Who am I after all these years, anyway?

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By Philip Mudartha

Bellevision Media Network


Doha, 16 May 2012: “Philip, imagine traveling around the world, Rose and me holding hands and doing what we always wanted to do since our sweetheart days at college. How beautiful, romantic and awe-inspiring. I look forward to my retirement by Christmas”. It was full moon star-lit night in the autumn on Mississippi River. My good friend Bruce, his wife Rose and I were sailing on a yacht. Standing next to him, I could not miss the glint in his eyes. Month later, Rose passed away. His dreams fell apart. Is this destiny?


“Philip, where would you retire to: mountains or the beach”? It has been twelve years since Vern, now 72 and still working full-time, posed this question. He owns both mountain and beach front properties. Yet, because he is a workaholic, he hardly goes to either of them. Probably he would not retire from paid work until he drops dead.


“Philip, I hate my job. It involves a lot of traveling. And, Carol has a job that involves traveling too. Seldom are we in the same town; always heading to different cities”. With two fabulous incomes, no kids, no sex, no companionship, James is ready to retire any day, if only the home loan and EMI payments on car, and household durables are taken care of.  He is only 39 and burnt out. Retirement for him is liberation from the compulsions of working, the physical and psychological stresses and the loneliness of booze-n-smoke lifestyle at glitzy bars.


“Philip, I have turned 64 but am afraid to retire. Since leaving high school at 18, I have worked nine-to-five jobs. What will I do when I retire? I will be nobody and will probably go mad watching television round the clock. Nancy, of course, will drive me crazy with our war for TV remote. She hates news and cricket. And I hate the soaps”.  John is a multi-crorepati, with investments in real estate, stocks, bonds and bank deposits. The only financial worries come from the fear of taxman knocking and devising schemes to drain his wealth.


So, you see! Äal eez not well.  Hakuna matata: don’t worry, be happy? Not yet.

I am at crossroads. I have to ask and answer a few tough questions once again, like I did at 20 and 40. Who am I, after all these years? Am I a robot that woke up to go to work, earned a salary, took weekly off-days, but stopped enjoying them? Am I a deadpan who forgot to pray, play and feel love? Have I lost my soul in the quest for career-based identity and wealth-based retirement plan?


My quest for happiness begins, with these questions and the answers that I seek, accept and adopt. Then I am ready to retire. I quote from a famous book:

“I can reclaim my creative spirit and find an artistic pursuit that will ignite my inner fire. My artistic pursuit- whether it’s painting pictures, writing poetry, or making pottery- will rekindle a part of me that has been suppressed for years by the structure of a job and the routine of daily life. Not only can it make me feel more alive, an artistic pursuit can constitute the primary reason for my being”.


"Retirement is the perfect time to become the person I would like to be and do the things that I have always wanted to do."
"Retirement can be both exciting and demanding, bringing new challenges, new experiences, and new uncertainties."


"...retirement is the last opportunity for individuals to reinvent themselves, let go of the past, and find peace and happiness within."


I remember my father retiring from Bombay-based work and returning to live permanently with us to till our fields. He was only 53, and the transition hit him hard: both in the wallet and in the heart. He took to alcohol. Wife and children abuse followed. Self-pity became the prominent aspect of his self-image. In his heydays of foreign jobs and Bombay work, he gave away money to relatives and friends. He funded education of some, and marriages of others. When wheels of fortune turned in the latter’s favor, he sought both gratitude and cash payback in return of olden favors granted. Nothing of that sort came; he was shattered. He became a living dead body.


Where did he go wrong? He went wrong in craving to receive gratitude for his past deeds of charity and altruistic attitude. What is given away is gone and to be forgotten. Keeping ledgers and seeking to square the accounts brings immense pain when the arithmetic does not add up to your expectations. Moral of story: do not expect gratitude and cash-backs, even from children. Count the blessings and learn to be grateful. There sure is a lot to be grateful if I pause and think of favors and help that I have received through my own journey from a child to a retiring adult.


It is not the "feel good" happiness that I would seek into my retirement. Rather, "values based" happiness. What is the difference in these two approaches? I will explain with examples.


