Enlightening encounter

Recently, I had an enlightening encounter as I bumped into an old friend at a supermarket. It had been a long time since we had met, so we chatted incessantly all the time we shopped around the place. He informed me that he was now retired after a glorious 35 years of working life. All the good work he had done for his organisation now lay in the hands of his successor. He had bid farewell to his work, his position, his power and all that defined him in his successful career.

"So, here I am, helping out in the household by doing the daily groceries, entertaining my grandchildren, being a self-appointed custodian of the environment through active participation in the Swachh Bharat campaign and acting as the humble ambassador of peace for my neighbourhood by resolving issues. I'm living the second inning of my life, having retired - not hurt but happily - from my first innings," he declared with a chuckle. When our shopping was done, we said our goodbyes expressing hope to meet again!

Driving back home, I ruminated on this interesting - and interested - person. Here was a man who after years of service had to pass on the baton to the next runner of the relay and step aside. But unlike in a baton-and-relay where the action and the final victory were open for all team players, the relay was finished for him for all practical purposes.

He could not partake in the success of the relay anymore; he had played his part and had to exit. He had to relinquish his title, his authority, his influence. And that I figured was enough reason for anyone to feel blue, discouraged and despondent. Yet, he was full of life and eager to live the next phase of his journey here on earth even more keenly than his first.

"Daily groceries;" "entertaining grand-children;" "self-appointed custodian of the environment;" "humble ambassador of peace;" these words resonated above the loud honking and the din of the mid-day traffic I had to manoeuvre. They certainly sounded meagre in comparison to the many big titles and roles he had previously held and played in his career. Even so, how ennobling and self-renewing they could be when embraced with sincerity, humility and enthusiasm!

The spirit of author F Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, The Great Gatsby, as he said - "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." - came alive to me through that enlightening encounter.

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