I thought I could sleep a bit longer. It was 6.20 a.m. when Padma reminded me that I was late. I rushed through the morning rituals, deferred the morning prayers and got ready for the yoga class. The yoga teacher came in time (he was absent yesterday). We practiced for an hour. Some of the asana (postures to put it colloquially) were tough despite our earlier practice.
It was Thursday – Lord Vishnu’s day. Each day of the week is assigned to one or more deities (so that none feel neglected). We went to the nearby Guruvayurappan (Lord Srikrishna) temple. This deity has an enigmatic smile hovering on His face. The smile is enchanting and seems to communicate to us that He can read and heart and brain and may perhaps offer solution to our interminable woes and wants. Due to the enigmatic smile, I believe that a weekly reminder is necessary and I dredged up a revised list and read out from it. Did He hear or listen? Only time will tell.
We returned. I completed my morning prayers and attendant rituals. I then had breakfast and the first coffee of the day. I thought that the yellow shirt is striking enough for the day. I picked up my lunch box, peeped into the prayer room to remind God about the importance of the day and left for office.
It is my last working day. I had resigned a few months back and after some waffling on both sides, I decided that March 31 is an appropriate day to end this journey.
It also represented a conclusion to a journey- or at least the significant portion of it- I had commenced in October 1975. Obviously this is relevant only to me.
I had made a habit of changing employment at irregular intervals during these four decades. So I had a strong immune system which overcame any apprehensions about entering into new employment. Any exit was a prelude to another entry. It was somewhat like seeing different movies in a multiplex. Some features were different while many others (especially human ones) remained unchanged. There was a initial excitement, followed by understanding/acceptance of new reality (more things change, more they remain the same), ennui, boredom, thirst for change, change actually happening, then initial excitement….. And so on.
This time it was different. There is no new employer waiting in the wings eagerly watching my entry. Unlike USA, where it is illegal to ask a potential candidate’s age, in India it is the first thing to be observed. (Too young or too old is unacceptable). The right age today is 35 to 45. They are old enough to have some sort of experience and still young enough to be molded to the employer’s liking.
Each employer has a pretentious belief that they have a “unique culture”. Any such statement only means that they have certain rigidities which would be seen as rather odd by any sensible person. If you belong to this age group (35 to 45) and somehow are able to convince that you would fit into this “unique culture”, you would be considered seriously.
I am close to the date (few months left) where Indian Railways would give me a 40% discount on their tickets. So any further assignment should have mental excitement, application of experience and knowledge. Otherwise, it would be more exciting to purchase a 2 tier AC ticket (at 40% discount) to Tezpur, Assam and then proceed to Tawang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. Sun rises first in Arunachal Pradesh and realistically their local time is two hours ahead of Indian Standard Time.
I reached Office somewhat late. I had kept some last minute tasks for completion. There were streams of visitors, mails to be replied, and drawers to be cleared. Time moved swiftly. I handed over my most precious asset- computer laptop- and then sat back. An executive bereft of laptop is somewhat akin to being under dressed at a formal wedding . That is our link to the outside world. We do not bat an eyelid to send a mail to the person sitting on the opposite side of the table. That is modern communication.
The formal farewell function was performed two days earlier. Today was the informal one from the colleagues. There was great warmth and affection reflected. I could practice my public speaking skills to a captive audience.
I looked back into the building where I worked for the last 18 months and proceeded back to my home.
I wondered on what basis 58 or 60 years of age is selected as retirement age. Why not a 59 or 61? Is there any medical evidence of significant atrophy of our grey cells around that age? Or is that a strategic age or a beginning of one to be compelled to shift focus to “baby care” a second time around? After all, if the entire family goes off to work, who or how would be progeny be cared for? May be there are some Senior Citizens Forum who may give gratuitous or paid guidance on such sensitive matters?
I have no clue of how I would deal with the sudden change in pace. All those who know me, seem to believe that I have a phobia for continuous activity and its cessation would cause serious withdrawal symptoms. I am not sure whether I have any antipathy for idleness.
Past weighs heavily on us. But then, it can or should serve only as a guide for future actions. We spend most of our lives trying to satisfy someone else’s wants and needs. The result is we rarely have a clue what gives us maximum happiness or satisfaction. I read a remark by an expatriate that Indians generally focus on work or employment and rarely develop a hobby for themselves. I have seen resumes which call surfing internet, watching television/cricket matches as hobby.
I am not too different. I am asked by those close to me on whether I know what I would like to do after retirement. I had no answer to it. I gave some vague reply and thought I will take each day as it comes.
One interesting suggestion I have received (from another person close to me) is that I should draw up a list of activities enumerating all I wanted to do but have not done. I wondered whether Skydiving, trekking to Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar , seeing Victoria waterfall ( Africa) and Isuzu waterfall (Argentina), driving through New Zealand ( to see the places shown in the movie Lord of Rings) are practical desires.
Do Home makers have retirement age? I have no answer to this question . I can only promise that I would share the tasks which go with running a household.
Would I refuse another job offer if it lands on my doorstep? ( Lord Guruvayurappan with His enigmatic smile may be running a case study on human ambivalence for his other disciples). To use official language, I do not reply to speculative questions.
What do I miss or what I would miss from my pre-retirement life? Pecuniary strength, power I exercised over other human beings and matters, recognition associated with the chair I sat on and perhaps a sense of purpose ( dictated mostly by what the employer wanted or demanded).
What would I not miss or what I would gleefully watch from a distance? The pain and trauma that ( I believe ) someone else would undergo in my place while doing what I was doing earlier, the lack of any need to take decision on touchy or tricky matters.
One last thought. Do I know how I could contribute to the world around me based on my experience and (limited) ability? Would I have the initiative to learn new things and ideas? Would I take sensible precautions to ensure that my health does not deteriorate? Would I make new friends? ( not that I have many now).
Do I know how long I will have to do all this? This I will leave it to that God with enigmatic smile to decide.
March 31, 2016.