Mr. TS Anand Sagar runs our Bangalore office cafeterias. A retired banker and is probably over 70. Few days back, he passed me this note, not sure why -:).
Whether you are retirement eligible or not this is a good read. Someday, I will retire ...
Living Happily After Retirement
Speech by P.P.Ramachandran
(After serving in the Reserve Bank of India for forty long years, retired at the age of 60)
I am thankful to the Chembur Senior Citizens’ Association for offering me a chance to be with all of you this evening. I regret that I shall begin with a funeral reference. Since death is but part of Life I shall recount this charming story. In a tiny village in Kerala, a devout Christian breathed his last and the local priest being out of station, a priest from an adjoining village was called upon to deliver the funeral oration.
“Ladies and Gentlemen”, began the venerable pastor with the dead body in a coffin before him, “Here lies dead before me a rare human being of this village with outstanding qualities. He was a gentleman, a scholar, sweet of tongue, gentle of temper and very catholic in outlook. He was generous to a fault and ever smiling”.The widow of the deceased stood up at the end of the Hall and screamed, “O! God! They are burying the wrong man”. A similar doubt can reasonably arise in my wife’s mind about the qualities of my head and heart eloquently praised by the previous speaker. Now, I will revert to the subject allotted to me, “Living Happily After Retirement”.Retirement is a problem peculiar to our generation. In the times of our fathers and grandfathers, retirement was not much of a problem.
There are three reasons for this.
First, Life Expectancy. Fifty years ago, the life expectancy at the age of retirement fixed at 55, was 60.A study of Government records revealed that very few people enjoyed pension for more than five years at that time.Most people died before sixty and consequently spending five years after retirement did not pose any major problem. Today Life Expectancy at retirement at 58 or 60, is 75 years which means half of your working life is still left after retirement. To give you an example two Senior Officers of RBI died at 93 years—35 years after retirement.
The second reason is the change in the family structure. Half a century ago most people were in a joint family. The day you laid down office, you still had a large family around you. Surely, in a large family there was always something you could do that was meaningful and made you feel you were contributing to the family. Today the family has become nuclear—husband, wife, children. By the time one retires, the children have gone away. In good old times, daughters used to get married and promptly go away. Nowadays sons get married and shift on and for First Night itself!What is left is the old couple—You for Me and Me for you. This is not particularly easy to accept and adjust to after retirement.
The third reason is the problem of “Roots.” In halcyon days, people used to have a “native place” and an “ancestral home”.They looked forward to going there and settling down after retirement. Today except for Leave Fare Concession purposes, there is nothing left in terms of native place.People often are confused as to where to settle.
These three problems make retirement planning a crucial item. If you have planned for retirement you can anticipate and tackle these problems. People are not accustomed to the idea of staying by themselves. If one asks an audience of prospective retirees and their wives “How many of you expect to stay after retirement with your children, hardly one hand goes up. If some husband raises his hand, his wife immediately slaps it down saying, “I’ll be damned if I am going to stay with my daughter-in-law!”So it is a tough problem to think about old people staying—just the two of them. This makes planning all the more significant.
The most difficult problem that we face after retirement is the psychological one. When an executive retires, he is at the peak of his career—his status, prestige and financial acumen.The moment he lays down office, all these desert him. He discovers that “Everything becomes Less and Less”.The first thing he notices is the way his status and prestige are affected. Even at home, the retired person is no longer the important person. If he demands of his wife an early breakfast, she will promptly admonish him, “You are retired now. So take it easy. Let those employed go first !”. He is no longer “Numero Uno”. A friend of mine who was a Senior Executive in RBI was getting 500 Greeting Cards and Diaries for the New Year. After one year of retirement it dwindled to fifty and this year he got ten. Greeting cards and diaries are surely an indicator of the respect you are held in.
The most immediate problem on retirement is time-arrangement. We all have twenty four hours at our disposal, whether we like it or not. When you are a Senior Executive you work for ten, twelve or even fifteen hours and you feel “Suppose I had two hours more how nice it would be!. Life would be easier.” After retirement we have twenty four hours and nothing to do! is one thing . Result – misery and this one he likes to spread! No man wants to be miserable alone. He will make as many people miserable as he can. A man who has nothing to do will harass people around him. Turning on head the Benthamite principle of maximization of welfare—maximisation of ill-fare!.
There are two solutions to this problem. One is to continue to do the same work one was doing at the time of retirement. The first option is very convenient but where is such an opportunity for the majority? There is the temptation to wangle out an extension but this does lead to compromising principles which many succumb to regrettably.I have seen Senior Officers accepting jobs as liaison officers and standing outside the cabin of their subordinates and seek favours from them. But how long-lasting is the solution. Extension merely postpones the problem. It crops up again quite swiftly. The second option is to do something different, i.e., option to get another job. An executive can get another job provided he is willing to sacrifice self-respect. Generally jobs are given by the previous employer’s suppliers. Cases are legion where army, navy, air force officers are caught for espionage in such employment. In commercial organizations Officers are employed to get orders and collect bills speedily from their erstwhile Employers. So you will agree that this is no solution.
All of you are aware that the Bard of Avon-- William Shakespeare wrote of the “Seven Stages of Man”.Modern psychologists have abridged it to four and these are thus.
Before finding a girl—Spiderman
10 years after marriage-Watchman
20 years after marriage - Doberman
After this lighter side I revert to post-retired life. The retired official is likely to fall into four dysfunctional time options.
The first is “Withdrawal”. Many retired people, the day they retire from Office withdraw from Life and within a few months they just pass away. When you ask a Doctor he will tell you I can give a Medical term but this is case of “simple lack of will to live”.
