Total Pageviews

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Those Magnificent Retirees on Their Wobbly Legs.

A recent posting of a blogger I know begins like this.

"............. has not been active during the last three months as I was depressingly away from my gramophones and gramophone records. I was visiting UAEduring this period and without the records and record players by my side, obviously,.......... can only be inactive."

 He had gone on a trip to the same place not so long ago. Another of my colleagues and also a blogger makes frequent trips to Bangalore only to complain on his return about the miserable time he had, not because of lack of any  creature comforts but because of the incursions on his legitimate right for a carefree retired life. There are so many others. They go to all parts of the world, US, UK, ME, Australia etc. etc. And are invariably miserable irrespective of the place. Not for them the thrills of exploration or  wonder of sights not witnessed before. They pine for the tea and bonda available at the dilapidated, not so very  clean tea shop at the corner, or the profoundly inane discussions with the local guys in the temple compound or the old gramophone records and most importantly the peace and quiet of the house in the absence of the 'little monsters'.

These guys' frequent absences are on humanitarian missions, or for  attending to an SOS if you like, discharging  never ending parental obligations. Their son/daughter striving to survive in a hostile world and running to stay at the same place while all the time chasing the chimerical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, needs someone to hold fort when they are away at the office. The little monster at home is a clone of Dennis the Menace and who but the old parents can be trusted to keep an eye on him. In any case, they feel that the old bandicoots  have nothing better to do back home and they can save on their pension too. That you have a bad back and are in no physical condition to run after the little hellion are all minor handicaps. To add to  your misery,   you cant even box the ears of the little rascal because that is not the correct  way anymore of bringing up children.

.................................സ്ത്രീ ജിതോ ബാലലാളീ 
വിശതി ഹി ഗൃഹസക്തോ യാതനാം മയ്യഭക്ത:
കപില തനുരിതി ത്വം ദേവ ഹൂ ത്യൈ ന്യഗാദി: 

(സ്ത്രീകള്‍ക്ക് കീഴടങ്ങി കൊണ്ടും കുട്ടികളെ കളിപ്പിച്ചു കൊണ്ടും നരക ദുഃഖം തന്നെ അനുഭവിക്കേണ്ടതായി വരുന്നു. ഇപ്രകാരം കപില സ്വരൂപനായ നിന്തിരുവടി ദേവഹൂതിയോട് അരുളി ചെയ്തു)

This is from Kapilopadesham in Naarayaneeyam.  In certain months I do read Narayaneeyam, a dashakam per day. I again came across this stanza when one of my retired colleagues was on a 'ബാലലാളീ ' mission. That started a train of thought which took me back quite a few years and I recalled watching a channel interview of Kovilan.  He talked on various aspects of his life, on Kovilan being a shortening of "Kandanisseri Velappan Ayyaappan' and that it has nothing to do with 'Shilappathikaaram', his army life and the struggle to bring up his children and marry them of. He virtually slaves in the army and having achieved his limited ambitions, retires and comes back for  a peaceful retired life in his village. Then the parade of events/things which needs his and only his attention starts - the delivery of the daughter, house construction of his son, admission of the grand child, his tuition and what not. At the end of the interview, Kovilan concludes that it is only when one dies, one can hope to really rest and be at peace. 

During a brief stay of a few years in US I had come across several old couples in friends' houses. Invariably most of them had a dazed look on their faces, wondering where destiny has dumped them in the terminal years of their lives. There they sit staring vacantly  or stroll listlessly, all the time dreaming about a land far away.  There they sit in freezing  winter all dressed up in winter garments when they should have been strolling about in their compound back home braving the vrischikam winds or shivering in the makaram mist. There they sit seeing with their vacant eyes the blooming of the laburnum or hearing distinctly with their half-deaf ears the  drumming of the monsoon rain on the tiled roof. There they sit waiting for their children's convenience to take them to meet a kindred soul or to the Indian grocery shop. Prisoners of parental bondage,  waiting for the next parole that will take them back to the dusty, dirty, humid, noisy yet familiar and infinitely more comforting land of their youth.  

Did our own parents face so much problem bringing us up? Or  we in bringing up our own? i think not.  I think progressively the burden of parenthood is increasing. Grandparents are drafted into the task, a sort of  geriatric slave labour force,  whether they want to be part of it or not.. Kovilan was right. The responsibility never ends. 

You would have noticed that I did not  attempt to elaborate on the phrase  "സ്ത്രീ ജിതോ"  in the shloka quoted. I think this inevitable stage in the development life cycle of the male of the species may not have escaped you either. Usually, this stage precedes the post retirement stage. So I thought it does not need any special mention. 

