Having recovered from my long spell of sickness I find we are now in October of 2020. In sickness one loses track of time - days, dates and months. I have been down with bouts of UTI since last July and had to be hospitalized and administered 21 intravenous shots which, while seemingly ridding me of UTI, have made me very weak and infirm. The first thing antibiotics do is to knock off the appetite. Weeks of virtual starvation makes one lose one’s sap. I cannot walk around and going out of the house all by myself is out of question. Nonetheless, I am feeling like a human again after quite a few months.
In the meantime, 30th September seemed to have slipped away quietly without my being aware of it. Sickness enforces its own regimen and one does not have energy to do or think of any other thing that is of mundane nature. The date 30th September held a special significance for me. It was on this date that I retired a quarter century ago from the service of the Government of India and drove out of that massive building on Patel Chowk in New Delhi for the last time.
For some retirement is a frightening prospect. Shorn off of all official trappings one is seemingly introduced into a world that is bare, where there is no help – no PA and no chaprasi or a fleet of vehicles with their drivers. This deprivation is kind of in-your-face and one has to face it as there are no two ways about it. Many have been known to have had a breakdown and many others have just sunk into depression. I had, however, told my wife that if she were to notice any of the symptoms of depression in me she should deal with them according to her best judgment. Mercifully, nothing of the kind occurred and we settled down to a life that I had visualized – a life of happy togetherness.
A quarter century of retired life could be a rewarding period during which one could indulge in one’s passions with no disruptions. There were no official worries like the ones that hound people at senior levels. There were no financial worries, too, as the Pay Commissions came to the rescue as and when the pension tended to become inadequate. I, for one, have reaped since retirement the benefits given by as many as three Pay Commissions. And talking of occasional distractions, there could be small interruptions as well but they would generally be of a minor kind leaving one free to pursue one’s passion. If the domestic front is peaceful life becomes more serene, happy, neat and tidy.
It is not that everything was hunky-dory during those 25 years. Our health took quite a bit of a beating. While I underwent an open-heart surgery when the surgeon at the AIIMS put as many as five grafts on my cardiac artery, four of which are still functioning, the fifth, being blocked, has developed collaterals. This was revealed recently in a CT angiogram. The cardiac surgeon knifed through my chest 21 years ago and his manipulations inside have held together all these years.
Two years ago when I was unable to take even a few steps because of what appeared to me to be sciatica I went to a suave surgeon here with my MRI. On examination of the MRI he said it could be treated but he was reluctant to operate on me as I was above 80. When we pressed him as life was impossible without the use of my legs he ordered a series of investigations. On finding them satisfactory he had me put on the operating table and removed a small cyst from my lumbar region. He virtually used the key-hole method and rid me of the offending cyst.
My wife underwent two knee replacement surgeries. The implants in her knees have given her new strength not only for her daily chores but also to venture out into the town with its mostly uneven roads. This is the miracle of modern medicine that we have experienced firsthand.
Soon after my heart surgery I decided to buy a computer. I joined the classes run by NIIT where I would sit with children of the age of my grand children (if I had any) and would be lectured by a girl as young as my daughter (if I had any). The young girl who used to run the institute is still in touch with me though she has moved out to Bangalore.
Before the computer arrived I used to type out “letters to editor” on my portable Silver Reed typewriter that I had bought in Japan. My letters for local papers would be about progressively failing civic functions of the municipality and others for the wider world would be about national politics or about, among others, the emerging Asian bully – the Peoples Republic of China. These would appear in the Statesman or the Pioneer. It seems my small articles of a few hundred words that used to appear in The Hindustan Times were admired, well-liked and accepted. These gave me an identity in the town where I came as a migrant. People’s faces would light up when I was introduced to them. I had emerged as a columnist. Over the years I wrote hundreds of articles and when the newspapers wound up I posted my pieces on citizen journalism sites. These sites also could not survive as making available a site costs money and not many can afford it. I saw several sites like Newsvine of MS NBC, Rachel Stern’s Ground Report, Media With Conscience, The Third Report etc. collapse for want of money. They were all US based sites and yet folded up as they could not sustain themselves for want of cash.
Nonetheless, I kept writing for by then writing had become a passion. I wouldn’t feel the day well spent unless I wrote a few hundred words. Good, bad or indifferent; I would tap away on my keyboard and see the finished product only later. I mostly found them acceptable and mailed them or mounted them on the sites I was registered with. Although I may not be able to use them yet I have a large number of clippings basing which, God willing, I intend to write pieces in future. Time is running out for me.
Twenty five years is a very long time which I have thankfully been rewarded with by Providence. With a health that is good and a loving wife of the kind that I have been lucky to have one can happily live out the remaining years of the life. I can only pray that God continues to shower on me the same grace and I wish that He also does so with all my friends.