carried about on litters under vibrant cloths is a little too much for Jan whose own personal loss of both her parents within 12 months has left her raw to the subject of Death.
They visit the death rooms where people who are dying are surrounded by faithful family so that they be enveloped in love as they pass over. Wayne is struck by The comfort of this idea .people who want to die come here to do so, they may have exhausted every medical avenue. This is like hospice care, but simpler and with much more spiritual significance.
The Ganges takes a huge part in that spiritual facet of proceedings, the waters are meant to cleanse and heal and as the rest of the group, less able to walk, journey out onto the water to see the pyres first hand. they see the amazing sights of the Ghats that are the steps down to the water that allow access to the holy waters. They watch two pyres and thoughts turn to their own mortality and ultimate demise, Rosemary wants to pass whilst cooking or after going to nap. Bobby refugees to die at all! His ends will travel on through his son and and Grandsons so he will carry on, which is a nice idea. His own Dad passed whilst watching a comedy on to and so passed happy.
The group attend a Hindu Aarti ceremony, which is held morning and evening on the banks of the Ganges. They celebrate Mother Ganga with fire to cleanse, the setting of candles floating down the river to bless the souls of loved ones as the river flows so does the Peace of the lost over ones. Jan and Roy who still mourns his beloved wife , gone 26 years; are deeply moved by this ceremony and it’s poignancy.
The group try to lighten the mood by visiting an Elephant Rescue centre that offers Elephant rides through the countryside. All the elephants have been rescued from mistreatment and the group thoroughly enjoy the experience. They muse on how they have got on as a group and sing many praises.
As a last Hurrah, the group throw a party for all the guides, gurus and hosts who had made their stay so memorable and then it was time to say goodbye to each other and India, but all but Roy are quoted as wanting to return and Miriam (like me) sums this up in the simple phrase…..
This is an ongoing Relationship.