What Do Retired People Do?

At around 10.30 AM every Sunday without fail, my Godson ND will ring me up to catch up with or share any news that may have transpired the previous week. I always end the call with the quip that he should not worry as I am still alive and kicking. His inevitable quip will be that he just wants to ensure that I don’t change my mind about including him in my last will and testament.

Last Sunday was no different except that he was very excited about something that reminded him and his lovely bride RD of my plight. Both had seen the latest version of Reality Show “Big Boss”. In that episode it was revealed that a well known Bhajan Singer Anup Jalota 65 was dating 28 year old Jasleen Matharu.

Both RD and ND felt strongly that if Anup Jalota could date a lady 37 years younger to him, so could I and that I should start looking around seriously. Nitin in all earnestness asked if the two of them should start playing cupid.

We had a good laugh and I thought that the story was over.

This morning however the topic was re-ignited by an old colleague SVP in a WhatsApp group to which both of us belong. All of us in that group are retired old foggies and exchange jokes and political barbs at each other in the group. To SVP I quoted an Ancient Saw in Sanskrit that goes as follows:

When not practiced, knowledge is poison; in indigestion, food is poison |
poison is gathering/festivities for the poor; old man’s young woman is poison ||

अनभ्यासे विषं विद्या अजीर्णे भोजनं विषम् ।
विषं सभा दरिद्रस्य वृद्धस्य तरुणी विषम् ॥

anabhyAse viShaM vidyA, ajIrNe bhojanaM viShaM |
viShaM sabhA daridrasya, vRiddhasya taruNI viShaM ||

Another mischievous colleague SST simply added below that quote — “Jealous”.

A while later, the first poster came up with this image.

The background to the picture is that India’s Supreme Court has just struck down an Archaic British legacy law against homosexuality.

Now, I wonder if a message is being sent by SVP to both SST and me!

Miscommunication.

Cheerful Monk’s post on the same topic reminded me of a hilarious incident from the late seventies.

My readers must recall those days of telephone switch boards with telephone operators cum receptionists with hundreds of calls to attend every day. In the office where I worked in Bombay as it was then called, the operator, a veteran of many telephone battles and personal friend to many of our customers who used to visit the office from various towns of Western India could speak very good English but only the street Hindustani of Bombay.

One day there was a great commotion as everyone in the office could hear her shouting repeatedly that there was nobody called Ghatkopar Saheb in the office and asking the caller to correctly mention the name of the person.

Ghatkopar is a suburb of Bombay and quite infamous even in those days. Finally, the top honcho of the office got involved in the matter and found out that the caller was a gentleman with some speech defect and was in fact asking for Rajgopaul Saheb!

For quite some time after that, I had to bear with being called Mr. Ghatkopar by that worthy who apart from being my boss was also a personal friend.

Life On The Simple Side.

This week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog post title has been suggested by Shackman who claims that he was inspired by our own old geezelle Tammy. She actually is a minimalist and far from a simpleton but, that is word play that I hope she will forgive me for.

Simple Living as per Wikipedia was practiced by Mahatma Gandhi. His contemporary freedom fighter Sarojni Naidu had this to say about that to him. “Do you know how much it costs every day to keep you in poverty?”

I flatter myself that mine is a life on the simple side. That is my perception. Ekoshapu who had visited me for the first time said this about my simplicity. “I, along with my friend, met Ramana Sir on Sunday at his home (mansion would be the right word, considering the super-affluent locality and spacious rooms/garden).” If I were to visit some of my friends who live in more upmarket areas in bigger homes, perhaps I would also say the same thing. The point is that ‘simplicity’ is a matter of perception.

For me, being simple is keeping my wants to the barest minimum and finding simple solutions to life’s problems. For instance, while I can and on occasions do use a car with a driver hired on an hourly basis, I would rather use a cab or an auto-rickshaw to go wherever I need to go as, parking and its attendant problems is always a major constraint. On the other hand, Ekoshapu, being much younger and more agile, uses our very reliable public transport bus system to commute within our city. He finds that simpler. Perhaps had I been his age with my present lifestyle, I would have too. In other words, simplicty can be thrust on us too and often is!

I wonder if in our lifetime we will see a major shift from consumerism to simplicity/minimalism as a natural reaction to the former reaching its limits.  A process called Enandriomia.  I certainly see many middle class and affluent families opting for the latter and wonder if a snowballing effect will occur.  On the other hand, for developing nations like India, aspirational impacts on the poor climbing the economic ladder perhaps, balances such reversals.  The next few decades will be interesting to watch.

Not being part of the consumer society is more than enough to have a life of the simple side. I am not tempted to buy unnecessary things with the exception of books. Hopefully, one of these days, even that weakness will drop off like a ripe pumpkin that simply snaps off from the vein.

Do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say about the topic.

 

Book Review – Mark Manson.

In my post An Unexpected Gift, I had undertaken to review the book that I had received as the gift. I also take you to Ekoshapu’s post where he wondered if I would comment on two observations that he made there and I will combine both the review and my comments here.

First the language. Having braced myself for a barrage of foul language based on various comments and the reviews that I had read, I was pleasantly surprised to find the four letter word more or less disappearing after the first couple of chapters. Once Manson gets into his stride with his message, he does not seem to require the crutches of the f*** word and the reading becomes quite placid. Towards the end he does use it a few times but not to the same intensity as he does in the beginning.

Now to the content. As self help books go, this is one that people of my age, Tammy and Monk, I hope that you agree, can safely ignore. Unlike Manson who is now is his thirties and still with a long life ahead of him, there are two issues that we do not need to address. One, we have nothing to prove to anyone including ourselves, and two, we are quite familiar with the prospect of impending death.

