Two weeks ago—has it been two weeks already?—this writer had the great privilege of witnessing the pulsating India-Pakistan Champions Trophy cricket match at Birmingham’s Edgbaston stadium.
And when I say pulsating, I really mean brain-numbingly, soul-sappingly, hope-crushingly frustrating. Now, I know that many of you readers, and Raveena Tandon, love the rain. I hate the rain. I hate it in all its forms—from misty-romantic to heavy-tropical to murderous-cloudburst. When I see rain, all I can think of is going to college with wet socks squelching inside wet shoes and then coming back home, infected with leptospirosis, to find that in order to protect the safety of the public, the Kerala State Electricity Board has discontinued all power supply till Onam 2017.
It didn’t rain all day at Edgbaston. Oh no. It was much, much worse. It rained intermittently. Only the British, in all their beer-addled, Marmite-swigging wisdom, would build a cricket stadium where they should have constructed a hydro-electric power project.
Yes, yes, eventually India won and Pakistan lost and China giggled away in self-satisfaction at our petty rivalries. But amidst all the hydraulic miseries, I noticed something heart-warming. And a little thought-provoking. A few rows in front of me, right by the parapet, an English couple sat together enjoying their day at the cricket.
They were very old. The kind of old couple that young people look at and say “awww, how happy they are” and then think quietly to themselves: “God, my fellow is going to look like a dehydrated orc in 20 years.”
This unaccompanied couple came prepared for a complete day out. They had picnic baskets filled with sandwiches and a thermos flask filled with hot beverage, reading material for the rain, and even books full of Sudoku puzzles. And they seemed to enjoy the whole day thoroughly, even if they had to totter away to shelter every time it started raining.
This is not the first time I’ve seen this. During the disastrous Indian tour of England in 2011, I spent an entire day at Lord’s cricket ground next to a group of pensioners equipped, like the Edgbaston Elders, with everything required for a comfortable all-day picnic.
I am going to be generalizing a little bit here, but this is in sharp contrast to the lives of most of the elders I see in my near and extended family. Back home in Kerala, I am sometimes left with the feeling that as soon as people retire from their working lives they transition into a life of piety and prayer…and basically prepare to die. They start saying melodramatic things such as: “All I want is to see some grandchildren before I close my eyes for the final time…”
It makes me want to pull my hair out in clumps and then, with all respect due to our elders, slap them across the face and scream: “You are 62 years old for god’s sake! You just retired three days ago. Nigella Lawson is 53. Fauja Singh is 103. Shahid Afridi is 67. Thirty one people over the age of 40 won medals at London 2012. Go live your life yaar!”
Often I do this with elders, the slapping apart, and have the same frustrating conversation. “Do you read any books?” “No.” “Watch movies?” “No.” “Documentaries?” “No.” “Do you watch anything on TV at all?” “Bani—Ishq Da Kalma.” “Wha…ok. Do you have any hobbies at all?” “Where was the time for hobbies when I was slaving away at Stable Jobs Corp. of India…”
And that, I think, is basically the problem. For a lot of people—less so in the last two decades I suppose—there is little time for anything except work. To paraphrase Asrani in Pati, Patni Aur Woh, for many people in the past and a lot of people now, the workplace is the temple and the household is the masjid. And nothing else, besides Parveen Babi, exists.
But one day, inevitably, many of us will exit the workplace. And suddenly we’ll be faced with a huge, gaping void in our lives. I suppose journalists and columnists could keep themselves going. But what about bankers or consultants or social media marketers or financial planners or production managers…?
There is a rising awareness among young people that we, ahem, should put away money for our futures. That we should plan for our retirement, old age and related concerns. But what to do with that windfall of time?
Given the way we’re living healthier lives and have better access to medical care, chances are that we will live well past our retirements. So it only behooves us to develop interests, hobbies and passions outside work and home that we can fall back on. Running, cooking, writing, climbing or even cricket…whatever can keep the old circuits firing away till the battery finally runs out. Anything but sitting at home and waiting to flicker away without a fight.
Personally, I’m thinking of enrolling in some distance learning programme and catching up on all the humanities courses I never took. What are your plans?
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns, go to www.livemint.com/cubiclenama