By MATHEW C. NINAN, Director, Little Rock, Brahmavar
A blissful retired life is everybody’s long-cherished dream. It is a hard-earned relief from the hectic work-a-day life. Three or four decades of tireless pursuit to eke out a living, have a roof over one’s head, and some more comforts at home, culminates on a happy note. A moment finally arrives when one can call it a day and relax on a recliner, heaving a sigh of relief, telling oneself that the time to enjoy the fruit of one’s labour has finally arrived.
Retirement is that long vacation one eagerly waited for. A long list of things one wants to do is on the cards. It could be catching up with friends, travels, pilgrimages, a more comfortable house, penning one’s memoir and the like. This is the time when we listen to the chirping birds and stop to watch the immense expanse of nature in all its beauty. Patricia A. Fleming said:
The world outside is a wondrous place,
Filled with many miracles to see.
It's a place to hear and smell and feel.
It's a place so unfettered and free.
With slower pace in one’s movements, one can now soak in the beauteous nature which was on the back burner for long.
Seeing one’s children doing well in life is one very obsessive dream of every parent. One would long for that day, when the children are well settled.
Children and grand-children are very much an integral part of an Indian family, though nuclear family reigns supreme today. Visits of children and their families are eagerly looked forward to, though the pandemic has wrought havoc there too.
The respectability that comes with age and retirement is something to be savoured. People come to seek advice or blessings or both. That’s certainly a welcome thing. Experience is something one is eager to share with others. Old people are fond of narrating stories of their career, particularly their exploits with a touch of exaggeration. Young people try to avoid old people who are narcissistically inclined to share their stories.
Proffering advice and commenting on everything happening around, inside the family or even in the neighbourhood becomes a compelling habit. After all it’s about sharing the benefit of one’s knowledge with the wider world with no expectation of any profit or gain.
That should be welcomed by the young folks. But often that doesn’t happen, to the consternation of the senior citizen.
Senior citizens are looked upon with some respect by the authorities these days. Reserved seats in public transport, car parking in vantage points, separate queues etc., are privileges one enjoys ungrudgingly.
All’s not honky-dory, however. Retirement is a mixed bag. It has its high points and the low ones, like the two sides of a coin.
‘Youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, old age a regret’, said Benjamin Disraeli. It is a crude reminder that life is a baggage of contraries. Joy is inextricably mixed with sorrow, success with failure, tranquillity with turmoil, and dreams with reality.
After the adventurous youth-hood and struggles of manhood comes old age. In the Keatsian metaphor it is the winter of life, when one is constantly reminded of one’s mortality. For Keats sadly the winter came too early at age 26.
All of these wistful thoughts fleet through one’s mind, involuntarily. Health is one such issue. Certain realities keep troubling one’s mind. For instance, the Bible says something prophetic about longevity. ‘The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away (Psalms 90:10).
Can we dismiss it as pre-modern-medicine reality? Doesn’t it have its resonance even to this day? The pleasures of retirement get moderated by the occasional small ailments that are part of old age. Every such ailment is an alarm bell, and a reminder of the ultimate reality.
Dependence on others is something most people would wish to avoid. However old age makes us realize that nobody is really independent. Mutual dependence is as real as life itself. The notion of invincibility starts evaporating and one gradually comes to terms with the reality of dependence.
There will be moments of loneliness and low self-esteem. A feeling of being irrelevant and superfluous may also creep in. This leads to the next level, which is a sense of self-pity.
Amnesia comes as a blessing in disguise. It must be God’s way to let us forgive and forget, something very much needed in old age. There is no point in shoring up grievances and remorse.
Brittle bones, aching muscles, palpitating hearts, oscillating blood pressure, and fluctuating sugar level are scattered among the aged in different proportions and at differing intervals, signalling the inevitable. As the adage goes, coming events cast their shadows before.
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