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The bliss of retired life

Nearly 10 crore Indians are packed off into retirement every year because they have turned 58 or if they are luckier 60.

November 19, 2022 / 01:29 PM IST
Play Wordle or Sudoku, binge-watch shows, or call their financial adviser every day - the retiree is master of his or her time. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

Play Wordle or Sudoku, binge-watch shows, or call their financial adviser every day - the retiree is master of his or her time. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

The sexagenerian wakes up to the chime of the latest cell phone alarm that he set two days ago. Named Loose Change, it reflects his current state of mind. Even when he's up, it takes him a while to get his bearings. After years of waking up to nightmarish thoughts of all the tasks he hasn't completed before the big weekly meeting with the boss, the sense of relief is almost unbearable. It is like a lingering toothache that's gone after a visit to the dentist. The sufferer can't quite believe it and keeps feeling the offending tooth, wondering if the pain will return.

Eventually it sinks in. He is the master of his time. He owns the day. He is free to do what he pleases. If that's binge watching such irrelevant shows as How to make it in America, all 16 episodes, 2 seasons, so be it. Hell, he can even watch the Netherlands Vs Zimbabwe T20 match, without any guilt.

He is retired after all. Or sent into retirement, to be more precise. One among nearly 10 crore Indians packed off into retirement every year because they have turned 58 or if they are more lucky 60. That number of retirees incidentally is more than Japan's entire working age population (those aged 15-64) of 7.4 crore as of July 2022.

Derived from the French word retirer, which means to withdraw, it is society's signal that you have to stop working, no matter what your state of mind and body is. If the former is fine and functioning, go do some sudoku or wordle, you are told. And if your body is still willing, hey there are grand kids to be carried, you are reminded.

But our retiree has better things to do. Harassing his investment advisor for one or chasing his health insurance provider to include retinopathy in its coverage. Time was, his company's group insurance policy took care of such things. But now that he's on his own he's pored through the masses of data on the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority site and made copious notes.  So when the glib executive defending her health insurance company, parrots the official line "That's on the exclusions list" he triumphantly tells her that as of last month it isn't any more. Take that!

Meanwhile there is the minor inconvenience of having to fix his own tea. His wife, a college lecturer, has many more years of productive life so no help from that quarter. Thrown in for good measure are other such chores as managing the irascible domestic help, taking delivery of the provisions and drawing cash from the ATM.

Luckily he is not one of the 52 percent of Indians who expect their children to provide them financial stability when they get old or even the 28 percent who are yet to start saving for retirement (as per a survey by Sambodhi Research and pinBox Solutions).

But while his finances are in order, his social life is non-existent. The breezy mandatory camaraderie and snakepit politics of officiàldom is edged out by intermittent navel gazing and equally mandatory lint picking of yesterdays. The kids have fled the nest and his few remaining friends are busy with their own woes while the rest of the world has just moved on. The first Longitudinal Ageing Study reported that about 5.7 percent of India's senior citizens (aged 60 and above) live on their own without the support of family or friends.

A silent tear threatens the corner of his one good eye. The other one has a cataract and will need attending in the next few months. It is there alright on his To-Do list, but way down. Not long back this was a serious piece of work replete with important meetings, more meetings and then some more. Now it is populated with such trivia as "Call plumber", or more accurately, "Call plumber and check why the damned fellow didn't land up yesterday".

The plumber didn't and won't today either because he knows the retiree is a nag with all the time in the world. Can't blame him. It is a fact.
Sundeep Khanna is a senior journalist. Views are personal.
first published: Nov 12, 2022 01:05 pm