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09 May 2012

How people change....

This is not about my cousin. It is about me.
Let me tell you about my cousin Mr.R.
He is about 15 odd years older to me. We did not have much of a contact during my growing up years as we were moving in different groups. I was still growing up in Kerala when he had already moved to the central part of India in search of a job. He moved thru multiple jobs before settling on a job in Mumbai as a Sales professional.
I, on the other hand, did my engineering and moved thru the eastern parts of India.
I occasionally used to travel to Mumbai and our paths used to cross briefly.
R was considered to be the informal 'Leader' in our family. Nothing happens in our family without R's involvement. R is in the know and in the action for all the good and bad stuff that happens in the family. Whether helping someone's marriage or when someone is ill, R is everywhere.
Family used to depend a lot on R. We children used to look up to him. He was the big man. We were just kids.
That was then....
The other day I met R in a family function. He was all over the place as usual, his hawk eyes not missing anything, he being there where help is required. Helping an old aunt to walk to the lunch table, moving a chair for an old uncle, taking photographs of families, R was everywhere. All energetic, all smiling...
After attending the function, he was planning to return to Mumbai tomorrow. Today he asked me to take a printout of his ticket.
While going thru the ticket copy, my eyes happened to see the details of R. It said age 61, Status 'Senior Citizen'
Seeing R's name against 'Senior Citizen' changed me in a lot of ways. Suddenly, in my eyes, R was not the smart, middle aged, ageless guy that he was. R was actually growing old and has reached the stage of Senior Citizen, where the government / society has decided that he needn't work anymore. He was a 'Senior Citizen' who had contributed his life to the growth of the country and could now reap the freebies that the government was offering. He neither have to pay tax, nor file tax returns. He could get subsidized fares in various government transport companies like Indian Railways, Air India etc. He could get telephone on demand and was supposed to spend time with grand children enjoying the sunset years of his life.
At age of 60, hale and hearty, with at least 10 more years to contribute, in the eyes of the society, R was a senior citizen.
Made me think...
It was a shock to me to suddenly find that R was a senior citizen. It made me think about my future. I was about 48 and in another 12 years, I will also be officially be a senior citizen. I have been working as a consultant for the last 12 years and had always assumed that even after my official retirement age of 60 years, I could continue my work as a consultant and probably as an academic. 
I realize that after 60, I will have the status of a 'Senior Citizen'. Will society accept my role as a consultant at that age? Will I be able to contribute to the growth of manufacturing sector in India, as I want to do, even after that age? 
I am assuming that, being a consultant, I am ageless. But for us kids, even R was ageless...
Now R is a senior citizen. 
What if my assumption of ageless contribution is a wrong assumption? What if technology suddenly changes and I am not able to catch up with it? What if I get stuck as a consultant and the world moves on? What if the next generation do not care for consultancy support from a 'Senior Citizen'? What if my knowledge is not relevant?...
A scary thought.....
Just seeing R's status as 'Senior Citizen' has changed my perspective. It has made me to look critically at my assumptions....
Will my assumptions stand the scrutiny of the future?....

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