A REPRISE ITEM
Exactly nine years ago I retired from service. I wrote this post celebrating that event .
Freedom at Afternoon
The question that is being asked of me by many of my well wishers, friends and admirers is how do I feel, now that I have retired. Well, to be honest serving for close to four decades in one of the most coveted services of the country has many disadvantages. You tend to forget the use of your limbs. There is someone connecting and picking up the phone for you, you are driven around, your engagements, your tour, and your other quotidian worries- from filing tax return to paying your utility bills- are someone else’s concern. In higher echelons of the government someone even thinks your thought for you. You just have to be! After you retire all that elaborate support system, all those rites of pride and protocol disappear. It is like someone who does not how to swim , is thrown into the sea without a lifebelt. Or you are left to navigate in a totally unfamiliar city. Many of us tend to show unmistakable withdrawal symptoms. Jostling for paying electricity bills, or booking a railway ticket (if you are not into net transaction) doing things as others not so spoilt do, can make you maladjusted for a while. I was warned – not that I could not see it for myself –but I had some more worries.
To add to the standard quota of uncertainties of a retiring officer, I have been trying to renovate my house to make it livable. It was empty for quite some time. It is no point trying to explain the hazards and the frustration of such an activity to someone who has not undertaken such an expedition himself. There are so many liars, thugs and swindlers in this line of business that it can easily turn you into a misanthrope. All in all, my prospect in the near future looked like a perfectly scripted plot for a black, neurotic drama! Anticlimactically, it is my date of retirement that kept me buoyed up, gave me hope and sustenance. And when it actually came it was such a relief! All the uncertainties did stare me in the face as it does any one of us. The prospect of my house becoming livable had receded a few more weeks into the future. But hell is a relative habitation. The comfort zone that I seem to have left behind was no comfort for me given that so many knives were out for me and danger seemed to be lurking at every corner.
So much has happened in the dying years of my service, so many distressing things-vilification, show cause, disciplinary proceeding, supersession, a criminal case and much more- that they remind me of Lenin’s famous remark about politics, “There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." It was only God’s infinite grace that I survived several attempts to frame me up in order to harm me in my career and ruin my reputation. I have never considered the denial of opportunities, postings, medals, etc as acts of disfavour because the government giveth and the government taketh away. (For the record, I was overlooked for the post of DGP on four occasions and I have retired in a lower grade of pay than officers four years my junior. I never even made a grievance of it.) But my reputation is not a matter of an executive fiat, or a government notification; it has been hard earned and paid for in hard currency of an unwavering faith in the values of probity in public life. The worst thing is that on every occasion personal malice was dressed up as considered government decision. Since an officer cannot challenge every order in a court of law, the government can play havoc with his life and career. I felt like the French philosopher who spoke during disturbingly unsettled times in France, “If today I were to be accused of having stolen the Church of Notre Dame I would have no option but to run away from France.”
Now that I am past the hump , all these precious years of my life which vaguely leaked away in worries and anxieties seem but like a transient twitch. I am in a celebratory mood reveling in my migration from the ranks of Helots – Helots were a class of people halfway between slaves and citizens in ancient Sparta-to that of an independent citizen. This freedom is worth years of the lives of any number of tongue tied, terrorized and fear stricken civil servants. Like any liberated serf I am going to exploit to the utmost my freedom to speak my mind. Earlier on my conversations with the government were subject to conduct rules, elaborate courtesy, and the unbreakable code of never mentioning facts that could bring disrepute to the government however disreputable its conduct. Never to speak truth to power except in such a term that the unpalatable truth became an error of your own judgment. (I violated that rule on several occasions and paid the price for it. So we are quits!) In fact, when I was addressing the Home guards who had lined up for inspection on the eve of my farewell parade on the 30th of June at Bihta I kept concentrating hard so that I did not shout from the podium itself : azadi , azadi azadi. Decades of conditioning, however, was a surer guarantee and my uniformed self behaved exactly as it was supposed to.