I myself am fast approaching the "ബാലലാളീ" stage.


  1. Unnikrishnan Vappala to raju

    shall revert. as one into the thick of things ,needs to deliberate and take a stand !

  2. Glad that the posting by the blogger '..........' could provoke you to ventilating on a situation faced by many retirees.While the ideas expressed are, on the whole, indisputable,and instances as mentioned there are common, they may not still apply to a number of cases especially of retires not on wobbly legs.Also all cases need not necessarily be of the "Bala Lali" variety.But the fact remains that as one goes old he develops an inevitable urge to go back to his old familiar moorings which are his comfort zones.

  3. Janaradhanan Menon to raju

    Your swapnalokam expositions are simply great. Because of swollen eyes during the last whole week, I could read the mails today only. - an epitome of what a mobile phone is all about.-- a wonderful diction ( save the pissing part of the contents ) and an essay of facts.-- most of the users of this glorified device would agree. May be a few highly snobbish guys and almost all the upstarts differ. But the truth stays.- it has a pronounced utility value- nothing more than that.
    A retired person's woes are mostly stuffed in one's own mind- wherever he/she goes. , they follow them. It all depends on one's own disposition. Wherever we are, a lot of things around us could cheer us up. Expecting more of swapnalokam series.
    with regards.


  4. This is a dissent note! I’m a little surprised to see this post, knowing you some what well. Written in all mock seriousness, this cannot be true at all. I feel your post is mostly drawn from stray experiences of odd people. I know of many oldies who enjoy their vacation / being useful to their progenies in which ever little way they can. Sure, there are many ailments to complain about and a change of scene an unwelcome intrusion into their personal space. But these are small compromises they make for the larger gain of spending quality time with their grand children and making up for the lost time with their own children. The priorities were different then and the lady of the house bore the brunt. Now, what their children missed the grand children gained.
    Of course, the monsters can become a handful (who would like a decent brat?) and drain you out during the day. But you earned a good night’s sleep when you hand over the charge. I speak from personal experience, when I, almost single handedly, tended to my grand daughter from her 6th month to 9th month. She taught me a few lessons and I put to use some I learnt from my work place. Now my daughter has taken a sabbatical and there is no demand on us.
    Kovilan used to stay 2 KMs from my sister’s house, not long ago. His wife, then a teacher, would sometimes rest at our house, preparatory to the long trudge on the muddy steep road to their house. I kept a safe distance from him as he would talk in riddles which I never understood. He had a good sense of humor (‘humor sense’ as Keralites would say) as he remarked wryly that he named his third daughter ‘Amitha’ to mean amitham. In his ‘grihasthashramam’, Kovilan, perhaps, has taken more than he has given.

    I’m sure I’m inviting censure but your daughters will agree with me!

  5. From:
    Rajagopalan K
    Add to Contacts
    To: Unnikrishnan Vappala
    I have used the satirist's licence to exaggerate. Perhaps there may be more exceptions who do not conform than those who do. Also, there may not be any mercenary motive at all in drafting the" geriatric labour force" but genuine affection and a desire to have them nearby. The thought of leaving behind their old and dear ones is especialy painful for those who are seeking their fortunes/livelihood in strange and distant climes like the US or Canada. The 'balalaalee' stage in any case happens when one is not too old and a chance of (grand) parenting a second time perhaps offers scope for doing a better job and enjoying it too! But the tinge of sadness which I tried to project while talking about the old rogues trapped in the developed comforts of US , is very real.

  6. Hello Sir,
    Let me take the liberty of commenting on your blog as the daughter of a "retiree" who was pried away from his cocoon inside the world of gramophone.When viewed from a daughters perspective being a part of 'the carefree retired life' is legitimate right too.This is the time when she has the undivided attention of the father who might have devoted his youth on making the ends meet.The values and morals inherited by word of mouth of our grandparents can never be undermined.The "clones" of "Denice the menace" need to be tamed by the stern experienced voices of grandparents.these are duties which can never be shirked of unless one is predisposed to live in an isolated world of ones own pursuits.

  7. From:
    Rajagopalan K
    Add to Contacts
    To: sumi
    Thank you for your comments. If you go through the comments on the posting, you will realise that there are others who share your views. I have also appended my reply to one of the comments there. May I repeat. It is the satirists licence to exaggerate if in the process he does not hurt anyones feelings profoundly.My own daughter is on the family way and I dare say I will enjoy assisting her in bringing up her child. In our chilhood days, the disintegration and disbursal of the joint family was not to the same extent. Now a days quite a few of the old parents are destined either to spend their old age seperated from their childtren or in strange climes with them. Regards.

  8. In the comment above please sustitute 'dispersal' for 'disbursal'