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Updated: November 19, 2013 18:44 IST
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Retired unhurt

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Simply sitting Sachin will perhaps find worthwhile things to do without being chained to schedules. Photo: K.R. Deepak
The Hindu
Simply sitting Sachin will perhaps find worthwhile things to do without being chained to schedules. Photo: K.R. Deepak

The cricketing legend is bound to retain his passion in some form or the other. Coaching academy? Exhibition matches?

The whole country and large parts of the world watched one man retire last week. My mind, which had been playing Inky-Pinky-Ponky with two or three subjects for this column, instantly tossed them aside and reached out for retirement. But instead of adding to the millions of megabytes spent on mourning the legendary man’s departure, let me speak for the thousands of non-Bharat Ratnas, the unknown men and women who may have stepped down from their posts and are at home (as the phrase goes) ‘simply sitting’.

Every worker would like to retire unhurt from the field. Bat for 30 to 40 years, score the fixed limit of 58 or 60 and then gracefully wave goodbye — sounds so easy. In reality, many people find it stressful to be simply sitting. Now, I happen to know several people who’ve recently retired and who’re spending their generous bonus of time in a most pleasurable way, but I’m told that a sudden change of routine generally throws the employee into a tizzy and a sudden loss of authority undermines his confidence. I consciously say ‘his’ because the workspace of those who’re old enough to retire today used to be dominated by men and because jokes related to retirement are never about women. You know the “Is he getting on your nerves because he’s home all day?” kind of banter.

I heard Sachin’s wife say on TV that during his infrequent homebound stints he used to complain about things around the house that weren’t working, and now she worried about what other faults he would find to pick on. Shane Warne commented that she would not know what to do with him hanging around the house, and would order him to get out and play. Of course we can be reasonably sure that the man is not going to spend the rest of his life fixing dripping taps, but these comments reflect the standard view of retired men: that they start to nitpick and interfere and grow more demanding and so on. Strange to say, retired women aren’t spoken of in the same vein. Ours being an unequal world, perhaps women slip back more easily into the domestic routine because it’s their ‘natural’ environment, while men, who’ve been less concerned with household affairs all along, tend to fret over being confined to the home.

I’m speaking only of paid labourers, not about those who spent their lives on a cause or a mission — they never retire, only slow down with age — or about those do unpaid work at home, who retire only when they’re disabled or dead. Anxiety about retiring is not so much about decreased income or disrupted routine as about loss of identity. Imagine someone whose identity is entirely contained within his job description. How pathetic! He is so enamoured of his designation that he clings on to being recognised as a former or an ex something-or-other. With a perceived loss of power and importance comes a lurking fear of not being respected.

To such people I would say, “Chase away the imp of insecurity from your mind.” You would encounter that imp if you’d been fired, for example, although it would be only temporarily because you’d soon be hunting for another job, and till you find one you can always lean on that popular euphemism “I’m between jobs”. The same imp teases you if you chuck up a steady job and go freelance. You begin to dread the predictable questions that dog you each time you meet someone you know. What you are doing? Nothing. Where are you now? Nowhere. The challenge is to reply confidently, laughing without sounding apologetic and feeling no sense of being diminished in the other person’s estimation.

Workaholics are often the worst hit. They dread simply sitting, and you’ll find them swiftly grabbing honorary jobs. (I don’t need the money, see? I just want to feel useful, give something back to society.) It is hard to let go of what you’ve been doing for decades, something that is as firmly tied to you as buttons are to a shirt. The cricketing legend is bound to retain his passion in some form or the other. Coaching academy? Exhibition matches? Anyway, it is always wise for a professional to stop singing while his voice is still tuneful, as the saying goes.

The world assumes, rather irritatingly, that since you have retired you must be free and available to do whatever it wishes you to. The trick is to fulfil your internal needs and not pander to what the world at large expects of you. It expects you to keep working until a certain age. Why should you? You can bow out whenever you feel like. It expects you to spend your time in a worthwhile manner. Who determines what’s worthwhile? You alone do. It could be carpentry or rummy or watching TV or driving an auto, for all I know.

It is best to look upon retirement not as a mountain to be climbed but as a warm pool on which to float. Indulge in all that was denied you when you were chained to the clock. In fact, look at the clock during your former working hours and be thankful you’re not slaving away. Enjoy simply sitting.

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