Saturday, June 13, 2015

Traditional Societies are changing-and how !

I  come from a traditional society which used to respect and honour senior citizens and silver hair. But as with so much else, we live in a constantly changing world where the old norms are losing their meaning. Yet I refuse to descend into bathos and lament the days gone by. The present is all we have-and like the old saying goes "The present is a gift-cherish it before it becomes the past".

The nuclear  family is here to stay. But I am also discerning faintly the disllusionment with the youth-centred world -or is it wishful thinking ? Whatever, let us seize the present-because who knows when the sands of time run out?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Retirement Planning.

Retirement  means different  things to different people. Yet some common experiences can be identified. Feelings of social isolation and  alienation are experienced by many. Since one has delinked  from active structured routines,whether official or corporate, one may feel adrift for some time before one gets adjusted to the new life.
Many retirees have quickly adjusted to the new realities and  new routines. While there are many helpful books and retirement planners in western societies, in India these are relatively few. Relatively fewer are retirement communities,though of late some catering to the middle class and a few to the affluent class,are being planned and built.
It is proposed to list such resources so that  these can be readily available as  data bases.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bureaucrats and Senior Citizens.

Bureaucracy  is by definition precedent-driven and rule-bound. Hence, by training and  as professionals, bureaucrats  develop life-long  expertise in being rule-bound and precedent-driven. Bureaucrats are sometimes unfairly criticized for these very qualities which are  pre-requisites for success in their profession. It is like blaming the horse for being obedient to the rules of riding. Yet Indian bureaucracy has learned to be innovative and go beyond these limitations to serve the common man. 
I have had the good fortune to have worked with forward-thinking senior bureaucrats and idealistic new entrants to the civil services who went the extra mile in ensuring that the common man benefitted  from their services. That is after all the very purpose of bureaucracy. As an ex-bureaucrat and a senior citizen, I have tried to balance these traits which have been inbuilt into my personality through these long years. 
Bureaucrats sometimes practise the art of obfuscation, which Wikipedia defines as "Obfuscation is the obscuring of intended meaning in communication, making the message confusing, willfully ambiguous, or harder to understand". In  simple terms, we sometimes like to use many words where a few will suffice.
So retirement, is described as superannuation. The point being to upgrade retirement  as being in the super category. In perhaps a different sense,no doubt,retirement is in a category of it's own,which is difficult to describe unless one goes through it actually.Now all that is well and fine, but after  retirement, rather superannuation, ex-bureaucrats'  circle of captive listeners progressively diminishes .  In this vastly reduced circle , the patience of our listeners is strictly limited to meaningful and relevant  conversation not confined by the preamble " When I was ......." .  In such  circumstances, conversation topics become severely limited,with the listeners melting away quickly,unless we have something meaningful and socially relevant  to contribute. As senior citizens, we need to enlarge our horizons and make ourselves interesting  to society,and more importantly, give back  to society in whatever way we can. They rightly say that we live and learn-and I am constantly learning positively how many of our ex-colleagues and senior and junior ex- bureaucrats,  are doing their bit for socially responsible projects. This must be giving them a deep sense of inner satisfaction .
Mohinder Pal Singh
(Author retired from the Central services)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Senior Citizens need to stay connected.

The need to stay connected and relevant is  common among senior citizens. While getting out of the rat race is a blessing,  what is not  a blessing is that you need to run faster in a different race just to stay relevant. We need to have a positive contribution to make, one that is meaningful and creative. Now is the time to put aside petty rivalries and  the  career-pangs of  the next promotion and the next posting. We stand on a new platform which needs a lot of re-balancing but which also can reveal to us new and refreshing perspectives on life, that we were perhaps too busy earlier to discern.We need  to slow down, to stand-and-stare, to paraphrase a famous poet. 
Now that we have all the time in the world, we need to structure our lives to create a new meaning.  And yet, it is not wholly true that we have all the time in the world--as many of our colleagues have already left us. Hence our time is not unlimited, as so much in life is not unlimited. This is another belated realization that  dawns upon many of us. Perhaps we need this new sense of time speeding up to realise it's value.We all know about Einstein's theory of relativity about how space-time is a continuum. But perhaps only in our senior years does this universal law really sink in--that time can be speeded up and slowed.
There is a wonderful poem by one of the English poets which speaks of   " behind my back always I hear, Time's winged chariot hurrying near."  But with whatever time we have, we need to use it productively, perhaps because we never fully understood in the flush of youth, that  the Sands of Time can also run out. 

Senior Citizens are Special.

As a senior citizen myself, I have experienced  at first-hand, the intense feelings of loneliness and panic attacks when the world seems to be getting along very well without me.  It is a difficult transition to make, from  getting your due share of  attention, to increasingly being relegated to the margins. Not that I was ever suffering from "attention deficit disorder" but  everyone needs appreciation and understanding. And for the seniors, this is an increasingly scarce  commodity.
Retirement itself triggers feelings of isolation and being put on the shelf,so to speak. There is no shortage of  busybodies giving unsolicited advice about now having abundant time to relax. But that is the exact time when you need to get back into the mainstream of life, instead of being shunted aside like a loose-shunted locomotive in the railway yard.
Yet, is it not up to ourselves to  shrug off such negative thoughts and to chart out for ourselves a game plan to stay relevant, stay active and stay young? Surely, we should not be drowning in self-pity and negativism, but pulling ourselves up by our boot-straps-however increasingly difficult  a task it may be for us, with our expanding waist-lines and  decreasing flexibility?
This blog is for those of us senior citizens who refuse to be loose-shunted, who refuse to be strait-jacketed into confining categories like retirees, seniors or the old--but transit enthusiastically into a new life-affirming community that enjoys being a senior and  yes, old.

(Author retired from the central services).