I see thousands of old Chinese men and women traveling around the globe in Asia, Europe and Americas, armed with technologically smart digital cameras with instant connectivity to internet-based social networks. My Spaniard friends joke about them: they shoot anything that is moving and not moving. I agree. I have posed for photographs with them, which for them is for a vain boast within friend-circles: to ‘feel good’ about having met and befriended Indians! This feel good happiness is depending on spending money. These activities will have diminishing returns over time. (Is it really a pleasure to sit through the DVD replays of weddings, birthdays, anniversaries etc, when we visit friends and relatives during holidays? People invest several thousands in memories to feel good, but the effect is temporary).


I see a handful of people with a mission of their own. Take for example, the published stories of Prof. Hilda Rayappan. Closer to home, look at Dr. Eugene D’ Souza: his zeal for media participation, social and educational work. Or advocate Benedict Noronha: the perennial rebel with a cause. Compare their long term satisfaction and gratification received from engaging in activities that hold meaning for them and us. I am sure they have discovered a kind of happiness that grows over time rather than diminishing over time.


To quote from a book: “This is very important for those caught in the web of illusion that fishing, shopping, traveling, golfing, cricketing, club-going, making it to early morning daily church services and other leisure lifestyle are going to sustain them when they retire. The probability of having a happy and successful retirement is inversely proportional to the amount of TV one watches: news, Cricket or soaps.


"Virtually everyone will agree at some level that money doesn’t buy happiness, but deep down they haven’t accepted it. Regardless of how old you are, you will show wisdom well beyond your age when you truly accept that money can’t buy contentment”.


Retired is what I am after all these years of chasing an illusion! I am not tired. The best is yet to come. That calls for another story. Please stay with me.



