reclaiming your life
Mr Jillur Rahman returns from the neighbourhood kitchen market at around 10am, his daily routine in the early hours of the day. Then he sorts out the groceries, veggies and other knick-knacks he has bought. With the help of his two sons he toils in the kitchen. Lunch hour at the dining room moves leisurely and silently, and the rest of the day is no different.
That just about sums up Jillur Rahman's life. Rahman retired from his government employment 6 years ago. The poor man has very recently lost his life partner. He married off two daughters just before her demise and currently lives with his two sons. “Poor man”… isn't that how we generally imagine retired people in our society?
The word 'retirement' conjured up an image of endless relaxation at home. Most retired person like Jillur Rahman think of it as a removal from the position held in the world. Waking up early in the morning, the seven o'clock shave, dressing up in your office best, the fixed routines, the adrenaline-charged deadlines, the camaraderie with colleagues and clients all seem to vanish in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, the endless hours of inactivity turn unbearable, as loneliness closes in. Loss of familiar roles, being disconnected from work, without any goal to fulfil, no stairs to climb up, creates identity crisis. The person loses interest in life and gradually withdraws from the world. Generally that's how life goes for a retired person in our society.
There are however, some determined people around who proved it all wrong and began life once again with enthusiasm. They made life even more interesting than before. We are here to tell their story.
The talented teacher of English Literature in University of Dhaka, writer and researcher Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, joined DU in the year 1967 and retired in 2002. Thirty-five years of teaching may sound like a very ordinary life. But take our word for it folks this is no ordinary man. With his literary work he has became a well-known face and very much respected to many people. He is still going strong with his writing, research and publication. He is the editor of quarterly journal 'Natun Diganta' and chairman of the Centre for Studies in Social Transformation.
“One must have interest in something else other than work. A pursuit is very important to continue life after retirement. This pursuit can be simple things like reading books, listening music or gardening”, says Chowdhury. “I had interests in many things all my life. These keep me going the rest of the path”, he adds.
“Most people in our society do not have serious hobbies and that is why they tend to lose interest in life. Retirement is a transitional phase. One should pursue something that gives pleasure. It might not be income generating. However, one must have social commitment as well”, he says.
Chowdhury stresses on the role of the family, “Family members can play a very important role to help a retired person during the vacuum period. They should help the person in realising and finding his issue of interest. They should give the person proper medical attention”. Chowdhury gives us the most valuable pointer “Family members must help the person feel that retired or not s/he is still very much needed and important for the family”.
The author of Bot tolar Uponnyash, Chitrokabyo, Droupodi, Cruel April and more Dr. Razia Khan is still living a very independent life after retiring from her teaching profession. Independence is in her vein she tells us. During her career from the year 1962 to 2002 she taught English at Rajshahi University and Dhaka University. Her vibrant career also included the post of Assistant Editor of the Daily Observer.
After retirement she did not feel like giving up her active life. She was invited by the Pro-vice chancellor of University of Liberal Arts to join the squad. She took the opportunity and is now the head of English department there and also the Dean of Arts.
“How a person copes with the retirement phase depends on the individual. On retirement I felt that I had completed a phase of my life. I was always involved in many things. I did not feel any vacuum”, she tells us. Although she is not enjoying the regular irritants of Dhaka such as load-shedding or traffic jam she intends to remain as active as possible. Meanwhile, her writing continues.
Work is everything for our next brave man. ASM Shahjahan started with teaching in Rajshahi University. In 1965 he joined the police force. He went all the way up in his profession. He became the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in 1992. He served as a Secretary to the government and finally retired in 1999. Shahjahan may have retired from his profession but the man did not stand down from life. He started all over again, a very high profile career we must say. Among many other things, he was the vice chancellor of Asia Pacific University for a while, he was appointed advisor to the Non-Party Care-Taker Government of Bangladesh in 2001, and now he is working as an advisor to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“As long as I am intellectually and physically able I will continue working. I was tired of working once but if I don't work I will get tired of boredom”, says Shahjahan. “Retirement is not the end of the world for me. It is wrong to think that a retired person has no future”, he adds. Shahjahan believes that life after retirement is challenging and one must prepare early to cope with it. “I intend to keep my spirit alive. That is why I must be involved with something. Otherwise something in me will keep on dying everyday”. “Staying active will keep a man healthy both mentally and physically”, he points out.
Our next spirited man is someone from The Daily Star, Brigadier (Rtd) Shahidul Anam, Editor Defence and Strategic Affairs. He joined the military in 1966. He also had an excellent career. He served as the UN force commander in Iraq and Iran. He was appointed Bangladesh Defence Attaché in China. Anam retired in year 2000.
Anam pursued his long lasting wish he started translating his grandfather's book, a work in progress. In the meanwhile he worked in the Sunman Group as CEO, very briefly The Bangladesh Today and finally landed in the house of The Daily Star. Anam begins his story, “It depends on the attitude of a person. After retirement I felt that I still have something to do”. Anam sure did have the positive attitude needed to keep on going. He enjoys the extra attention he gets from his family and feels at home in his new job as a journalist. He agrees with Professor Chowdhury that one must pursue something that gives pleasure and family must play a role in the retired man's life. “They can help during the transitional period with mental support”.
These extra ordinary people with their stories tell us that life after retirement is not all that bad. You have to plan ahead, take it easy, one step at a time prepare for something you love doing most, do something you haven't done in years or always wanted to do, go somewhere you've dreamed of going, spend more time with your family members, gradually let go of the reign for the next best person who can take charge in the family, stay active and stay healthy and don't ever think that you've had your days.
retirement do's and don'ts
· Prepare your family for your retirement. Notify them beforehand, and also discuss the changes to expect in your collective lifestyle. This is more than just sitting down to tell your kids “Mommy/Daddy is going to be around a lot more from now on.” Talk to them about what their expenditure pattern should be like from now on, and let them know that they can't expect to use the company car anymore, or keep the A/C turned on all day.
· Don't jump up at any random investment offer thrown your way. At the time of retirement, you can expect a small inflow of money in the form of retirement benefits, pension, etc, and like sharks drawn to the scent of blood, you'll find a lot of people suddenly hounding you with lucrative-sounding business proposals. Think several times before you jump aboard.
· Invest in a hobby, or find some other way to stay busy. If you slack off for more than a month or so after your retirement, it will become a bad habit, and before you know it, you'll lose your grip on life. Join a club, try new things, but stay active!
By Shahnaz Parveen
Photo: Munem Wasif
Model: Rashid Ahmed
Current appointment: Executive Director Concord Entertainment Company Ltd.
Formerly Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operation and training) Bangladesh Air Force.