By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Retirement, a dreaded word, specially for men. Surprisingly, women handle it much better than men. They effortlessly merge into their daily house chores and in fact are very happy because they don’t have to juggle between their office and home on a daily basis. One of the primary reasons why people are scared of retirement is that they have so many unfinished commitments which they have not been able to complete. I was very lucky that I married very early in my life; hence before my retirement at 58, I had got my daughters married and even became a grandfather.
But I know lots of my colleagues who had this problem of having children not settled and daughters not married and the retirement suddenly hits them with a bang. It is alright for a government servant since they are protected by the pension as well as their medical schemes which would normally take care of their bread and butter and their old age-related sickness. But for scores of other people working in private firms in small jobs, the sudden withdrawal of the monthly salary spells big trouble.
Apart from this, many a men and women have no hobbies or interest apart from their work and they just do not know how to spend their time meaningfully. Frankly, many a wives dread retirement of their husbands because of the increase of work load of managing their husbands also. And the constant demand of tea or coffee.
What then is the solution for this retirement blues ? Planning. I personally feel that one should start planning for retirement at least 2 years in advance. One should have a plan for financial safety net and also have contingency plans for the unexpected which happens more than often because of the age-related diseases. One should also make up one’s mind as to the kind of work one wants to do after retirement. And the most important thing is to shed one’s ego. Post retired, a man is like a second hand car, the moment it comes out of the showroom, even if it is sold the next day it will be sold at a discount. If one is drawing a salary of a lakh, you should be prepared to work for less than half. Of course, this does not apply for certain categories of professionals like doctors or lawyers or some niche professions.
Another shock one should be prepared for is how your relatives vanish after retirement. When in service, I was working in a hospitality industry and hence we could entertain lavishly at my house. We would always have guests dropping in and the moment I retired, the flow suddenly came down to a trickle. Who wants to have rasam and rice? Since I was mentally prepared for this and had briefed my better half, this did not come as a surprise but for others who are not mentally prepared, this would be a big shock. Before I had my kidney transplant, I was undergoing dialysis and the stories I have come across in that room was shocking. The moment people were diagnosed with a kidney ailment, all the relatives used to conveniently vanish, fearing either the patient would ask for money or they might ask for a kidney donation.
In this respect I have to mention something very interesting. The festival of rakhi, up north. This festival binds the relationship between the brother and the sister so strongly that 90 percent of the kidney donations up north is between brother and sister. Remarkable. Unfortunately, down south we do not have this concept and hence the relationship between the siblings is friendly but not as bonding as in the north.
One category of officers who suffer the most post retirement are the Police officers. In service they are a pampered lot and after retirement, barring a few, who still command respect, they are left high and dry. Retirement ironically affects their womenfolk more than the men since they are used to many a servant while in service.
But with the current hectic life style, it not uncommon to see lots of people retiring when they are still young and full of energy. First they ensure that they are financially secure and then retire to enjoy life and do whatever they wanted to do. I know of a technocrat gentleman, who is semi-retired and now is busy doing organic farming which was very dear to his heart. And because of his enterprising nature, he has made a success of that venture too.
Women generally enjoy their retirement as they are now free to go about their social obligations and are happy to spend some quality time with their children, spouse and friends. To live as you please is a luxury and if you can afford it, go ahead and do it.
But beware, there is a generation gap. Nobody is interested in your sermons, advices and interferences. As one gets older, one starts to talk a little more and being repetitive. Since he or she is emotionally weak, eyes become moist at the drop of a hat. Your spouse will listen since he/she has no choice to your sermons but for others who do have a choice, they vanish. So the ideal thing would be to look for somebody in the same age group and talk and listen.
Retirement in a joint family was a pleasure. With a mix of young and old, one could always find somebody to talk to but joint family system has become passe. But it is still prevalent in the business families and the grand-old businessmen never hand over the business keys to their children till last. This was to ensure that they are not neglected and their power remained intact till last. To ensure that the children did not venture out on their own, they were just given enough education. The grand-old lady of the house also did not hand over the keys of the house till they breathed last. Everybody conveniently forgot that “saas bhi kabhi bahu thi.”
That is the reason, in the matrimonial market, the first question of a prospective bride is whether “rahu” or “ketu,” the surname given to the bridegrooms parents, are staying with the prospective bride groom or not. I also came to know of this surname only recently. I thought a group of ladies were discussing something regarding astrology but to my surprise they were talking about the prospective bridegrooms’ parents. What have we come to ? I can vouch with my personal experience that getting a bride for a groom who is living with his parents is very difficult. That is why one of my friends in Delhi thought of something innovative. The day his daughter-in-law walked in, he handed over the keys of a flat, which he had purchased nearby and also gave a cheque for Rs. 2 lakh. He asked her to furnish the flat as per her liking. He put forth two conditions. First he wanted to have a meal with his son at least once a week and he also requested that all festivals, if possible, should be in the ancestral home. Till date this family is happy and content. For people who could afford, this is an excellent idea.
For those who do not have any financial constraints, life after retirement can be quite exciting and creative. One should try to pick the right hobbies, which they enjoy and try to do it. The most popular retirement hobbies are singing, freelance writing, painting, theatre, cooking and even dancing if health permits. The idea is to keep oneself healthy and active but a word of caution: your spirit may be young but the body is not. Hence do not exert and make a mess of your body. Any work/workout you do should be stress-free.
An eternal truth, that is every body who is born, will be old some day and retire too. But having travelled extensively all over and observed all cultures, I have realised that the happy retired persons are the ones who change with times and adapt themselves to the current trend. The unhappy ones are the ones who have the attitude of “my way or highway.” If your children want some help, do go out of the way to do it. Have a positive attitude to life.
To give an example, as I was struggling walking down the steps at Vaishno Devi shrine, I saw several people with serious disabilities walking up. At that moment I realised how lucky I was that at least I had both my legs in tact and thanked God. So, my sincere advice to all the retired people: it is up to you, whether you want your sunset years to be happy or not. Make the best of what you have.
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