The course co-coordinator and his wife, who were professionals from outside the Bank, were emphasizing the great trauma we were all expected to experience shortly. He warned us that at several points in our retired life, we will have to relinquish our self image built up over three and a half decades of service in the Bank. Also, quite a few of us may have to cope with a less than robust health.
The Bank conducts a two day seminar for senior officers about to retire from the Bank.The seminar is an initiative of the HR department to prepare the officers for the impending change in circumstances and thereby lessen the trauma of retirement. Besides telling you how to prevent or cope with ailments like hypertension, diabetes etc which are expected to give company to most of the retired souls and how to manage your retirement package to take care of the risk of your surviving for too long a period, there are also sessions meant to prepare you to accept stoically, perceived assaults on one's self esteem. Also, some of us may not know what to do with our time as "there are no circular instructions on the subject"!
I didn't need any such preparation. I had learned to cope with diabetes and hypertension while still in the Bank. Having actively colluded and abetted in the process of acquisition of these two lifelong companions by a bohemian life style and inherited genes, it was a bit too late for thinking of prevention. Fortunately, the new Medical Reimbursement scheme was in place just in time and I did not perceive any risk of undue longevity. A very considerate Bank had helped me in further toning down whatever little self-esteem I had by posting me to the Zonal Inspection Office. There I presided over a bunch of officers who churned out Reports which nobody bothered to read much less take any notice of. Hardly anyone ever visited the office and you had to find ways of whiling away your time. Time management from a different perspective! No union or association leader ever approached you for anything, not even for a transfer. The quarterly structured meeting was merely an outing or an opportunity for a darshan of Balaji or 'Simhachalamurthi' for earning merits for smoothening the passage to heaven. Power Point took care of the rest.
So I decided to appear for all the Certificate examinations for which Bank offered to reimburse tuition fee and pay honorarium. There was plenty of time even after reading the half-a-dozen papers and magazines the office was getting for going through the course materials. I appeared for and completed successfully CISA, CIA, CFE and AMFI (Advisor) and claimed the honorariums on offer. I had to reluctantly stop as there were no further courses for which Bank paid any honorarium. I do not know how the Bank benefitted by my acquiring these certifications when I had less than six months for retirement. It did encourage some of the mobile staff to appear for the courses though.
With such advance preparations, I just slid into retirement without making even a ripple in my placid life style. There was the Sahitya Academy, the District Library, Lalith Kala Academy, Regional Theatre, Chethana film Institute…. After a long time I felt that there was not enough time. And not even one silly circular to read! I steered clear of the SBI branches to the extent possible. ATM and Internet were a great help for avoiding the 'Encounters of the Unpleasant Kind'. I attended only one meeting of the pensioners which aged me by at least two years and thereafter never repeated the mistake.
Everything was picture perfect. God was in Heaven, Chairman on the 17th.floor, and all was well with the world and SBI. So it seemed. Except for a minor hitch. By choice I decided to depend on buses for my travel from my house to the town and back. It is only 'the minimum charge' distance and generally the travel is not tedious if you avoided the peak hours. But occasionally you may have to travel during peak hours and it was during such trips that I was forced to learn about the Fundamental Rights of the standing passengers and Directive Principles governing bus travel.
The first principle is that all sitting passengers are the class enemies of those standing. The standing passenger has a particular lien on the shoulder of the passenger sitting in the aisle seat nearest to him and can rest part of his buttocks there. The bus conductor has a general lien on the shoulders of all the passengers sitting on the aisle seats on the left side of the bus. He can rest the whole of his rear on the shoulders of such passengers as he goes about collecting the fares. They say an average human being farts a dozen times in a day and you can pray that your journey will be over in between the farting period of the guy who has a claim on your shoulder.
I now prefer to stand. Initially it was difficult to sway with the jerks and jolts and swerves of the bus. Quite a few of the muscles had wasted away while grappling with the debits and credits. There was a time long ago when the crook of one of your fingers on the handrail and a big toe on the floor would have been adequate for maintaining your balance for a journey lasting over an hour. A reenactment of Arjuna's penance standing on the big toes was a daily affair for most of us commuting to the college and back. The college and school boys still do it without any effort. I have got back some of my bus legs though. I can manage without much of a problem if I can plant both feet firmly on the floor and get a firm grip on the handrail. The roll of the roughest sea has nothing compared to the rattling and shaking and jerking and swerving of the bus actively assisted by the numerous potholes and a driver who appears to be on training for a Formula 1 race. Like a sailor getting his sea legs, getting bus legs too need practice.