Elderly and the Culture of ‘Adda’

senior citizens elderly

            Adda’  is a popular culture of Bengalis. Now it has been spread over. It has social, psychological importance in the daily life of almost all ages of the population. But it has no economic productivity. The word, ‘adda’ has been incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004. It has been defined as ‘a conversation among members, who were originally of the same socioeconomic strata, but the process has democratized in modern times.’ In other words, it is ‘as a salon like gathering at which thoughts and persuasions of the day could be discussed in a good-natured, if sometimes vociferous, manner.’

Nirod Chaudhuri explained very lucidly about the emergence of this culture comparing to European society. He opined, “There was very little social life among the Bengalis of Calcutta. No afternoon or evening parties, no dinner, no at-homes, and of course, no dances, enlivened their existence. The heaviest social exertion in this sense that they could or would undergo was to pay formal calls.’ Therefore, ‘ what the nature of the city lacked in sociability, he made up in gregariousness. No better connoisseur of the company was to be found anywhere in the world, and no one else was more dependent on the contiguity of his fellows with the same incomprehension of his obligations towards them.’  ‘Anywhere where two or more people begin to chat without any purpose becomes a place for ‘adda’. It is not confined to any specific age group or section. It is for all for a relaxation and recreation. An ‘adda’ is a stress-buster, a debate trigger, an argumentative space and many even lead to quarrels and fisticuffs, splits between life-long friends and bonding with new ones.’ ‘ It is neither ‘idle’ nor ‘chatter’.’  ‘It has a strong current of emotional fulfillment and is an effective way to combat loneliness. Therefore, it is eventually an informal(many times temporary in nature) network of relationships of a homogeneous group of people.

The elderly or senior citizen(particularly male) also create their own spaces for a daily ‘adda’ session at their post retirement life. It has a great impact in their daily life. Elderly populations who are economically self-dependent and live in urban places are alone. They live in a truncated family, and family members have no or little time to accompany them. No one is listening to them. They depend on the secondary care-giver (mostly paid caregiver) to manage their daily life. Therefore, the elderly have to ‘face various problems such as: (a) physical fitness and health problems, (b) financial problems, (c) psychological problems and (d) problems of interaction in a social or family setting. Psychosocial and environmental problems include feeling of neglect, loss of importance in the family, loneliness and feeling of unwantedness in the family as well as society, the feeling of inadequacy and obsolescence of skills, education, and expertise.’  It is evident that elderly is mentally vulnerable.

The culture of ‘adda’   acts as a psychological well-being for elderly. They usually form a peer of almost same age group nearby marketplace of their residents, or in a public place like nearby railway station, etc.  They meet together regularly at an afternoon or evening time. In their ‘adda’, they share their joy/happiness or sorrow in their daily life. They also reminisce about their sweet memories.  It helps to ‘review one’s past life and it works as a psychological intervention to gain a sense of continuity between the past and present, gain deeper insight into their past and present relationship, transmit their cultural heritage, and it helps to revive self-esteem.  It also helps to resolve conflicts and acquire a sense of life. The achievement increases social interaction and promotes a bridge of understanding between and within generations. Reconsideration of past experience, missed opportunities, and mistakes help the aged to find meaning in their lives, integrate their life experience, reach integrity, and face death without fear.’ Undoubtedly, ‘adda’  is very useful in their day to day life because they have no other or any little option to pass their quality time up to their end of life.

But, the COVID-19 pandemic makes more vulnerable to elderly. They are greatly at risk. Therefore, they are now arrested in their home. Isolation and social distancing increase their mental agony and their mental health is very much challenging at the post pandemic. They have to live without any psychological care and treatment. Their association like ‘adda’  has been paused and chance of resuming it is almost rare.  Now they have to talk within selves.  Effective and appropriate psychological interventions are required to protect the elderly from this crucial crisis. Policy and programme might be urgently designed to save them from immature and the agonized end of their lives.  Otherwise, the Nation would loss its most valuable human resources.

Harasankar Adhikari is a socio-political commentator



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