“If every beginning is a summit, then every summit is a beginning.”
I could not recognise him. Was he the same person who was walking with a regal gait? Wherefrom has this awkward ‘sickle bending’ come about? Where is his authoritative voice and why is he meowing meekly? He looks run down, as if struck by a fiend. How could a week or 10 days diffuse a man’s personality unrecognisably?
A common friend told me that he has been this way since his retirement. Pathetic. A glorious academic record and brilliance at work become meaningless the moment you hang up your boots? But then, this is the harsh and embarrassing reality of many who become a bundle of nerves; forlorn, and willingly get sucked into a vortex of self-pity as they become out of place in their own sweet home.
If you observe deeply, you will understand that they are so because they do not know what to do with themselves.
People who mistake responsibility for power are disillusioned immediately after retirement as official designations disappear and, all of a sudden, the crutches have left them.
No one is at your beck and call anymore. Yesterday, they were all singing your praise but today, they find it difficult to recognise you!
From today, you have to contend with several harsh realities like creating residence proof, being given a sit-up by the unlettered bunch in a cooking gas agency, the horror of unconfirmed tickets and being the first choice to fetch milk sachets in the morning to escorting grandchildren to the school and so on.
Welcome to the reality which you have refused to see so far; smart you thought you were, cloaked in an official position. This disillusionment and the ensuing shock and sadness are noticed even among the mild-mannered, well meaning, and enviably genuine people.
In this very world where millions of people do not have a morsel of food, you, with all your retirement benefits, look sad, which is bad indeed. Come! Let us get over this self-inflicted malady.
As one who embraced this so-called retirement a decade before it was due and is leading an active life of joy and peace, it would not be inappropriate for me to share a few personal learnings:
Do not die before it is due: “Weakness is death.” Anything that weakens us and weans us away from our original nature of ceaseless joy must be shunned. We are here not to be lost in unjustifiable gloom but to radiate cheer and happiness. Just get up and walk in the glorious sun that illuminates everything with its golden rays.
Understand health, stay healthy: Health is not just related to the body. Physical health is achieved by eating, exercising and resting responsibly. Emotional health is obtained by associating oneself with some fine art or the other. Listening to good music is the easiest way to sublimate the raging emotions. Music is a magic wand that converts raw emotion into revering devotion.
Intellectual health depends on the company you keep and the books you read. Keep company with children and the wise old. Artless grace, beaming in abundance in the face of a child, disarms us instantly. A child is fascinating because it reminds us of the innocence we have lost under a heap of information that we mistook for knowledge.
The secret behind the success of all great achievers is this: They never allowed the child in them to grow up. Even at the height of the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill would have his “do not disturb” luxury of half an hour, to read his favourite comics! And, seek the wise old who have walked the path before us and are ready to share the lessons that they have learnt in their long and interesting journey.
Family, the fulcrum: A captain is only as good as his team. You are what you are, thanks to the unrecognised support of your family. Spend quality time with them at least from now on. Compensate for what you missed while rearing your children, through your grandchildren.
Spirituality, the great reality: Everything is material — the world, life, body and even dream — but we are essentially spirit that is free and pure. “All human beings are originally and ultimately divine.” You become divine when you discover you are divine. You arrive there by casting aside whatever is not you. Anything that binds, blinds and constricts is not you. Your body, mind and intellect are not you but are yours.
Realisation is nothing but constant remembrance of the truth. Spirituality begins where religion ends, though it does not have any quarrel with formal religion. Spirituality is above morals though it cannot have any conflict with morality. For anyone who is serious about it and earnest in its pursuit, not only are its doors ajar but it becomes an ever growing, everyday reality.
Soul is not an invention but the greatest discovery. It is not a thing to be located but a reality to be realised.
Begin simply. Pray every morning and evening, for the welfare of the nation, the well-being of your family and friends and for making your inner journey smooth. “Prayer lends purity. Purity gives strength to prayer. This is how great things are achieved.”
Really, life begins only after retirement. Take a walk! The winding road is waiting for you!
(The writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org)