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New HBO series finds expat retirees happily living in Merida

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Ravi Patel, right, with parents Champa and Vasant Patel, enjoy Mexico in matching outfits. Photo: HBO

The first episode of “Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness,” which began streaming this week on HBO Max, flies viewers to Merida, Mexico, revealing a vibrant community of expat retirees.

“Growing Old in Mexico,” the first show in the series, is all about retirement.

The actor’s parents, Champa and Vasant Patel, are based in Charlotte, N.C. while being part of Merida’s expat community, and they appear to be having a blast.

“In general, you’re the average of the people around you,” Ravi said in a Los Angeles Times interview. “Be really picky about who you keep around you and be intentional about it. And … elevate those people. Give them as much love as you can.”

“I think their joy was just in finding the same age, same type of chemistry-matching friends who they can spend time together with,” Champa says, referring to the retirees in Merida. “That was really what I call happiness.”

Ravi made his parents somewhat famous several years ago with his romantic comedy documentary “Meet the Patels,” which was partly about how his folks, as a first-generation immigrant couple from India, dealt with the wider U.S. society.

“Meet the Patels” won the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival, was named a Top 10 Audience Favorite at Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, named Best Feature Documentary at the Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival, and won the Audience Award at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival. It was also named the Best Documentary Film and won the Founders Grand Prize Best Film at the Traverse City Film Festival, according to Wikipedia.

The new series, which has four parts, goes to four countries to explore the issues that cause or kill happiness. Doing so made Ravi explore his own priorities, which he concluded were making the people around him happy.

Ravi, who is also described as a humanitarian, searches for answers to some of life’s most pressing questions while exploring local traditions and having provocative conversations with his loved one.

After “Growing Old in Mexico,” the remaining episodes tackle overparenting in Japan, workaholism in South Korea and immigration in Denmark, the happiest country on Earth, unless you’re from somewhere else, the show suggests.

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