One year ago, around this time I had just dipped my toes in untested waters. I retired after a working life spanning more than four decades across three continents. I had visualized what my retirement might look like and planned for it, best as I could. A major item in my “if possible, to do” bucket list was achieved up front, thanks to a set of wonderful colleagues who were happy to urge me out the door towards retirement; that “qissa” (anecdote) was featured in an earlier blog.
It is not unusual for people to rhetorically inquire how retired folk keep ourselves occupied. My friends who have been retired for much longer than I, say they have a busier life now than when they were working. Some of this might be hyperbole, but we tend to be a fairly disciplined lot. Notwithstanding years of living the corporate life mouthing “optimal use of resources” jargon, we do know that time – the most precious commodity of all – must be used well. I am usually up fairly early and start my day with yoga. I have a favorite spot in a room that allows me to look out the bay window at goings-on in the neighborhood as I go through my routine. While trying to stay focused on my breath and holding a yoga position, I equally enjoy feeling connected with the ambient mood. Kids stepping out to go to school, folks getting into their cars to drive to work or the GO station, neighbours stepping out with pets and have their dogs walk them. The imagery brings flashbacks of start-of-the-work-day routine without having to relive the associated stresses.
Through this past week, looking outside at the swirling snow and hearing the howling winds I silently thanked my stars each day for not having to go to work! I commiserated with the hapless, bundled up dark figures shuffling around in -30 degrees C conditions. Metrolinx’ transport schedules were quirkier than the vagaries of weather, adding to the commuters’ misery! Just the thought of not having to jump in and out of overcrowded and delayed GO trains in such icy conditions is enough to keep me happily retired.
A few of us old FARTS (Former Associates Reuniting To Socialize) met recently over lunch. It was fascinating to meet one gentleman who had started his banking career in 1942 and retired in the 1980s! Very fit and sharp as a whip at 94 years young, he rued having to give up golf two years ago and said that finally last year he had to stop curling as well. I joked that he should stick to drawing his pension that would allow him to enjoy other pursuits. Poking me in the ribs he chuckled, “No, no. You see, I am not sticking to my pension; I am sticking it to the bank even after 30+ years! Someone in the pension department must be looking down the list of names each month and saying, what, this sod is still around!” He laughed heartily and proceeded to regale us with fascinating stories of his life in the bank all through the years. Finally, arms folded across his chest he sat back and smiling gently, said, “You know what son, those days it was all about people, never about the work. Boy, did we have fun doing whatever we were asked to do. But, it is relationships and the memories we created together that keep me and a lot of us going strong, even after so many years.”
Much later, sitting at home in solitude and enjoying the spectacle of bright sunlight sparkling on the pure white heaps of snow, the following “ash’aar” (couplets) by two legendary, rival Urdu poets came to mind.
Mirza Ghalib (1797 – 1869) yearned for “fursat” (leisure/freedom/rest/retirement):
|“Jii dhuu.nDtaa hai phir vahii fursat ke raat din …||The heart yearns again, for those nights and days of leisure/rest (retirement) …|
|… baiThe rahe.n tasavvur-e-jaanaa kiye hu.e”||… leisurely ensconced, lost in my beloved’s thoughts|
Momin Khan Momin (1800 – 1851) viewed “fursat” thus:
|“Bekārī-e-umīd se fursat hai raat din …||Freed from the useless expectations of hope, day and night …|
|… vo kārobār-e-hasrat-o-hirmāñ nahīñ rahā||… (One is) past the business of unfulfilled desires and regret|
|Kis kaam ke rahe jo kisī se rahā na kaam …||What purpose remains when there is no connection/work with anyone …|
|… sar hai magar ġhurūr kā sāmāñ nahīñ rahā||… Pride remains even if the apparatus/means to vain glory one cannot beget|