Sunday, August 7, 2011

Retirement - only from employment

The oldest memory I have about my dad is him walking, carrying me on his shoulders while I was half asleep - I must have been 4 or 5 years old then. The next best I remember is the day he brought home our first TV - I must have been 7 years then. After that, of course I remember many incidents like - my dad drawing a plant in my science album (and my science teacher writing back a comment - "album work is meant for children and not parents"), helping me prepare for fancy dress competition, writing essays and speeches for me, teaching me tenses and sentence formation in English grammar, teaching me algebra, numerous images of him washing my clothes, taking me to the doctor. Most recently, organizing my sister's marriage, taking me to the bus station to send me off from Erode every time I visited home.

He retired from BSNL on July 31 after 39 years and 8 months of service - most of which, I remember him to have been a 'Section Supervisor'. He was also an active member of National Federation of Telecom Employees union and was its district head for some time. The union (NFTE) had arranged for a farewell function last week. About 1100 guests attended it - yes, it was just a retirement party!!! Most of his time in these 40 years would have been spent working for the welfare of his colleagues ranging from - assistance to get a transfer - to - winning employment for a deceased colleague's son/daughter. Yet, as cited by many of his managers, he never left any of his office work pending.

Even though dad was pre-occupied with his duties in the union and office, he managed his personal life as well stupendously. He wasn't there with me and my sister to play carrom board or to sit and watch a movie at home..but, he was there with us for the essential moments and phases of childhood. He helped us with our studies and extra-curricular activities, made sure he was on page with our progress and helped us take some key decisions in life. This post is about some of the characters of my dad that impressed me the most. He is not the type that sits and gives long lectures. He has been living a life of character and I have been inspired by just watching him.

1. Simplicity:
For a man who has served in a Central Government job for almost 40 years, I would say my dad led a life of austerity. He doesn't wear an expensive watch or foot wear. His maximum indulgence has been the two-floor house - no portion of it rented out. He now owns his second TVS 50 (after the first one started giving maintenance problems).

2. No forced Gyan:
Only recently I learnt from my mom that, my dad could not pursue a degree because his father could not afford the expense of educating 6 children at the same time. At the age of schooling he had to walk several miles to school. When he was doing his PUC, he had spent many days without even single meals a day. But, he has never told us these stories in the pretext of providing inspiration. After having grown up, the only advice I remember hearing from my dad is "Women are should be extra-nice to them. Even a phone call means a lot to them".

3. Hardwork:
His day typically starts at 5 am and doesn't typically return home until 8 or 9 in the night - even on Sundays. He takes a 1 hour break in the afternoon. It is very very rare to see him in front of the TV except during news hour...and even the rare occasions would have been on festive days to watch debates . He doesn't encourage useless gossips.

4. Care for friends and relations:
This has been his hallmark character. He has always kept good friends around him and others are good at least when they are around him. He treats all relations equally and has never lost an opportunity to help his friends or relations. Some of his friends impress by their hard-work, while some with their intelligence, some with their unconditional love and all of them by their sincerity. There was never a chance for negativity around our home. If there was something that wasn't good for children, that stayed outside of home (cable TV for instance :) ).

5. Diplomacy:
It is amazing to see how he handles issues with a open mind and acts as a proper diplomat, without having read Dale Carnegie or Zen principles. I have seen him playing the role of a diplomat or negotiator between groups or individuals on many occasions and I have seen his suggestions being accepted with respect.

6. Aptitude:
For someone educated in a village school, my dad impresses with his grammatically and politically correct English. His Thamizh isn't any lesser. He can read through Government acts, legal notices, pay commission guide books and explain them - even on matters outside of his departmental knowledge. During his retirement function some of the speakers said he could have been a very successful lawyer.

7. Planning and organization:
Meticulous planner - very punctual. He always keeps a dictionary with him. Carries a bag whenever he goes out. Even for 1 or 2 hour journeys, carries a towel and water bottle with him. Always carries some white papers and pen. Makes a margin and marks page numbers before starting to write anything. Keeps a dictionary by the side when he reads something.

8. Gender equality:
Helps mom in the kitchen. There is not even a hint of chauvinism in his speech or acts. At the same time, he hasn't taken any feminist measures like adding mom's initials to our names.

Of course, mom has complemented him very well. Without her, he couldn't have been the man he is. If Rajamanickam is behind "Bhupesh Rajamanickam", Usha Rani is a part of "Bhupesh Rajamanickam" (All alphabets in her name fit into my name..almost in the same order except for 1 'a').

Life after retirement is very tricky especially for those who have been very active. Hopefully, dad will find things to keep himself active. The retirement will hopefully give him enough time to cherish his meals, follow his passions and live an unconstrained life. Through this post I wish him good luck.