The bend on the road
Like politicians, writers seldom retire. They may suffer from the writer's block now and then but that is always a passing phase. There is no summing up, even if someone tries to do so. Khushwant Singh is still pushing his pen at 98. A time comes when the present glides by unnoticed and the writer starts living in the future. NS Tasneem writes.punjab Updated: Jul 25, 2013 09:30 IST
Like politicians, writers seldom retire. They may suffer from the writer's block now and then but that is always a passing phase. There is no summing up, even if someone tries to do so. Khushwant Singh is still pushing his pen at 98. A time comes when the present glides by unnoticed and the writer starts living in the future. He has to discard the idea that to him 'the cup of life has been dealt in another measure.' Longings of the lifetime take the form of indistinct goals yet to be pursued. That makes the going all the more pleasant.
So far, I have been suggesting obliquely as to what a writer should do after he retires from his job. But the fact remains that the moment, when he bids goodbye, stands out immutably. Charles Lamb was given a golden handshake at the time of his retirement. He was suddenly asked to retire at the age of 50, as he had joined the office of the East India Company in London at the age of 16. The next day, he did not know what to do with so much time at his disposal. Gradually, he adjusted himself to the new situation. The same, of course, is not the case with all persons on the verge of retirement. They know a long time ago as to when they have to put in their papers.
On the day of my retirement, I felt as elated as I had been on the day of my marriage. In the mid 1950s, on a particular day of the month, I realised that I was one of the most recently-married persons in the world. Likewise, I felt on the day of my retirement that I was one of the youngest persons to join the fold of retirees. This thought gave a fillip, for a while, to my sagging spirits. To feel young, one way or the other, at the time when the salt in the hair is gaining ground over the pepper is nothing less than a boon.
That momentous day is ensconced in my memory when my colleagues in college praised me profusely for my qualities of the head and the heart. I came back home enlightened about the versatility of my genius for the first time in my life. Thereafter, I did not look back and engaged myself in creative writing. 'Middle' articles also helped me a lot in easing the tension of my mind. Undoubtedly, I have reaped a good harvest, so to say, during my retired life. I have blackened more pages, after my retirement, than I had done earlier. Retirement is definitely a blessing in disguise.
A superannuated person sometimes feels lonely but before long he converts his loneliness into aloneness. In that frame of mind, he is closeted with himself like a long lost friend. In the stillness of the mind, he can delve deep into the sea of introspection. Time stands still for a while. In that period of timelessness, he ignores his personal needs. For that person, the need of the hour is to venture forth into the domain of ceaseless work. Ultimately, the craving of the mind makes him aware of human predicament and he finds himself abreast with the well-wishers of mankind.
Robert Frost dithered for a while when he found himself at the bend of the highway where two roads diverged in a wood. But, in a decisive manner, he proceeded further-I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.