Almost all human beings dread retirement from regular work, especially those retiring from high official and corporate perches. Alongside occasional problems, worries and busyness, come the ubiquitous perks (official, unofficial, and non-official), not to forget the sovereign air of social status and visibility and talkability by and in the society.
The old girl, though, sits atop a heap of casualties. The home is now shared 24/7 by an unlikely human she isn’t quite used to over the past three decades and a half and she finds it queer – even strange. It curbs her freedom; it invades her privacy in the most primeval way, for you eavesdrop on her freewheeling tele-chats. From eight in the morning to eight (or nine or even 11) in the evening, she had been the lord and master of her household. The mobile phone is not often functional in her home’s nooks and crannies and the cordless handset of the landline phone is not too far out for the retiree’s still functional ears. These factors compound her travails.
Worse, her lifestyle is exposed, and what on earth can be more upsetting! Her chats with the maid/dhobi/plumber/carpenter are laid bare; her afternoon siesta with snores often piercing the expanse travelling the distance isn’t too appetising for her self-esteem. Not to overlook the fact that her freedom to shop and visit friends or get visited is curbed — even without any telling. She isn’t herself anymore; but thinks (though never articulates) you shouldn’t have retired!
On your part, you feel alone — and lonesome. No to-ing and fro-ing of people, no meetings to attend (that mostly were of no earthly consequence anyway), no incessant telephone calls that un-self-consciously made you rock back on your swivel chair and feel momentarily high in dishing out favours, with the fervent hope of odd post-retired reparative gestures. You feel lost — lost in your own memories that now seem your only valuable possession.
The upside is that you’re now your own man! Liberated, freed from the slavery and drudgery that your body and mind had got so much used to. Change, although inexorable, is most unwelcome in view of the pregnant possibilities that it wraps around; even a good turn of events strangely imparts similar feelings. Looking at the positives, you sense that it’s too good to be true! Your gut revs up and makes you feel so, and your mind conditioned to life’s experiences is beset with the ever-gnawing doubts: will it carry me the distance? You wince, balancing the life led and the life ahead, cross-stitching a balance sheet in your head, and looking out at the surging bills and liabilities stacking up in no time.
I had a strange happenstance when I confronted my first ‘R-Day’. Delhi even at 8.30 on a summer morning can be peaking hot.
Relaxed, I looked out my window. Standing close to the air-conditioner soundlessly gushing cool air, I espied the continuous stream of my colleagues rushing out to their cars to beat the biometrics that Narendra Modi had most gratuitously installed in offices. Minimum government meant maximum office attendance! I loved being where I was — tucked in the world of my own with not a shred of worry enveloping my mind. I wasn’t being sadistic, but I was feeling a sense of emancipation after 39 years when I saw this mad rush of colleagues to beat the clock. I felt uplifted.
Days before my retirement, my friend Shashikant Oak called. “I know you’re looking forward to retire, but let me tell you, no matter whatever thoughts you harbour about retirement, the real feel will exceed even your most fertile ecstasy!” How true! After the usual rigmarole of relocation, my life has entered an altogether different phase.
No more late nights with files on the lap, no four-hour sleep, no heaviness of the head, no weekend work, no skipping of morning walks, no regimentation – no nothing! The day, the time is mine, and mine alone.
If I choose to have a late breakfast or a late lunch/dinner courtesy the food delivery apps, it’s my own. If I wish to travel to the children or my mother and spend time with them, it’s entirely of my own choosing. If I decide to visit places or countries I haven’t seen before, it’s on my terms. And I’ve all the time in the world to indulge my passion.
And now as I write, my eyes travel and survey the water softly rippling on the lake in front of my apartment. I feel blessed. Heaven on earth, did you say?