June 24, 2010

Philately and stuff.

We all dabbled at philately when we were kids. A few years later, the stamp books were forgotten and we switched to the next hobby. I never though "adults" indulged much in hobbies at that time. Hobbies was something kids did for fun. Some times it turned out to be a life long passion and I would picture the intelligent looking gentleman in glasses and a brown beard showing off his exotic stamp collection to admiring oohs and aahs but I didn't think the normal folks did much hobby-wise -- they were too busy leading lives.

So, recently k told me about a book he had read on retirement (Yes, he has been obsessed with that for quite some time now) and he said the basic advice in the book was sure, retire early, go for that world tour and sign up for that salsa class but have a fall back -- something you are passionate about and have been doing on a regular basis, something you can continue to do even after you retire so you don't start feeling depressed with the void that the lack of a regular work routine creates and the kids have gone to colleges, so there is no day to day "busy-ness" to keep your mind occupied. I wondered if this is a desi phenomenon, the result of not having completely integrated into the culture and life here? Would this be the same if I retired in India? Somehow, I think with the people and the sounds and the general life there, one would not have to worry about a stifling, suffocating loneliness post retirement. I am guessing one wouldn't have to worry about driving to the grocery store in the middle of winter and navigating the store with a walking stick either. Kids do leave the nest there too but a middle income couple after retirement can afford to get some tasks done at least with paid help and mostly, the grocery store will have an in home delivery method that doesn't cost an arm and a leg (The last I knew, it was still free). Even if I do retire in Chennai (let's assume) and say my kids are elsewhere, the maid and the regular folks still come home and I still have basic human contact even on the days I feel too tired to visit someone's house. Here, perhaps I would live in a city where I have similar retired friends and unless we make an attempt to drive by their place and spend time with them, it's possible an entire day passes with no real people talking and no one for company but electronic devices and the hum of the AC and refrigerator. I guess, I am just painting an overly bleak picture but every time I see old people struggling in Kroger to carry and manage their bags, I wonder if I am heading there by choosing to live in this country (not that I have made that decision already...I dwell in hypotheticals, you must know that by now!)

And so coming back to the question of hobbies...I guess the book states that if we pursue a hobby of our choice and invest time in it, make connections, find like minded people, that will keep us going through retirement. And perhaps if a week has passed without a call from the kids, it still won't be that bad because we still have basic human contact and we can still spend time with people we like doing the things we like.

Is that why k has taken to running, I wonder? Me? I am going to stick to books and dancing for now. Hopefully they will tide me through our lonely retirement but who knows, maybe I will be in India by then and just wishing for some quiet and peace asking myself why it feels like I am working even when I am supposed to be leading a leisurely, retired life!

Edited: I meant to pen this earlier but got distracted with other thoughts. I think the support system for desis in this country makes it harder to follow up on and be passionate about our hobbies. Given our Indian style of parenting where the kids are not exactly tucked in by 8.30 PM and you  have the rest of the night to relax, even finding little chunks of time where you can concentrate on your hobby becomes a challenge. And for every such chunk of time you find to focus on your hobby, it also means time away from your spouse whom you think you might not recognize in a crowd(:p) thanks to hardly any time spent talking/alone with him. The few free moments we get are spent discussing the baby or house chores. It's hard for a couple to find that one single hobby to spend time on together. Add it all together and you basically have chopped away at your quality time with your spouse for the sake of your hobby. So Saturday mornings find me alone with the baby when he is running or him alone with the baby when I am dancing and that's the price we pay for our hobbies. Somehow, I think it will be easier if we had close family we could leave our child with for those few hours or at least close family we can hang out with, with the baby, because the loneliest part of taking care of a child is the lack of adult company -- we all know that! And yes, we can hire a baby-sitter but I am not sold on the merits of that idea (yet). Where does all this leave us? With a happy toddler and zero date nights and our somewhat ignored hobbies :-)

Ok, I know this is a random post but managing toddlers means having no time to nicely organize your thoughts in little compartments and then express them (Time kidacha eduthuko illati aduvum illa!) -- so do expect more randomness from me.
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