Living with the present and the past
by Durgesh K.Srivastava
Reaching the stage of retirement is like
reaching the final destination of a long journey. You stand relaxed, take a yawn, loosen your limbs and take a look around. You give a sigh of relief.
Anything could have gone wrong in the last 60 odd years to spoil the journey. It was more than a journey. It was the story of your life, your trials and tribulations, your successes and failures, tears and laughter. You then look out into the distance - the future.
My model for a happy retirement is my elder brother Mr. Girdhar Gopal, the youngest son of my father's eldest sister. He is about 80 and leading a retired life for two decades. He is in reasonable good health. His wife is dead and his younger son and his wife live with him and look after him.
Mr. Girdhar Gopal has a pension. He owns the large double story house he lives in. He built it upon land gifted to him by his father, who himself lived for nearly 98 years in the house next door - a large mansion like house having 12 large rooms - with his aged widowed daughter in law and her out of job son and son's children.
There was a common kitchen from which cooked food was supplied to the entire clan. After his father's death, Mr. Girdhar Gopal runs this kitchen from his pension income and ancestral wealth. Food was and is free for everyone. Cooking and household work is done by old and trusted servants. The area is prone to frequent electricity shortages. So, he has made seven alternative arrangements for power supply.
To keep himselt occupied, Mr. Girdhar Gopal runs a law consultancy from his home. He does not run after work. He lets clients come on their own. He lives surrounded by residences of his extended family - Grandparents, six brothers their 20 odd children and a host of kids of all ages.
All the houses in the locality are owned by this extended family. In the centre of the locality there is a play area of about 2000 square meters where the kids play watched by their elders. Everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He attends many feasts every year - marriages, birthdays etc.
Having lived all his life here he has hundreds of friends. People drop in to have a chat. He plays chess, cards etc. and reads the newspapers. Occasionally he takes a walk around the large houses of his father and his father's brothers, stoppng here and there before an old photo or a house fixture and plunging into nostalgia.
When his father had died about 15 years ago nearly 10,000 people had converged from around the large city of Allahabad and participated in the lavish funeral feast that it is an Indian tradition to host. Mr. Girdhar Gopal has a sharp mind, good memory and a ready wit. I expect him to go on to live to be 100, like his father.
- Durgesh K.Srivastava, New Delhi,India