Jagged streaks of lightning occasionally illuminated the sky, betraying dark threatening clouds moving ominously across the grey skies. A gusty wind raised a cacophony of a banshee howling eerily amidst the winds. Abruptly, the clouds broke, hailing rain drops down furiously to the ground. A dry thirsty earth rapidly quenched its fill then overflowed.
Ramu, the pavement peddler, sitting in the Worli Promenade hurriedly lifted his basket to his head, opened his oft repaired umbrella, and shielded himself but unsuccessfully in the downpour. It was July, monsoon season in Mumbai. The Place: Worli Sea face.
Ramu crosses the road, to ‘Gulita’, the reputed training centre of an MNC where I worked as Corporate Training Head. Under a large tree, near the main gate he stood shivering. I happened to be under the tree myself, smoking a cigarette* and we strike up a conversation, as two strangers would or would not do, in such strange circumstances. We both knew each other for a year now. I had often stopped during an evening walk to buy peanuts from him.
At some point, I ask him, “I don’t see you sell much of the peanuts and ‘chhana’ gram through the day. In the afternoon I actually see you having a siesta, and most evenings I have found you give away the unsold food to the beggars”. Why not sell something else?
Ramu smiled, and answered, ‘ Actually, I am retired. I live with my son and his wife and two sons”. I smiled at him and remained silent. He continued, “I was working as a driver with an MNC and have saved some money for my retirement.”
“Post my wife dying, I moved to my son’s home. Rather than give him a part of my money, I have chosen to give it to them each day. They believe that I do good sales each day. The money is welcome, as my son is struggling at present, and my income is appreciated.”
“I feel I am contributing to the family, and it allows me to live with respect with them. Any shortfall in income I make up from small withdrawals I make from my bank account.”
Soon the rain lessens in fury and changes to a light patter. The clouds quickly clear and the sun shines through once again. I walk back to my office thinking, Ramu clearly had thought through his retirement plans.
What’s your retirement plan?
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*smoking is injurious to health, and the article does not endorse any form of tobacco consumption