Fuzed Bulb: No way!
Came across this WhatsApp forward a few days ago, which I am sure many of us might have also come across:
A Senior Executive retired and shifted from his palatial official quarters to the Housing Society, where he owned a flat. He considered himself big and never talked to anyone. Even while walking in the Society Park every evening, he ignored others, looking at them with contempt.
One day, it somehow transpired that an elderly person sitting beside him started a conversation and they continued to meet. Every conversation was mostly a monologue with the retired Executive harping on his pet topic. “No one here can imagine the post and high position I held before retirement. I came here due to compulsions…” And so on. The other elderly person used to listen to him quietly.
After many days, when the retired Executive was inquisitive about others, the elderly listener opened his mouth and said, after retirement, we are all like fused bulbs, it does not matter what a bulb’s wattage is, how much light or glitter it gave; after it gets fused it gets thrown into a dustbin.
He continued, “I have been living in this Society for the last 5 years and have not told anyone that I was a Member of Parliament for two terms. On your right over there, is Vermaji, who retired as General Manager in Indian Railways. Over there is Singh Saheb, who was a Major General in the Army. That person sitting in spotless white is Mehraji, who was chief of ISRO before retirement. He has not revealed it to anyone, but I know. Everyone here in this Society has been in seat of power much higher than the post you held but now have reconciled to their retirement and so are content and happy.
All fused bulbs are now the same, whatever its wattage was — 0, 7, 40, 60, 100 watts — it does not matter now. Neither does it matter what type of bulb it was before it got fused. When one goes to purchase a new bulb, depending on the brand, wattage, make etc., one has to shell out money but once fused, all bulbs from 0 watt to a costly halogen costs nothing and that my friend, applies to you too. The day you understand this truth, you will find peace and tranquillity, even in this Housing Society.
At first glance, the forward surely comes across as a nice anecdote about how to gracefully embrace retired life. In fact, quite a few of my friends had applauded the same through various emojis and forwarded it on many WhatsApp groups thus voicing their agreement with the equivalence propounded.
However, on a second read, I was a bit taken aback and rather affronted by the analogy. After all, isn’t life all about growth and adding value to society and other people’s lives. Position, power, money, connections are all means and crutches to enable the same.
Do we stop growing as a person the day after our retirement? Is it that one day prior to retirement, you are at your professional peak and the next day, ka boom! You are nothing! That is quite not right, you will agree.
I guess people who associated their self-worth with the perch they occupied were as it is low wattage bulbs. Fundamentally, they remain the same, irrespective of their employment status.
With an assured pension and lesser responsibilities, it is very easy to go in a comfort zone. However, life is beyond perceived peace, tranquillity, existence and golf. It is and was always about making a difference.
Just because a temporal position with a known inevitability of shelf-life has been taken away, it does not mean that one stops contributing. The purpose and scale of effort may change along with means and modalities. And that is quite understandable. It need not always be a summer scorching sun at midday for even moonlight can burn away volumes of darkness.
There is of course a bit of a challenge there. First and foremost, health and fitness levels have to be undoubtedly in place. Secondly, the need to believe in oneself even if the entire world feels otherwise. And lastly, with positional power gone, newer ways to ‘influence without affluence’ need to be discovered.
So a call to whomsoever it may apply
It is time to stop making self-desecrating comparisons with a fuzed bulb.
There is no time to wallow in cynical self-pity and refresher courses of memories of hey days gone-by.
Pick yourself up. Plug in once gain, and rediscover your spark. The sun has not set and your job ain’t over yet.
Your finest hour may be ahead of you!
With eternal hope,
First published at seekmediation.com on 23/08/21
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Interesting comments received from dear friend Amit,
Analogies can often be misused. They are a very easy and intellectually lazy way of pushing one’s point forward. I hadn’t seen this WhatsApp forward before, but I am sure that will eventually make its way to me. Interestingly such forwards often extend their intellectual laziness by adding a septuagenarian character or two to give it gravitas.
Retirement with increasing life spans is an opportunity for a second career. A few years back I was reading an article in Scientific American on the current state of art in our understanding of the ageing process – at a cellular level. I have forgotten much of it now and can’t seem to find it either online but here are some of the things that stood out for me.
1. Ageing is not a single linear scale for everyone – meaning 60 years for some may be equivalent to 90 years for others. A host of factors contribute to our ageing – and all of these factors are not understood particularly well.
2. There are some commonly used drugs (including a frontline anti cancer chemotherapy agent) which when used in very low dose levels are showing increased life expectancy by slowing down cellular mechanisms in dog and mice models. It is likely that a few of candidate drugs will advance to phase three trials (human trials) in the coming years once safety is established.
3. It is likely that over the next two decades it might be possible to increase average life expectancy by about 20 to 25% without use of expensive interventions.
So back to my original point – I will have to plan for a life span of at least 90 years – which means having the ability to pay for my living. That would mean I would have to work longer. The law of diminishing returns starts to apply to professional experience once past the age of 60 and hence I may have to look at an alternative career (and prepare for it) such that it lasts me another 10 to 15 years. Now let us say our life span becomes an average of 120 years (something the article alludes to). Suddenly the 60s look like the new twenties.
Your article articulates it beautifully from the perspective of giving back. It extolls the reader to think of the 60s as the prime of one’s life. Brimming with experience of a long working life inside a body that is strong and healthy, backed by a pension (assuming one has a sizable govt. pension), it is the perfect time to indulge in one’s passions that could not be tended to during days of raising a family and dealing with the daily rigours of life. Rather than being the incandescent bulbs of various wattages, one better think of their mind and body to be the socket into which the bulbs can be fitted and replaced as necessary.
I would request the sender of the original article which you quoted to also forward your wholesome rebuttal of the ‘Fuzed bulb!’ analogy to eminently retired people.
Bright and spright,