The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel--Outsourcing the Elderly and Beautiful
The Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful is a charming story of late blooming romance and a thoroughly entertaining progression of our penchant to outsource to the third world everything we can't afford to do in our own countries. The country is India, and this time it is not our customer service or our technical support we outsource, but the care and locale for our golden years.
This British comedy-drama is based on the 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach and is directed by John Madden with screenplay by Ol Parker.
Each of the characters are motivated financially to find a new, affordable but exotic way to live, and all are equally motivated in their search for meaning and love.
While the movie is delightful from start to finish, you can't help but hear the voice inside you asking: "What circumstances could bring me to choose to spend my last few years in a strange and far away third world country?"
For this ensemble cast the reasons are as complicated as the characters themselves. Evelyn (Judi Dench) has just sold her home to cover her recently deceased husband's considerable debts, Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) lost their life savings in their daughter's internet start-up, Graham (Tom Wilkinson) was a high court judge raised in India, Madge (Celia Imrie) is looking for another wealthy husband, Muriel (Maggie Smith) is there for an inexpensive hip replacement and Norman (Ronald Pickup) is still looking for one-night stands.
Their romantic notion of their destination is shattered when they reach Jaipur and find their connecting flight is canceled and they have to travel overnight by bus and tuk tuk to the hotel. Graham, being the only one familiar with the city makes arrangements and in general is the calm voice of the group. Their disappointment deepens when they actually arrive and see the dilapidated state of the building and rooms without working phones and missing doors. Add to this the general disorganization and disorientation they feel and you expect them all to turn around and go back home. Showing up to greet them is the inexperienced but irrepressibly upbeat Manager Sonny (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) who assures them that even though he might have PhotoShopped the building's picture in the brochure, everything will be put in order soon.
What actually happens then is the stuff of writers delight. On the practical side, they couldn't afford to go back, but one by one, they begin to find their own way to transform the experience into the dream they so desperately wanted it to be.
Sonny inherited the hotel along with two brothers who are more business minded and want to raze the building and build something else. His mother has little patience with him and wants him to return to Delhi and marry a traditional bride. The problem is, Sonny desperately loves beautiful Sunaina (Tena Desae), who works for her brother at his call centre.
Evelyn wants to show her children she can take care of herself and successfully talks her way into a job at Sunaina's call centre as a cultural adviser. She notices that the callers are too attentive to the script and not attentive to the needs of those being called and shows them how they can succeed by following a few cultural and courteous practices.
Muriel, recently dismissed from what she considered her life's work, is the curmudgeon of the group and although openly racist in the inimitable Maggie Smith style, she finds in the untouchable hotel cleaner something she can not only identify with, but which helps her find a way to build relationships with those she formerly shunned.
Jean seems to blame Douglas for their circumstances and instead of getting out or fitting in, she stays in her room reading while finding everything from the food to the surroundings intolerable. Taken with the successful judge, Graham, she pushes herself on him only to be embarrassed when she finds out the early love of his life he is searching for in city records is a man.
Douglas, meanwhile, is enjoying the new surroundings and together with Evelyn, explores the city and finds delight in both the sights and Evelyn.
Each of the seven retirees are searching for something they have not been able to find in their lives to date. Perhaps it is the upheaval of their finances or their relationships that has set them free to look inside to see, in these last golden moments, what is truly important.
Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.
Muriel: Most things don't. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.
Sonny: Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.
Deborah Maggach, who adapted Pride and Prejudice for the Keira Knightly movie, wrote the book Marigold Hotel is based on, These Foolish Things, because she began to think about getting older and noted that for the first time those over 50 outnumber all the rest. She wondered where everyone would live and realizing we are now in a global civilization with everything available via the internet, she called upon her own experience living in Pakistan and invented an enterprising young man (Sonny) to create a retirement hotel in India. The following is an excerpt from her book which is not in the movie but illustrates the life they would lead:
Sealed into their compound the residents lived in a world which was, in many ways, more familiar than the England they had left behind. It was an England of Catherine Cookson paperbacks and clicking knitting needles, of Kraft Dairylea portions and a certain Proustian recall. Now the summer was over the mali was planting out English annuals - marigolds and cosmea - widely spaced in damp depressions of earth. Evelyn itched to get her hands on the flowerbeds; gardeners here knew nothing about colour and mass.
