This is the question everyone asks me when I call-up anyone back home in India. When I say I am enjoying my retired life, the immediate reaction has been “You just cannot sit idle and must be up to something.” Hence I decided to pen down all the activities I indulge in throughout the day.
Saying good-bye to the army was very difficult, especially since one enjoyed the best of times and it’s the Army which has made you what you are this day. One could not have asked for anything better from God and the system – otherwise from being a primary school teacher’s son, I would not have retired as a Colonel. All what I am today is the result of the education of Sainik School, NDA, IMA and various Military Institutions. In sheer physical terms – from a 22 kg nine year old boy to a 78 kg 42 year old – all credit must belong to the Indian Army. So it was a painful good-bye to the arms.
Looking back, thirteen years since I hung my boots, I have no regrets or complaints. God and the Army Headquarters (MS Branch) was always kind to me that I served 10 years in Delhi (even though I had no interest in Delhi;) five years on various courses and to top it, had only two years of High-Altitude postings. Again nothing to complain.
The army made me a computer aware man despite being a BA. It made me a leader and a man. I never ended up working in the Army – as I enjoyed every part of it. Thanks to God, all my colleagues, my superiors and mainly to the men who really made feel proud.
The journey out of the uniform had been different to what many of you experienced as I took the evening flight to Canada, the day I handed over command. I jettisoned into a new and unknown world, where my wife and children were waiting. As promised, my wife had a nice, big home and a car waiting for me and as she was earning a good salary as a pharmacist. I had no pressures at all. My first step was to amalgamate with the Canadian society.
To my dismay, I found that all my perceptions of the Western world were totally misplaced. No racism, no shunning being a brown skin, and a very friendly lot of people who valued human aspects of life. I spent my first six months learning to speak English the way Canadians do and I found all the people whom I spoke to at the malls or coffee-shops or in the bus, very patient and friendly trying to make out what I was trying to communicate. These communications helped a lot and also corrections from our children got me into speaking Canadian-English.
After six months, I landed up with a job as a supervisor at a call-center and I enjoyed that too for a two year period until our children demanded that I be home when they were there. They did not want to live in an empty home. That’s it, I quit my job, to be a house husband. My wife who was doing a four-day week took to a five-day week as her 10 hours of extra work made up much more than what I earned in my 40 hour week and expenditure came down as I did not have to drive to work.
Having taken over as the house-husband, I felt I was busier than any time before as I woke up first, made tea for all, cooked breakfast, packed lunch and fresh-fruit-juice and dropped off the children to school and saw-off my wife to work. Then were the chores – washing dishes, laundry, vacuum cleaning the house, walking the dog (a very difficult aspect in Canada- especially in winters), preparing lunch, gardening, grocery and the list goes on. By afternoon, I picked up the children from school; some days in the evening when they had any after school activities like drama club, environmental club, debating club etc. Then was dropping them off to their extra-curricular activities by 5 PM – for swimming, tennis, golf, music, dance, or voluntary service at the community old-age home. Got everyone back to home by 6 or 7 PM and helped them with their assignments and study and then cooked dinner and we waited for Marina to return to enjoy a family dinner at 9 PM.
Now with both our children moving out of home to stay in Downtown Toronto, pursuing their job and university, my busy schedule came to a near end. That was when I found time to read more and write more. I took to photography as a new hobby as I realised I needed quality images for my blogs. I now get busy only on the weekends when children come home, normally preceded with a text message listing out all the groceries and other stuff they need.
The life has kept me busy and hence I presume in good health too. I never carried any baggage in my life. I never carried a brief-case to office as I did not believe in carrying office to home or vice-versa. I recall a conversation with an NCO who met me while on vacation last year who said “You are the only Commanding Officer I’ve seen coming to command a unit with four boxes and leaving with only two.“–
“Air-Canada only allows two pieces of baggage,” I replied.