Freedom at Last

By Dr Rajagopal Soondron

Decades ago, we were yearning for the time when we would leave university for good to start working and enjoying adult life. We became so engrossed in that second phase that we failed to notice that it had already come to a close. It’s retirement time!

“Now that we are free at last, why not go on sleeping for as long as we want? Why not do whatever or as much as one wants – taking a late breakfast, walking to town leisurely… knowing that there won’t be any revision work to do, no books to open, no long-faced teacher breathing down our necks…”

Many of us are haunted by the prospect of having to spend the rest of our years in a retirement home. While others will continue embellishing their home life – washing, painting, cleaning, gardening– and live happily.

But to many who had looked upon home as a place just to be near the family and wile away the time the dilemma remains: how to structure one’s time away from one’s profession?

The Dilemma

Do we spin a new outlook on life, or do we fall into the mindset of most senior citizens and sink into inevitable melancholy? Would we inevitably sink into reminiscences of times past – contemplating what might have been, punctuated by regrets? Or do we reactivate old pastimes and hobbies that our profession had eroded into — much to our chagrin? Oh, those books! – those old memorable stories that we had read repeatedly with dreamy eyes – ‘Les Trois Mousquetaires’ or ‘Le Comte de Monte Cristo’ or the idyllic world of PG Wodehouse and his characters like Bertie Wooster; can we rekindle similar enthusiasm for new books that could fire our adventurous mind once again, as before? Or should we revisit all those opening moves, gambits, and traps in those unforgettable 1972 chess games between Fischer and Spassky?

But what’s the worry? Are we not supposed to be free now? No work! No responsibility outside home. No question of being on time. That’s freedom, isn’t it? Free of bosses, of punctuality or of heavy professional responsibility?

Years of harassment

So how about doing what we always wanted to do? Remember those student days – when going to school was such a daily harassment, when taking extra tuition was a further burden on our young mind. Our parents saw to it that we toed their line – that we get up early at 6 am, eat the oatmeal prepared by mother, read books before going to class; we sorely missed the early morning comfortable bed. Come weekend – how we had run away to play football or to catch birds with our friends. But we always had the feeling that that parental gaze was lurking behind every bush.

Now that we are free at last, why not go on sleeping for as long as we want? Why not do whatever or as much as one wants – taking a late breakfast, walking to town leisurely… knowing that there won’t be any revision work to do, no books to open, no long-faced teacher breathing down our necks to extract conjugation of French verbs from us! Wonder of wonders! There won’t be examination times which drained us of our mental energy and peace, robbing us of our childhood bonhomie. 

Many of us youngsters of the 60s had to help our parents in their work. Even after school and during weekends, some had to go and fetch fodder for the cows, others had to help their uncle in his shop or the grandmother at the marketplace, or accompany father to his watercress marshes on Sundays; at home we had to brush the ‘rexo-ed’ concrete floor (‘Rexo’ was a popular floor wax in those days), clean the house and go to the shop for mum. All these are now unforgettable experiences — but we did not really appreciate them at that time.

Now we are free of those worries… Let‘s bask in the knowledge that all are just memories. Let’s lie around and enjoy the free time at our disposal – no elders around to keep watch over us. We can always look back and smile at those bygone activities and experiences without however falling into the sentimental trap of regretting that “horrible” past – as if we did really love it when we were young. Let’s not play the masochistic martyr!

Pastimes – Ahoy!

So, at last we have inherited some free time that the good God has handed over to us on a platter.

Let’s watch those movies on TV at any time of the day or night; those we missed in our teen days, especially the ones which were a weekly event – be it Bonanza, The Fujitive, or The Invaders. Now is also the time to see those pictures we missed because they were X-rated in those days — but nowadays open to all 12 years old. Now we are our own boss, no one to look in our direction with meaningful reproach or grumbling. Let’s enjoy those years we missed because of educational demands. Let’s go strolling whenever we want – be it sunny, rainy or when it’s windy or cyclonic. How we wanted to walk in the rain when we were young – but how could we? Let’s do it now – in summer preferably. Let’s go window shopping and enjoy those new supermarkets with superbly lit wide corridors fitted with comfortable seats – all well stocked with such a huge panoply of goods, sweets, vegetables, and goodies that we never dreamt of in our childhood – let’s enjoy those food courts’ offers. Let’s give all these Chinese shops of yore a miss.

We can now sit in one of these modern cafes – which we could hardly afford to do during our working years – sipping tea or chocolate drinks while watching with glee et malin plaisir those stressed working youngsters enacting the scenario that we ourselves played decades ago.

Did we not look with envy at our dad and uncle as they would go picnicking, fishing, rushing for international football matches or night movies? Now we have the freedom to do the same. How we had dreamed of driving a car; can we do it now with that same childish enthusiasm…can we grip that driving wheel with a different mindset? Can we rekindle that childhood folly?

How we were thrilled when we boarded our first plane in our late teens to go for higher studies, easily forgetting kith and kin we left behind. Well why can’t we go again and make as if we were still 20… with no real lectures and exams on the horizon? Let’s go on vacation regularly – can we, do it? Or is it possible that our ageing brain will revert and yearn for our priceless daily routine – never away from home? And will our ability to control our thinking and emotional faculties be still on top? Will our health and bank account ride along?

Can we delete some of our past and enjoy the now – the present? Can we do justice to our wonderful teachers’ advices we have had for some 60 years? It will be our greatest challenge – which could be a measure of our educational standard and vision.

Surely, we can now afford to please ourselves; the time to dream positively has dawned.

Provided our health… and spouse are of the party.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 15 September 2023

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