Outside the walls, India clamoured. So many people, such need and desperation. Evelyn had only ventured out a few times; she found the experience disorientating. The moment she stepped through the gate beggars stirred and clambered to their feet. Skeletal dogs nosed through heaps of rubbish. Even the holy cows, wandering between the cars, were cruelly thin. And then there was the legless young man, sitting on his trolley in the midst of the exhaust smoke.
"We can go for a walk later, if you'd like that," said Evelyn. "It's all very different, I must say. I mean, in England people have got so much, yet they're becoming rather rude, don't you find? Here they've got nothing at all yet they're very polite. How are you? They ask. Where do you come from? Oh they pester you but in the nicest way."
Muriel didn't appear to be listening. She was probably suffering from jet-lag; after all, for her it must still be the middle of the night. Somebody had mentioned that she had been left on a hospital trolley for three days. Oh well, thought Evelyn, at least she's got her legs. India, she was discovering, made one thankful for small mercies.
"I met some charming schoolchildren,” Evelyn said. “White socks, so neat and clean, and they called me aunty.”
Jaipur is the first and considered by many urbanites to be one of the best planned cities.
Almost all Northern Indian towns of that period presented a chaotic picture of narrow twisting lanes, a confusion of run-down forts, temples, palaces, and temporary shacks that bore no resemblance at all to the principles set out in Hindu architectural manuals which call for strict geometric planning. Sawai Jai Singh II, who was an avid astronomer, together with his Bengali advisor Vidyadhar, founded Jaipur in accordance with the principles of Hindu architectural theory as well as his astrological designs.
The original city was laid out at right angles in square blocks, with wide, straight streets. Shop fronts were numbered consecutively, and signs had a standardized appearance, largely preserved to this day.The directions of each street and market are East to West and North to South.
The city is remarkable among pre-modern Indian cities for the width and regularity of its streets which are laid out into six sectors separated by broad streets over a hundred ft wide. The urban quarters are further divided by networks of gridded streets, wrapping around the east, south, and west sides of a central palace quarter.
The Palace quarter encloses a sprawling palace complex with formal gardens, and a small lake. Nahargarh Fort, Singh II's residence, crowns the hill in the northwest corner of the old city. Jaipur is an extremely popular tourist destination in Rajasthan and India.
You've heard of people "painting the town red," but in 1876, Jaipur was colored in terracotta pink to welcome Prince Albert, giving it it's present nickname “Pink City.”
Retiring Abroad--A solution for baby boomers
We've done such a good job of making our countries and our way of life so successful that we've priced ourselves right out of our own market. Expat sites have put the number of American retirees living abroad as high as 1.5 million. As baby boomers hit their retirement years and look around for a change and affordable living, that number could soar.
For retirees, leaving the United States often means a more affordable way of life, including low-cost healthcare, real estate and even gasoline prices. Additional incentives, especially for north easterners, is being able to pick a warm weather spot with a tight knit social community.
Although retired expats are required by the U.S. government to pay taxes, in places like Ecuador and Honduras, a typical monthly budget is about $800 per month, which includes paying out of pocket for doctor visits, which are often less than $20 per appointment.
Most families get their monthly retirement check in their U.S. bank account and use an ATM for monthly cash withdrawals for all expenses including rent. Getting around by bus is about 12 cents for seniors; taxis cost anywhere from $1 to $3, and gasoline is subsidized by the government and is under $2 per gallon.
Here is an excerpt from the online version of Mint, an Indian business newspaper:
[European retirees in India] can enjoy the standard of living they have come to know, at price levels they can afford. For India, the retirees’ spending offers another growth industry, potentially employing another several hundred thousand people working in the hospitality retirement business and all the ancillary services associated with it... If India can serve as back office to the world, why can’t we become its retirement home as well?
An earlier editorial in the Times of India discussed the same topic:
Given the high rates of rentals and medical services abroad, people are opting to move to India to lead retired lives that are comfortable and affordable. India ought to pull out all stops to attract this kind of outsourcing as it has great potential.