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Talk to Retiring Income Tax Officers

Venue : Income Tax Training Institute
Members : 26 Income Tax Officers
Time : 5th Oct 2010, 2.15pm to 4.30pm

Mr. Narayan the Income Tax Commissioner welcome Dr. Ali and mentioned his work in the field of counselling and life skills. He also mentioned that the officers present were close to their retirement and few of the officers had served for 41 years in the department.

Dr. Ali started the talk by mentioning that he is always happy to speak to people who belong to this age group since they always have a satisfaction of completing the job effectively, he also feelt glad to know that for him there is nothing called retirement.

The concept of longevity was explained by Dr. Ali, he mentioned that the life expectancy of the people is steadily increasing and the average life span of an individual will go upto 75-80 years which means that on an average a person can have an active life till the age of 80 years. He also mentioned that a few years ago people were left bed-ridden due to various ailments, but now the medical science has improved to such an advanced level that there is a cure for all the diseases. He gave the examples of Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh. Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had his knees replaced and was back to a normal and active life within two weeks and Dr. Manmohan Singh who had undergone a heart surgery and was back to the daily routine work within 10 days time. Even a cataract surgery which was once considered a major surgery and would leave a person disabled to perform his day to day activities for months is now considered a very normal surgery and the patient need not even be admitted to the hospital for the surgery. The medical field has given humans a much longer life.

The people nearing the age of retirement are generally well prepared for their life after retirement be it the area of finance or property or pension, but the only area neglected is the emotional area. The person is not prepared or does not realize how the retirement can affect his emotions. He mentioned the example of one Mr. Sharu Rangnekar, who was the MD of a Pharmaceutical company. He realized that he was more interested in the field of counselling or mentoring and decided to quit his job and take up counseling as a profession. He retired from the position of Managing Director, and the next morning he woke up and realized that something was wrong but could not understand it. After sometime he realized that the phone was not ringing, usually when he was working the phone was ringing every morning as people were calling him to enquire something, but that day since he had retired nobody were contacting him. The next things he realized was that his driver did not come to collect the car keys, this made him more depressed. These kind of situations continued and by 9 o'clock he was very frustrated and depressed and thought that he had made a big mistake by resigning his job. At this time he was called for breakfast by his wife, at breakfast his wife was struggling to open the lid of the jam bottle, and asked him for help, Mr. Rangnekar managed to open the lid, and his wife was very happy and told him that she was very lucky to have him in her life, and that she was also very glad that he was with her today to help her with the jam bottle. After listening to his wife he was very happy and his depression was gone. After sometime he realized that all these years he always had toast and jam for breakfast and not once did his wife have the problem of opening the lid, he understood that she had done this today because she understood his state of mind and she wanted to make him feel better.

Dr. Ali also gave an example of field Marshal Manekshaw. When India won the war against Bangladesh in the year 1971, Mr. Manekshaw was very proud as he lead the army and people looked at him as the sole reason for victory. He also heard people say that 'Manekshaw won the war'. Due to this his ego had gone up to such a great level, and he was grateful to two ladies for bringing done his ego. One his wife and the other person was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. His wife one day wanted to make a few changes in the way things were placed in their house, and asked Mr. Manekshaw to move a particular piece of furniture. Mr. Maneskshaw tried very hard to move the furniture but failed. His wife then called out for the person who was the lowest of the grades in the army and asked him to move it. He moved the furniture without any efforts, Mrs. Manekshaw looked at the moved furniture, looked at him and looked back to the furniture and then said "Hmm, Manekshaw won the war!" Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the then Prime Minister had heard a lot about Mr. Manekshaw. She decided that she could not let a person become such a big public figure and hold such powers, neither could she remove him from the post, so she created a honorary designation called the field marshal and honored him with the same. Mr. Manekshaw realized that this was a clever move by her because as the highest officer of the Indian Army he could control 12 lakh army personnel but as a field Marshal he would control 1 watchman and 2 soldiers. These experience had brought about a big change in Mr. Manekshaw, as he became a better human being.

The results of the research which was conducted has shown that many Government employees have a set back and depression. This is because these employees are given a lot of assurances and security. They do not feel threatened by any laws or government. The maximum punishment a government can get is a transfer or some punishment that is not rigorous. When a person has spent about 30-40 years in such a safe environment where there are few restrictions or limitations, they have moulded themselves in such a manner that they feel very offended when they are exposed to difference in views. The study also tells that given a scale of 0-100 and 100 being the highest, the trauma and depression can reach upto 70-80 in retired people.

Dr. Ali recalled a hilarious incident about a friend's father who was retired. Dr. Ali met him and was aware of his retirement, upon asking him he told Dr. Ali that one would know if a person is reaching the age of retirement by the way he is served his coffee. In the newly wed period he can smell the aroma of coffee as he is crossing the gate of the house which means that the wife is keenly looking forward for his arrival, at a later stage when the husband comes back home the wife asks him to relax and in the meanwhile she prepares the coffee, after another stage when there are children in the house and the husband arrives home after work, the wife tells that she has to look after the child's needs first and the second priority is given to the husband, after retirement when asked for coffee the wife tells the husband that he can now make the coffee himself as he has nothing better to do.

