Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A capital called education: Senior citizens can make society more productive

He doesn’t have a pension. But what he has is education. A professor of a globally acclaimed academic institute in India, he used to despair about his future after his retirement. He worried about treatment costs, meeting monthly medicine bills and all that after retirement. Then covid happened. Both he and his wife had a nasty attack and almost died. And that changed him in a way that should be seen as, for want of a better word, revolutionary. 

Not that the essence has changed. What has changed is his life thought. He still thinks that pension is important. After all, it’s a guaranteed income. Thinking otherwise wouldn’t have been rational. But not having one may not be the end of the world once you hang up the boots worn during your salaried days. 

Having lived a large part of your life under the shelter of guaranteed income this uncertainty indeed is a challenge, even scary. But education is a leverageable capital whatever age bracket you belong to. It might sound trite. But knowledge and realisation are two different things. What happened in this case is a hard pointer. 

The professor has been a successful academic and a teacher. He couldn’t have been what he was had he not been competitive and fought his way up through a tough competitive process. The PhD from a top global university in the USA couldn’t have happened had he not been capably competitive. 

Why is it that we always measure success by a metric called money? And judge old age as liability?

Somehow we have steadfastly refused to find enterprise in being academically successful. Yet, we define enterprise by that grit that makes you win challenges! The feeling is so deeply entrenched in the environment that even a person who has the distinction of fighting through his academic career to come up trumps takes a life-threatening affliction to realize that end of a career could also bring an opportunity to create another irrespective of what others might think. 

This is not to say that society would look down upon it. No. But it would definitely be condescending about the effort. Or, might even say, “Look at him. The poor man.” Or, “Look at his greed!” But no one would cry, “Bravo!” 

Therein probably lies the rub. We are so used to staying gainfully employed that we don’t think of it as an enterprise. Or, a learning experience! The risk averseness flows from here. There is no harm in favouring a pensionable job or aspiring for one. But what if it doesn’t make its way towards you? Or, even if it does, why should we call it a day? 

I keep wondering about it. Now that I am past sixty, retired in the conventional sense of the term, why is it that the environment asks me to relax. That I don’t have a pension has no bearing on this. Why is it wrong to dream of success even when you are past sixty? Or, for that matter, to dream even of doing stuff that defies dotage as defined in the conventional sense? In the sense of doing something new equally challenging as the one that you left? 

I dream of success as intensely as I used to in my twenties. Probably I do so more intensely and more consciously. The issue that keeps cropping up here is how I look at success versus how my success is measured by the society. Or, how my efforts would be measured by me and by the rest. Why is it that we always measure success by a metric called money? And judge old age as liability? It’s time to challenge it. And only we can do it and reshape the world-view about us. Shall we?


Ashoke Mukhopadhyay said...

Excellent! These are my words too!

Ashoke Mukhopadhyay said...

Excellent! These are my words too!

Nilanjan Dey said...

I liked the post, and I wish to tell you that you have captured several important points. As a common citizen, I can relate to these.

Can money be replaced by any other metric? The most usual, and the most acceptable, metric is money. People explore its glamorous aspects, they know it brings material happiness to their lives. Correct.

Money also lures them to a true sense of security, which may be your next subject, good for another post on another day.

"A sense of security" is all about hoping, aspiring, doing, acquiring, enjoying. So sixty or not, all seniors must aim at the most common metric.

Random, disjointed thoughts. Do you agree? Give me your views.

Saumyendu Ghosh said...

True, but all of us have some responsibilities to ‘share’ with the next generation. This needs to start early and not necessarily after retirement. If wait till the retirement - they are likely to loose excitement of starting that late in life.

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