The other recommendations that Manson makes will perhaps be of use to younger, and particularly Western and Westernised Indians grappling with the pressures of modern living and expectations. In other words, people of my age, both Western and Indian have no need for this rethinking. We made our mistakes and learnt from them in a different world with different value systems.

It is still a good read. If you are the type that would like to learn how young minds work now, this is the book for you.

Coming to the two observations that Ekoshapu wanted me to respond to:

1. You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.

I am in total agreement. Over the years, I have come to accept that I will not be universally popular and that there is no point in running a popularity contest. There will be people who will like me for what I am and more who will think that I am not worth a thought. This is indeed life and the sooner one learns this, one’s expectations from relationships of all kinds become realistic and manageable. Manson addressed this issue to those people who want to be liked by everyone. An impossibility.

2. Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect.

It is. No doubts whatsoever in my mind and my response is that I am not a participant in that value system. I am at the twilight of my life and am content with the way I am and with the things that I have. I am in the process of getting rid of things rather than acquiring them and that includs value systems too. I have nothing to prove to anyone, not even to myself.

I would like to share my experience when it comes to item number one too.

  1. Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. It’s the most simple and basic component of life. Our struggles determine our successes.

I hope that Ekoshapu takes my word for what I am about to say.  I never had to struggle for position or possession.  I grew into middle and old age at a time when just having a secure job was a blessing.  Positions and possessions just happened by my being in the right places at the right times and in the absence of strong competition. My favourite quote is and has been for decades:

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”
~ Basho.

An issue that Manson treats with great attention is “Commitment”. To Ekoshapu, I point out that this is the single most important value to take away from the book. I speak from experience.

If there is one more that I would choose to highlight, that is “The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.”

It Might Have Been.

This phrase is often used to describe missed opportunities and most people who quote this are not aware that they are from a poem of the early nineteenth century describing a typical rural broken romance.  I was enlightened by my late elder cousin, a Professor of English about this when I had gone visiting him as he lay in a hospital bed suffering from a brain tumour.  Even in that condition, he made me promise that I will look this up when I had quoted this phrase and on being queried replied my ignorance about its source.

I was reminded of this episode when I came across Ekoshapu mentioning it in one of his “Thought Of The Day” posts.

I did not know that Ekoshapu was a poetry buff too and so left these comments on his post. “It is interesting that you are a poetry buff too! Maud Muller is one of the most poignant and beautiful poems ever written. That is, in my opinion.”

Here is the original Maud Muller poem in full.

MAUD MULLER

by: John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

AUD MULLER, on a summer’s day,
Raked the meadows sweet with hay.

Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth
Of simple beauty and rustic health.

Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee
The mock-bird echoed from his tree.

But, when she glanced to the far-off town,
White from its hill-slope looking down,

The sweet song died, and a vague unrest
And a nameless longing filled her breast–

A wish, that she hardly dared to own,
For something better than she had known.

The Judge rode slowly down the lane,
Smoothing his horse’s chestnut mane.

He drew his bridle in the shade
Of the apple-trees, to greet the maid,

And ask a draught from the spring that flowed
Through the meadow across the road.

She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up,
And filled for him her small tin cup,

And blushed as she gave it, looking down
On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown.

“Thanks!” said the Judge, “a sweeter draught
From a fairer hand was never quaffed.”

He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees,
Of the singing birds and the humming bees;

Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether
The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.

And Maud forgot her briar-torn gown,
And her graceful ankles bare and brown;

And listened, while a pleasant surprise
Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.

At last, like one who for delay
Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away,

Maud Muller looked and sighed: “Ah, me!
That I the Judge’s bride might be!

“He would dress me up in silks so fine,
And praise and toast me at his wine.

“My father should wear a broadcloth coat;
My brother should sail a painted boat.

“I’d dress my mother so grand and gay,
And the baby should have a new toy each day.

“And I’d feed the hungry and clothe the poor,
And all should bless me who left our door.”

The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill,
And saw Maud Muller standing still.

“A form more fair, a face more sweet,
Ne’er hath it been my lot to meet.

“And her modest answer and graceful air
Show her wise and good as she is fair.

“Would she were mine, and I to-day,
Like her, a harvester of hay:

“No doubtful balance of rights and wrongs,
Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,

“But low of cattle, and song of birds,
And health, and quiet, and loving words.”

But he thought of his sisters, proud and cold,
And his mother, vain of her rank and gold.

So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on,
And Maud was left in the field alone.

But the lawyers smiled that afternoon,
When he hummed in court an old love-tune;

And the young girl mused beside the well,
Till the rain on the unraked clover fell.

He wedded a wife of richest dower,
Who lived for fashion, as he for power.

Yet oft, in his marble hearth’s bright glow,
He watched a picture come and go:

And sweet Maud Muller’s hazel eyes
Looked out in their innocent surprise.

Oft when the wine in his glass was red,
He longed for the wayside well instead;

And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms,
To dream of meadows and clover-blooms.

And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain,
“Ah, that I were free again!

“Free as when I rode that day,
Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay.”

She wedded a man unlearned and poor,
And many children played round her door.

But care and sorrow, and child-birth pain,
Left their traces on heart and brain.

And oft, when the summer sun shone hot
On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,

And she heard the little spring brook fall
Over the roadside, through the wall,

In the shade of the apple-tree again
She saw a rider draw his rein,

And, gazing down with timid grace,
She felt his pleased eyes read her face.

Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls
Stretched away into stately halls;

The weary wheel to a spinnet turned,
The tallow candle an astral burned;

And for him who sat by the chimney lug,
Dozing and grumbling o’er pipe and mug,

A manly form at her side she saw,
And joy was duty and love was law.

Then she took up her burden of life again,
Saying only, “It might have been.”

Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!

God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;

And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!