A study also says that women are not affected as much as men in the post retirement period. This is because they give their family the first priority. If there is a couple who are working and hold equally good and responsible posts, it is only the lady who would take a leave at any family emergency or some important work at home.

Dr. Ali said that it is very important for men to introspect and understand why it so difficult for them to let go off their designation and job and move forward. They should realize that the job designation they hold is only another role that they have, but they also have an equally important roles of a son or a father or a grandfather or a husband or a brother. It is always better if people develop an attitude of letting go. Dr. Ali gave an example of a person who had retired and was living in a respectable colony. He observed that people were being careless in keeping the colony clean and no measures were taken by anyone. So he decided to take up the job and bought a few samplings and put it in front of every house and asked the respective house owners to water them and look after them, but they refused to do so. He had also bought garbage cover and distributed them to the people in the colony and asked them to segregate the garbage, but they refused to do this too. They also told him that since he had retired and nothing else to do, and hence had taken up this job. He felt very furious by their responses and decided not to speak to any of his neighbours and decided to live his life alone. So he got into the habit of taking a brisk walk every evening and did not make any contacts with anybody in the colony. One day he found a stray dog following him, the dog seemed very happy to see him and was wagging his tail. He found the dog very friendly and every day would following him and he fed the dog with whatever leftover from his house. One day he found that the dog had brought along his mate. The man was very happy that he had got two very good friends who were loyal to him.

One should also understand the bodily illness are also caused due to the stress in the mind. The more there one is stressed in the mind his physical illnesses will go up. Dr. Ali recalled a incident about a friend who was in the field on Marketing, His father was a retired from service. The RTO had passed a rule saying about the change in the colour on the number plate and had also given a time period of three months. As the Marketing involved a lot of traveling work his friend did not find the time for change in his number plate. Every evening when the friend went home his father would look at the number plate and question him as to why the change was still not made. Here the father may be telling this in good faith but he should understand the efforts put in by the son also. These kind of situations may become a platform for misunderstandings. Dr. Ali cautioned them about these attitudes and how one can save themselves from such situations.

Ms. Reema Hanamshet explained how one can plan the retirement life for their own benefit. She told about two of her counselees. One lady who had come to her for counseling, her husband had retired and was at home. She found her husband interfering in all the household matters, he would unnecessarily question everybody who came to their house, be it relatives or friends, even the small children from the neighbourhood who would occasionally come were also not spared. Due to such a behavior of her husband she was very annoyed and embarrassed. She was also sad because now no one came to their house. Another counsellee who's husband had also retired had no such problems because he had planned what he wanted to do after his retirement, he had a lot of traveling plans and many other such things that he could do during his retirement period. Hence the planning plays a vital role in every person's life, as it can make you prepared for the situation.

One of the officer's had a question for Ms. Reema about a friend of hers'. Her friend's son a 26 year old, was a nice person but he often tends to answer back his mother or differed in the views with the mother, she wanted to know how to solve this issue. Ms. Reema told her that the mother could always covey the message to her son in a much smoother way by which the son will not get offended. Dr. Ali then explained to her that why could her friend think in a little different way. One should always learn to see what the other person is trying to say as this can always solve any problems amicably.

Dr. Ali then told them look back at life from their High School level. They had always planned what they would do for their next level. They had always planned about their job, their accommodation in case of transfer or the financial matter everything were been planned by them in advance, but why did they not plan for their retirement period. This is because we are not ready to let go of the designations we hold an move forward.

As an example of planning Dr. Ali gave an example of a person who volunteered for Banjara Academy. One day Dr. Ali received a letter on the letterhead of the Executive Director LIC of India. It said that his native was Bangalore but was working in Mumbai at present, he would be retiring in a few months and he was interested to join Dr. Ali for providing voluntary services. Though Dr. Ali did not completely believe in his words he replied saying that he is always welcome to the NGO and his services would be very valuable. To his surprise that person was present in the office on the exact time and date that he had mentioned in the letter. Dr. Ali explained to him the process of the voluntary work done by the NGO, he also explained to him about the working conditions in the hospitals and the person was willing to do the same. So Dr. Ali suggested him to go to Manipal Hospital which had a better environment. But he was willing to go to Victoria Hospital, he was also wanted to travel by bus. Dr. Ali expected this person would quit with in a day or two. But he continued his voluntary services upto a week before his death. When he was doing the services he would send a postcard to Dr. Ali writing to him his experiences in various hospital and the values he learnt from them. Dr. Ali was surprised by this person who was holding such a high position in such a good company could one day come an become volunteer in a hospital, he also appreciated his method of planning.

Dr. Ali stressed on the importance of being proactive, than doing a job only because you are being pushed to do it. Many a times we do not take up the job or service of our choice, we have always been taking orders and we are not OK with not having choices. So this the retirement period is a very good opportunity to do things that one is interested to do, pick activities of your own interest and one should keep in mind to enjoy the activities. Making money out of what you can do or not is secondary. Infact the Indian economy is so rich that there is money in every sort of activity. If one is good at a particular activity the money will always follow. One should always remember that we grow as we learn, and the growing stops once we stop learning, so learning a new thing does not have any age limit.

Dr. Ali also mentioned about his Mentee Mr. S.R.Krishna Murthy who was 85 years old and has taken up the course for Ph.d. Dr. Ali said that he was very proud of Mr. Krishna Murthy who was willing to learn even at this age. He said that education and learning should be viewed as a process to gain knowledge and it should not be done to gain only promotions in office. Keeping oneself computer savvy is also an important aspect. As computers are going to be the future one should always be computer literate.

The need to feel wanted is in all of us, but if we do not get it from our own people then it causes disappointment in us and we feel neglected, and the best method to keep ourself away from such a thought is to learn to let go of such people or situations. For example if you are very fond of your grandchild and you are not allowed by your son or daughter-in-law to play with your grandchild then you will feel disappointed and annoyed. Now if there is a child in your neighbourhood who is of the same age of your grandchild then ask yourself the question "What is stopping you from talking with that child?" If you are ready to let go of the situation and give the same love to the other child, he/she will be so happy with your company, and the mother of the child may also be glad to know that she has a reliable friend in the neighbourhood who she can trust about the child's concern. We have to find our own opportunities through which we can keep our mind active and healthy.

Dr. Ali gave another example. A housing colony had cement benches being laid down on the roadside footpaths. A retired man requested the respective authority and got three benches laid down in a semi circle form, he then painted the wall behind the benches which said 'Pensioner's Conner'. Every day he went and sat on the bench, slowly many retired people started gathering at the place and today this has become a very famous place in the locality and the man who started this has become popular. This kind of small efforts can lead to greater happiness which can spread to many people.

Dr. Ali then told about the efforts made by his own grandfather. Dr. Ali's grandfather held a good position in department of Customs and Excise. He then retired, and a few years back the pension had to be collected by the pensioner at the respective office. Hence his grandfather had to go to the office every month and collect his pension. As his grandfather retired from a good position, he was treated with respect by the staff at the office, but the ex-employees who belonged to the lower positions were treated badly, and this would always annoy his grandfather. When asked about their behaviour the employees would answer back rudely asking him if was their advocate to defend them. This provoked him and at the age of 70 he decided to do LL.B and help his colleagues. After completing his course and enrolling he would go to the office to collect his pension and on the first four days of the month he would be seated in the office premises, and the ex-employees who were mistreated by the present employees would come to him for justice. He lived upto the age of 97 years to help the ex-employees get their rightful pension.

Dr. Ali also mentioned about how people fail to let go of their designations even after they have retired. They do not realise how it effects their post retirement period. Dr. Ali recalled an incident that took place during his collage days. He had just completed his engineering, he had a friend who had a printing press. As the friend was unwell and was advised 1 month bed rest he was worried about the printing press, Dr. Ali volunteered to take charge of the printing press for the one month. One day when he was at the printing press, a man walked in asking for visiting cards. Dr. Ali requested him to look at the visiting cards album which held a number of visiting card designs and give him a confirmation on the particular design that he liked. The man refused and said that he just required a simple card with had the name and his residential address. Dr. Ali agreed and gave the man a piece of paper and pen to write down the same. He returned the paper with the required information to be printed. When Dr. Ali read the name he was surprised, the name written was I.H.Latif, realizing that he was the Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Airforce Dr. Ali asked as to why he had not mentioned the same below his name, he replied saying that it was the past, he is no more in charge of the position, during the conversation he had mentioned that he was also the Ambassador of India for Germany and served as the Governor of Maharashtra also. But he was not interested in mentioning any of these in his visiting card, this is because he had let go off the designation and moved forward after he had retired from the respective jobs. After this experience Dr. Ali felt a lot of respect for Mr. I.H.Latif as he was such a achiever and yet a humble person.

Dr. Ali closed the talk by wishing everyone good luck for their retired life.

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Leading Banjara Academy's online email counselling team of volunteer-counsellors, I realize it is not an easy task reaching out to a person one has never met, never seen, without the added advantage of gestures, eye contact, a gentle reassuring touch, tone of voice and yet providing empathy, positive strokes, making the person feel heard and understood.

With the aid of only written words, it is quite a task building trust, making people open up and share and helping them cope and feel better. So when in many instances they write back saying thank you and that they feel so much better, the feeling one gets is priceless and incomparable - knowing one has done something right, something good!

Hats off to all the volunteeer-counsellors of Banjara Academy who have been carrying on this work silently, anonymously for the last couple of years. Truly commendable! - Ali Khwaja

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