B S Raghavan

Arrogance of office to ordeal of retirement

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on July 09, 2013 Published on July 09, 2013

Retirement is a traumatic turning point in the life of a person who has enjoyed the perks of a job, especially the financial security it provides, for 35 years or more. The more the trappings that went with it, the more the trauma. There is hardly an office in the government or public or private sectors without at least some employees of whatever grade, as their dates of retirements approach, coming up with representations, advancing bizarre arguments to plead that their dates of birth are later than the ones as recorded at the time of their appointment.

Tiny Nair, in a recent article published in the Open Page of The Hindu, mentions the instance of a police officer he knew who, after retirement, became depressed, needing psychiatric treatment and finally committed suicide. It was not lack of money, nor family problems, but just loss of power, the absence of police car, the missing uniformed driver and the salutes.

Adi Sankara anticipated such possibilities a thousand years ago in his famous Bhaja Govindam. He warned everyone that the position he held was transient and was merely “for the sake of filling his stomach”. He, with brutal bluntness, describes as idiots those who pride themselves on their being this or that.I liked what Subroto Bagchi, Chairman of Mindtree, had written in the chapter “Courtesy and humility” in his book, The Professional, about how stupid people could be in mistaking the ephemeral for real. He essentially refers to professional adulation, but what he says applies to all who strut about in their temporary positions in government or any other organisation as if they are the masters of the universe.

The salutations and sycophancy that come their way are “like the beacon of a lighthouse — it falls on you for a few minutes and then it must move on. People who think the spotlight will always remain on them, and are often rude, insensitive and self-absorbed, soon discover the loneliness of being in the shadows. (They) must know that humility is critical to enduring success....”

INDIA’S ARROGANT SERVICE

There was recently a write-up in a widely circulated blog titled “The Insufferable Attitude of IAS — India’s Arrogant Servants!” In that the writer quotes the American economist Lant Pritchett of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government to the effect that Indian bureaucracy is “one of the world’s top 10 biggest problems” along with AIDS, cancer and other virulent diseases and ills.

He narrates how a district collector took umbrage at being directly called over his mobile, and not coming through his personal assistant, how even lower officials do not answer or return phone calls, or reply to SMS messages from those out of whose taxes they get their livelihood.

It may be a consolation for the blogger to know that some of the serving IAS officers behave equally obnoxiously with their erstwhile, retired colleagues. The strangest part of such arrogant behaviour is that the “idiot” (or mooda as Adi Sankara calls him!) forgets that one day he too would have to remove the grease and paint he wore to play his part on the workplace’s stage and slink back as an ordinary householder to face the same kind of humiliations and harassments to which he merrily subjected others. And when that happens, he becomes a recluse and a victim of variety of ailments.

ANTIDOTES TO TENSIONS

I have seen many of them pitiably soliciting some position or other, even if it be as a lobbyist, PR person or door-opener, on the pittance of a salary. They shed all sense of delicacy, self-respect or shame in serving as subordinates of those very people who, at one time, used to salaam them and wait for hours to see them for one thing or another.

Governments too find it convenient to dangle allurements of cushy post-retirement jobs before persons who occupy important or sensitive positions as a quid pro quo for facilitating some transactions on which the high and mighty have set their hearts or for being saved from unsavoury situations arising out of inquiries or investigations into some misdemeanour or other.

There are very few that we see around us who are able to bear the prospect of retirement with grace and without trepidation.

Are there any antidotes to these tensions? Yes, I can straightaway offer these: Cultivate a wide range of interests, which can keep you engaged post-retirement; dedicate yourself to social causes and service of the people; let your learning capabilities remain at a high pitch; be a learner and a student till your last breath.

Published on July 09, 2013
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