The second time management option is “ritual”. A person can create a ritual for himself. He gets up at a specific time, does different activities at a specific time and this invariably results in misery for others if that specific time frame is not adhered to. While he has in essence nothing to do, he is trying to make his activities meaningful. This leads to a meaningless ritual.
The third option is Pastime. Many people get together and embark on a combined ritual which is called pastime. This too does not add to the meaningfulness of life.
The last option turns out to be even mischievous. It is playing games— not physical ones like badminton, tennis but psychological ones where you try to manipulate people, get into their problems, complicate them and generally enlarge the tension around you. Many a respectable person indulges in this and creates problems where none existed.
The alternative to these are Functional options. The first is become a Consultant. Lurking inside every executive is a Consultant. But for this considerable expertise is required. All are not Consultants.
The second option is to start your own Business or industry. But this calls for entrepreneurial qualities which an executive may lack. Many are the cases where lakhs of rupees have turned into thousands!.
The third option is to involve oneself in professional activities. For this one must build up one’s position even before retirement. Many cliques operate to prevent outsiders from encroachment.
The fourth is to get into spiritual activities. While nobody is required between you and God, nowadays, we find more and more godmen, swamijis, pseudo Gurus some even US returned. There is a temptation to follow some Swamiji or even become one yourself. This is a very slippery slope. Beware –there are more hoaxes in the religious field than anywhere else!.
The last and most meaningful option is to cultivate a Hobby. Use your creative abilities and do something that you enjoy doing. You should start this even while in service.
We live in three Boxes. First is the Box of Learning, which starts from birth and goes on till 20 plus. Second is the Box of Work which commences at 20 plus and goes on up to 58 or 60—the age of retirement. Third is the Box of Leisure. When we are in the Box of Work what is significant is Status, Prestige, Power—all these we aspire for and it is what we get from Life. The more we get ---the happier we are. The day we retire we move into Box 3—the one of Leisure.
If we have to enjoy this we have to change our psychological position and appreciate creativity, autonomy and integrity. When you were a small child of two or three did status or prestige or money mean anything? What you wanted was autonomy, creativity. A child is always creative. It enjoys creativity. One example. When visitors come you ask your child, “Sing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'”. She will not sing. You shout at her. You tell your visitors proudly she is three only and knows Twelve Nursery songs. The moment the guests are gone and your servant comes for cleaning, your daughter will sing to her all the twelve songs. The child has its own values!
By the time we enter the Box of Work values change. We are taught not to respect our autonomy but fall in line—conformity is the rule.If the son plays the violin his Mother will come and tell him, “Playing the Violin now?. Study now. Math’s is very scoring. If you get centum admission to IIT is easy. Life is competitive, dear son.” When we enter the Box of Leisure values change. Your psychological position has to be changed. New values of creativity, integrity and autonomy emerge. Hobbies are an excellent way of getting Leisure Value. Everybody must identify his hobby that he can enjoy. Not bother about Power, Prestige and Status. An individual can live in one box only or interchange or combine the boxes. You can have learning, work and leisure together. One can even take up a hobby that is financially productive. As time passes one learns.
The real problem of retirement is that people refuse to face the problem. The mantra is “Let us cross the bridge when we come to it.” This is not correct. Since we live in three Boxes we must prepare ourselves for crossing from one to the other. Structuring our time is the prime requirement. In the beginning you are contributing to Value. Think of Transfer Value. After retirement you can think of Leisure Value. Develop good hobbies which incorporate your creativity, autonomy and integrity. I have taken to Letter writing. (Rajaji , Kalam and H R F Keating.)
You will lead a happy life. Retirement is not adding “Years to your Life but adding Life to your Years”. Retirement is not a calamity but an opportunity. I shall advert to some basic qualities one must cultivate. There are two ways to look at every situation in life. Is the Cup half empty or is the cup half full. One man was not worried about his becoming bald. He declared “I have less hair to comb!”Another man in identical situation moaned, “I have more face to wash!”Always remember that you are loved, even when it does not seem like it. Believe in yourself and your values. Don’t sell out when things go wrong. Don’t let anything get you down. Always bounce back. Set goals for your future and never settle for anything less.
Realise that there are others in this world with bigger problems than you.Appreciate the good things of Life. Sunrise, Sunset, Flowers, Birds. Be thankful for the good times you have with your loved ones. Spend more time with your family and friends. Laugh as much as you can. Appreciate the simple things of Life and don’t get caught up in the material things of life. Be an Optimist and see the Cup as being Half Full. Before long your attitude will rub off on others. You can make the world a better place to live by simply by making yourself a happier person.
You will permit me to conclude with an allegorical story. First God created the Cow and said, “You must go with farmer daily to the field all day long and suffer under the Sun, have calves, give milk and help the farmer. I give you a span of sixty years.” The Cow said, “That’s surely tough. Give me only twenty years. I give back forty years.” On Day Two God created the Dog and told him, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at strangers. I give you a span of twenty years.” The Dog said, “Too long time for barking. I give up ten years.” On the third day God created the Monkey and said to him, “Entertain people. Make them laugh. I give you Twenty years.” The Monkey said to God, “How boring, Monkey tricks for twenty years. Give me only Ten years”. Lord agreed.
On the fourth day God created Man. He told him, “Eat, sleep, play, enjoy and do nothing. I will give you twenty years.” Man said, “Only twenty years. No way. I will take my Twenty and give me the Forty the cow gave back, the Ten that the Monkey returned, and the Ten the Dog surrendered. That makes eighty. O.K?”
O.K said God. That is why for the First twenty years we sleep, play enjoy and do nothing. For the next forty cow-years we slave in the Sun to support our family. For the next ten-monkey years we do tricks to entertain our grandchildren. And for the last Ten-dog years we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody.