Retirement from a job or service acquires a new COVID-19 significance if you had retired at the end of last year, like this writer. Superannuation or retirement-at-60 normally signifies that you had had enough toil and turmoil in offices and now you deserve to relax at home which basically translates to stay home. Normally you don’t smell a rat in being told about staying at home; but when people around you start reacting to your out-of-job status you find that they react in the same-rather abominable-manner. They say, ‘so, you’re retired… you’ll now be sitting at home! Relax and enjoy!’ Now, you see the difference between stay at home and sitting at home, the latter being a ‘looked down upon thing’ rather. You really get dismayed when some of your dear relatives and even your dearest spouse also react in a similar way. Particularly your spouse who has been so much used to your going-to-office every morning without fail that s/he may start getting irritated or finding faults eternally with your sitting-at-home incarnation. You may still get on with your normal activities as earlier, that of marketing, kitchen-assistance and having occasional outings; but the ‘sitting at home’ stigma doesn’t go away. There is a meaning why I’m using the word ‘stigma’. Of course, my intelligent readers must have guessed the ‘significance’ already.
A bit unnerved by the ‘stigma’ you might as well try giving a good fight against: that you are a writer or painter or musician or a professional and so your work would continue or that you explain to them the beauty of the majestic saying ‘you retire from a job only, not from life and work.’ Unfortunately, neither of these would hold water with any of the people or spouse; because whatever be the scenario you’ll perform that from ‘sitting at home’ only.
Your nervous bearings get further hit by the general belief that retired people are mostly useless and spent, and are hardly sought after by anybody except perhaps the life insurance companies. The combination of such ‘forces’ makes a retired soul desperate; they get the feeling that they are unemployed again, and unwanted and so, they try searching for new jobs or engagements. Some of them, fortunately, do find opportunities and accept those gratefully; not because they find those exciting and lovable, but only because of the overpowering urge to avoid ‘sitting at home’. However, they feel very satisfied with one discovery: experience, if not skills, is still valued by some in the society.
Spread of the new Coronavirus or the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat merged the distinction between ‘stay home’ and ‘sitting at home’, because suddenly everyone, from the busiest professionals to the most gratefully retired the world over, have begun staying at home, and most of them would contest the ‘sitting at home’ syndrome with the stout defense of ‘working from home’ which, in a way, has come as a huge relief for the retired-working. Their stigma gets negated by a disease which was also being considered a stigma; that particular word finally getting neutralized in both cases.
The biggest crisis ever for humankind has taught us the significance and the beauty of ‘home’: where you stay safe and happy always, and from where you can work as well, or perhaps even better than from offices thanks to the state-of-the-art connectivity and the coming of the whole world into a cohesive single unit. More changes in the way we behave or think are bound to come by the time the crisis finally exits, maybe over the next few months or years. For now, people over 60 years of age are specifically advised to stay home irrespective of whether they sit there or work from there. Conclude with a disclaimer: there has been no generalization of the retired people referred to here.
Chinmay Chakravarty is a professional creatively engaged in writing. He