Begin again

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Retirement need not spell the end of life as one knows it, says Shyamsundar Savkur. He describes how he brought meaning and activity back into his life, once the initial euphoria of retirement wore off.

TThe last census in India revealed that the non-working population above 60 years is steadily rising from 5.8% presently. In the rural areas, there is no mandated retirement age. The old among the self-employed or those engaged in agricultural farms continue to toil as long as they possibly can. However, for those in service, retirement on superannuation is inescapable.

Another evocative painting by the writer

Most view the dreaded date of retirement with trepidation, due to substantial reduction in income. Many often frantically seek and accept any job as long as it supplements their reduced income. A few are content with their life-time savings and prefer to hang up their boots and indulge in the luxury of living an unhurried life; waking up at leisure, without the need for setting the alarm.

Looking forward to retirement
I too, avidly looked forward to the date of retirement. While in service, I seldom found time to read the daily newspapers; post-retirement I have time to read not one, but two, in addition to completing the daily crossword and Sudoku!

The first month post-retirement was a well-deserved respite after years of a peripatetic banking service involving periodical transfers. Boredom and ennui however, slowly crept in with the routine of the morning bed coffee, glancing through the newspapers thereafter, and the continuous watching of TV, which seldom has any news to gladden the hearts and minds of viewers.

With everyone around scurrying about getting ready for office, I felt guilty as I lay stretched on my couch waiting for my breakfast, lunch and the irresistible siesta thereafter. I decided to bestir myself and do something, at least to appear busy.

The new routine
A daily evening stroll in the neighborhood for which I had had no time while in service, now became a routine. During such visits I saw quite a few old, retired gentlemen seated on a bench beneath an expansive shady banyan tree. I often wondered what they could be chatting about. One of them whom I had known for some years, insisted I too should join the crowd, if only to listen to what seemed to be an endless recitation of all the ills and infirmities of old age. To change this morbid discussion on ailments, I tried to elicit from each what kept them busy for most of the time when they were at home. One of them was interested in palmistry, another in astrology and matching horoscopes. An enterprising retired teacher had decided to offer free tuition to the poor and needy children of the neighborhood – a very laudable vocation. It was then that I too decided to keep myself busy and fruitfully engaged.

I had developed a school time hobby of sketching and water color painting which I had to give up while in service. I decided to resume my hobby. Now after thirty years of retirement, I keep painting well into the early hours of the morning. Nothing is more satisfying than a misty morning painted on canvas, an angry sea with waves lashing on the rocks, an evening sunset with the western sky aflame with riotous peaks clad in snow, or serene valleys with streams flowing unhindered. No lover of nature who loves to paint can resist capturing on canvas its varied and constantly shifting moods.

The writer teaches painting to fellow senior citizens

For lovers of music, time does not hang heavy. Listening to the strains of an afternoon raga or a late night Bhairavi can have a calming – nay, even a soporific effect to induce a satisfying afternoon siesta, or even a restful night’s sleep.

Photography, as a hobby can always be both exciting and rewarding. One doesn’t have to travel to scenic surroundings to capture the beauty of nature. Even a crowded city has its charms if one has the patience and diligence to locate them.

Clay modelling is yet another activity which can be satisfying – though of course it’s quite messy. My late cousin, a retired mechanical engineer, had an array of tools and an imaginative mind. He designed a small electric engine with attached bogies running on tracks with a signaling system – all operated on a battery, and this kept him busy for a month. Wood-carving was another satisfying hobby which kept him engaged, with no time for boredom.

Early in life, when at school, I had read the poem by W.H Davies where the poet had lamented about the frenetic pace of life. Most of us are able to identify with that feeling during the “yearning” years where all attention and energies are focused on staying yoked to an employer. It is finally, on retirement that I have been able to address the problem identified by him when he wrote “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”


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Shyamsundar Savkur

Shyamsundar Savkur retired thirty years ago on superannuation from the Union Bank of India from a senior executive position. He took to painting as a hobby. He holds painting classes for resident senior citizens of Athashri Home.

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