VM SASIDHAR takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the ups and downs of retired life after four decades with a leading oil company
As I was glancing through the newspaper, my wife handed over a cup of piping hot filter coffee. The rich aroma enticed me to sip it right away. There was nothing new in this, as it had been our routine for the past three and a half decades, perhaps more. What was new, today, however, was that my wife sat beside me, ready for a little chat. And why not, these were my initial days after retirement and the busy, maddening rush in the mornings was now finally a thing of the past. I was now my own master.
“Now that we are free, shall we plan a short holiday,” the wife enquired, a little tentatively.
I popped my head over the newspaper and glanced at her in surprise. Finally, I picked up the courage to add, ”These are my first days after retirement; I don’t want to think of anything, and that includes planning a holiday. I want to give my mind and soul complete rest, a sort of ‘formatting‘ the brain, so as to soak in a sense of complete peace,” I replied with a smile. My wife nodded in agreement and sauntered off to attend to her routine.
All the Time in the World
Suddenly, an oft-repeated quote by Cathrine Pulsifer on retirement flashed through my mind:
“Retirement, a time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it and how you want to do it”.
The past four decades had been dedicated completely to my professional life, so much so that, I could not think of anything else. Accolades and brickbats, success and failures, pleasure and pain had centred around what happened at the ‘desk’. That’s the reason I was now looking forward to lazing around. My wife understood me at once and appreciated my need for a well-needed ‘hibernation’.
Undoubtedly, the first few months were blissful. The wife pampered me with timely nourishment allowing me the privilege of ‘binging‘ on movie and sports channels. I avoided news channels, which I know would induce tension worse than office stress. Life appeared to be the proverbial ‘seventh heaven’. Respite from stressful work life coupled with appetising hot meals made me float in the clouds. I had always been interested in movies from around the world and I now finally had the chance to devour them.
As I immersed myself in stories from across the world, it reinforced my belief that good and evil guys are everywhere, and that mostly it is the grey kind that dominates the spectrum. Divides like caste, creed, nationality and religion rarely impact the basic nature of humans. These divides and their attributes appeared to be more a part of a political narrative.
In the initial days, there were frequent calls from colleagues and business acquaintances, often eulogising my contribution, problem-solving attitude and how I was missed by all. Some callers had genuine appreciation while many were just pleasant. Nevertheless, these calls, were ‘mood elevators’, unlike while in service, when these same calls would push your already elevated hypertension a few notches higher.
And so, days and weeks passed and I was living a dream life with no intention of waking up. That is when a nudge, not a terribly rude one, fortunately, came from my wife, who observed matter-of-factly, “Have you noticed, you have put on weight with your untimely meals and nocturnal TV binges? Even my schedule is upset. I am also missing my regular walks and with your irregular meals, I am becoming ‘rotund’ too.”
Though she did not push it any further, it was no doubt a wakeup call. Then one day, she said firmly, “We need to plan our day, so that we do not become any heavier to Mother Earth and bring some discipline to our lives.”
Whoever said, you are your own boss, once retired!
While it was painful enough to alter the schedule or shall we say, lack of it, it dawned on me that I needed to rein myself in for the sake of our health! Reluctantly, I agreed to a regimen that would include a morning walk, and strict meal timings so that the wife could get back to her schedule, too. My TV binging, however, continued unabated.
In the beginning, there would be calls from bankers, who were suddenly aware of my newfound buoyant fund position. It is common knowledge that when the salaried suddenly get flush with retirement benefit funds, all kinds of nosey bankers suddenly descend upon you, like tipplers from a dry state heading for ‘watering holes’. Coupled with credit card chasers, calls from bankers, were plentiful in those days.
Finally, after having enjoyed my ‘peace oasis’ for some time, we did embark on our first long trip for a fortnight. This not only provided a much-needed and well-deserved respite for the wife, it also gave me a leisurely holiday without being interrupted by urgent office calls for the first time in years.
A Jaded Routine
A few more weeks passed, and the new routine, though leisurely, became a ‘routine’ after all, leading to boredom. Visiting friends and relatives too lost its fervour and became a bit infrequent. I was gripped by a vague vacuum.
I did not fail to notice that, our maid, who works at our place for an hour too, received more calls in that time than I did in the entire day. Calls from colleagues had, by now, reduced. Even the nature of the calls had changed. Nobody called seeking some ‘distilled wisdom’ for tackling corporate or personal issues. Calls from bankers and credit card chasers had long dried up.
Finally, a period came when no amount of entertainment or books seemed to uplift me. Concerned that I had become a little ‘downcast, the wife broached the subject tentatively, asking, “What is eating you up?” I was thoughtful. She continued, “You always wanted to be your own man. Then be it and enjoy it”.
Finally, I replied. “Somehow, I feel a little low, as even my colleagues and subordinates have become too busy to give me an occasional call, although they always wanted my advice earlier for official and even personal issues. You know that I have not developed any social circle all these years and I am not a great social media enthusiast either.”
After a thoughtful nod, my wife, half-questioningly retorted, “How many times did you call up your retired colleagues or seniors when you were busy in office?”
Just then, the doorbell rang. It was the maid and my wife went to talk to her, giving me some time to contemplate on her question.
I picked up the phone and hesitatingly rang up a senior, a good friend who had retired a few years earlier. He was pleasantly surprised to hear from me and remarked, “It must be close to a year of your retirement”.
It seemed he knew what was on my mind. As we spoke of several incidents and about the people, we knew, he advised me almost paternally, “I know the feeling, my old friend; there is nothing new in it. Many have felt this way and many will travel the same road, after. During our work life, we always longed for that elusive freedom to be on our own and no sooner did we get there, then we seemed to have had enough of it. That’s life. Each has to find his own way of fulfilment. There is no escape.” With that, he hung up.
Meanwhile, the maid was already on her third call, much to my envy and annoyance. After what appeared to be a not-so-pleasant conversation with another employer, the maid complained to my wife: “These people keep changing their schedule, as if I am ‘bonded’ to them. I some time feel like leaving everything and going back to my village to have some peace.”
I smiled and said to myself, ‘The tribe is everywhere….’
VM Sasidhar, a Civil Engineer worked for four decades with Indian Oil Corporation, before retiring as Chief General Manager. He now stays in Navi Mumbai with his loving wife and daughter. His many interests include reading, Hollywood, and road travel. He has another daughter who is married and lives in New York.
Photo of walking couple by Chulmin Park from Pixabay