Comments on this Article
Philip Mudartha, Shantipura Sat, April-6-2013, 1:29
Michael, will come again to Nairobi and will learn some tricks from you and your wise boss.
Philip Mudartha, Shantipura Sat, April-6-2013, 1:26
Jitu, kuch na kaho, bas, aise mera dost hamesha raho. (aur kabhi yahan mujhe milne aaya karo...:D)
Jitu, Jharkhand Sat, April-6-2013, 12:12
LPji, Kuch kehna chaah rahe hain, Par keh nahin paa rahe hain. kyun lafz zubaan pe aa ke, yunn theher jaa rahe hain. A lot of thoughts racing in my mind reading this simple write up. I don\ t think I would be able to put forth all my thoughts. :) So all I say is... All the best!! :)
Michael, pamboor/Nairobi Fri, July-20-2012, 6:25
Philip,your article is exciting read.Do not retire unless you are tired. keep engaged.Support social activities where one can enjoy life,de-stress by playing,laughing,teaching,learning from interactive activities,join helath improving programmes like yoga,walking.I watched some clips in Aamir khan\ s Satya Meva Jayate with insights for peaceful retirement in old age.keep writing to brighten our views and share with your thoughts.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Sun, May-20-2012, 1:26
#2. Another engineer, 42, paid 45 lakh rupees to acquire 50 cents dry-land in Permude touching Bajpe-Kateel road. It will remain vacant, hoping it will appreciate. This is anti-thesis of story #1..not what I recommend, but to each his own!
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Sun, May-20-2012, 1:22
I have two stories today: 1. An engineer, 39, returns to manage a 100-acre plus agro-farm in Jarkhand. He invested 1.5 crore to acquire farms and equip with agro-machinery, borewells, pumps, and first crop seeds. These lands were left fallow by previous owners who emigrated to cities-based jobs. He tells me that the farm will focus on vegetables, grains, pulses and fruits. Workforce: not a problem! he will manange!!
joel dsa, moodubelle, bahrain Sat, May-19-2012, 2:25
Dear Philip sir, I have moved after reading your well thought article, suppose every one expected someone else to write rather themselves. I thank you for the time you invest for your readers. Yes we all one day will retire from this world, but we fail to think did I lived for the sake of my kids, wife or parents or family? did I give time for myself? did I have been taken for a ride by others?.. Most of us are workolics to the core. Never think of retiring, actually we forgot the meaning of retirement. I always thought only people with Govt. job are retiring, as my parents did (teachers), We are always in the process of providing for our kids, their education, what not.., You Mr. Philip has enlightened us few the meaning of what is real retirement, not just stop working and live with what ever we have saved , but live with meaning to life, as you always wanted to do for yourself. I have few points on this issue.. We worry a lot about our future and old age, but worries go up and down life today's stock market. One of the most disheartening thing about worry is the fact that it gives us nothing in return. It accomplishes nothing, solves no problems, eases no pain. so throw fear out
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Fri, May-18-2012, 1:29
Thank you my readers, BV, Internet and God: with your support, I could connect and share my views on life and enrich as well as get enriched in the process. I have separately complimented on Norbert s contribution to the theme. I am glad Benedict will be prudent with summer streams and Saby will choose to be guided in his impending retirement. As for picking cherry tomatoes in high spirits, God willing is what I will say for now.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Fri, May-18-2012, 1:21
It is a sad commentary on modern day civilization that our focus is on cups instead of coffee. Gestures are more important than feelings. Waiting for the camera to roll and record a kiss is more important than the kiss. By the time the wisdom dawns, for most of us, life is almost over..:D
norbert, Mangalore Thu, May-17-2012, 1:38
Thought provoking article Mr Philip. While appreciating your brilliance I would like to share a piece of write up-'ENJOY YOUR COFFEE' which I recently read. Hope this will complement your article . A group of graduates got together to visit their old university professor .Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups-some plain looking ,some expensive-telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all the students had a cup of coffee, the professor said: If you noticed, all the expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the simple and cheap ones. 'What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. Then you began eyeing one another's cups. Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. Sometimes, by concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us with. So ENJOY YOUR COFFEE! for Zindagi na milegi dhubara.
Florine Rodrigues, Moodubelle/USA Wed, May-16-2012, 7:41
This is an absolutely phenomenal reading on human aspirations. Brilliant observation on how people deem retirement at different stages of their lives still some don't until they drop dead. How precisely you have differentiated the 'feel good' and 'value based' retirement approach. In general it's great message to everyone irrespective of those considering retirement or the ones who can make a good use of resources available and make a difference in people's lives.
Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla/Abu Dhabi Wed, May-16-2012, 11:07
Very very interesting article dear Phillip. I enjoyed it thoroughly. yeah, if people think that only money can buy them happiness, they are going to be very very disappointed... secondly, yes many of us do a lot of charity deeds, helping our family members and friends and if we think that we can expect them back when we retire, we are going to be totally wrong. It is our life and only we are responsible for it when we retire and we do not retire from work depending on others. Finally, hold on for years together for a good job just becuase we have good job will not help us at all. At certain time or period we must think of retiring and enjoying a little time left in our life. thanks Phillip and great writing. keep writing. thanks Bellevision these type of articles people will read and admire and look forward reading more articles. ALL THE BEST.
Francis J. Saldanha, Moodubelle / Bahrain Wed, May-16-2012, 10:33
Dear Sir, Philip, It is indeed a pleasure reading your articles on Bellevision. It gives me an idea that your line of thinking and planning for the future. Somewhat knowing you from your SSLC days (1ST rank in Karnataka). We do know how capable you are! Intelligent, forthright, humble and successful¦.As you rightly quoted Retirement is the perfect time to become the person you would like to be and do the things that you always wanted to do. I wouldn't have agreed more from your philosophy on life after retirement. This particular phase in some ones (those who are blessed with good health!) life is very crucial. Retirement can be both exciting and demanding, bringing new challenges, new experiences, and new uncertainties.Provided one has the blessings from God, love and affection from your near and dear ones, good health and uses the money resources meticulously then Am sure „al eez well. Hakuna matata: don't worry, be happy!!! Mantra might work¦. by the way it was worth waiting for this article from you. Hope you may have many more in the coming days. I am still eagerly waiting for your impending trip down to¦Bahrain. (SPRIT CHERRY)!!!
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Wed, May-16-2012, 10:11
Hi Philip, I read your article in a stroke! Could not help it!! It is of very high standard!! Helpful for those going to retire at some stage of life too... like me.
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Wed, May-16-2012, 12:48
Wonderful life experience(?). It is more than 15 years since I retired from LIC but got the message though very late. Now my full pension has started. So this should be a good guide to help save the summer streams. Keep it up. Keep on writing so that the readers , along with me will be benefitted.
Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle/Dombivli Tue, May-15-2012, 10:21

Dear Philip, your philosophy on retirement is superb and narrative is excellent. As you have rightly pointed out, it is with retirement a person can pursue those interests and activities which he could not while in active service. Retirement with financial security, good health and children having settled down is the best part of one s life. A kind of Vanaprasthashrama as the ancient Aryans used to follow. Looking forward for your experience-filled philosophical articles.

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