The pension tension

Laments of a loyal pensioner



I am a 70 year old retired government employee living my life in installments. My body is a typical arrangement of weak muscles and fragile bones. And my life is fading away. This is my heartrending story.
I am sitting on a chair in my bedroom where everything is in order except my mind which has been recollecting the glimpses from my past in a disorderly mode, lately. I am not mad, I think to myself. But everything cannot remain healthy and robust when you have scored a big score in life – an age of 70.
I look at the mirror and gasp. My face has no gleam of a young man. It is but an odd combination of wheatish skin and grey hair. Remembering the days past I start hallucinating. Before the four feet tall mirror I see myself getting dressed up for the office. It has already been late, I realize. With a fit of anger I shout at my wife “Rumaal kati cheth thevmich...moazze ti chiim na aththi yivaan…”  And then out of blue everything gets blur. I am transported back to the present, back to my room, before the mirror, my eyes streaming tears.
4th March 2008: The day when I completed my first instalment of life and realized that 50 percent of it was over, already. It was the day when I was to retire from my official duties. Since then my entire life has taken an about-turn.
Long ago my life was a once-paid cheque. But today, I live in instalments for I am a pensioner. I was an honest Sarkari naukar somewhere back in the past. My one storey house and almost nil bank balance serve as evidence to the fact. Nevertheless, I was happy for being honest. But today I mourn for being a Namak Halaal official, for a little of Namak Harami would have done wonders. In the first place, I would have been maal-la-maal. My house wouldn’t have been a gareeb ki kuhttya. I would be an entrepreneur working for the betterment and upliftment of the unemployed youth. And above all being much wealthier, I wouldn’t have been accusing the Namak Haraam government for gulping down, without even a dakaar, 50 percent of my khoon passine ki leave salary, gratuity and commutation. Moreover, I wouldn’t have been running from pillar to post to receive the instalments of my bechche ponse (arrears). In the nut shell, I would have been maal-la-maal and not a jadaal. But the question that remains is – to be or not be Namak Halaal.
Nevertheless, I cannot change the things. It’s all over. The reality is harsh but very simple – I am a jadaal senior citizen, living in a phakeer kuhttya and waiting for the next instalment of my bechche ponse.  Here I am reminded of my friend, a distressed pensioner, who would always chant out loud his feelings to all his friends, including me, - “hume to loot liye milke namak haramun ne; kuch bey-imaanu ne kuch shaitaanun ne.” Hearing this, we would always find ourselves in the peals of laughter. However, we knew, we were just trying to donate a few breathes to our shattered life. We all had put on a brave face, but inside we were DYING.
As always, the notion of death made me fretful. The thought that I would not be able to receive the instalment of arrears someday somewhere in the future tortured me like hell. “I do not want to die without receiving my halaal ki kammaaye,” I thought. “But then, I am no clairvoyant at all,” I convinced myself.
It is early morning and I’m relishing my cup of noon-chai. “CHAI”, that name rings a bell, I think. “What if, I were a chai-aficionado sarkari naukar?” I presume. “I would have been sipping cappuccino in a grand coffee bar, possibly.” Cheerless, I sigh. But today is a day of celebrations. “Today I will be receiving my next instalments of arrears, hopefully”, I smile.
Suddenly, I experience a sharp twinge in my chest. I feel like being stabbed, over and again. My end has come near, I sense. I try to shout out to my wife, but my voice fails. I clench a scratch pad and a pen that rests on a nearby table. Laboriously, I try to pen down my will. And soon, everything around me begins to lose colour, slowly. When I reclaim my consciousness I find myself resting in a deep rectangular pit. “The pit would have been completely dark if a crevice in the wall above wouldn’t have offered a vent to the sunlight to pass through,” I consider.  I try to get up but feel somewhat weightless.  And soon the reality dawns on me. “I am D...D...DEAD”, I cry my heart out. I remember my will. I leave my grave and walk over to the place from where the words inscribed on my epitaph are visible enough to be read.
The title of the poem reads, “Arizu ek pensioner ki arrear ke naam”,
“Itni bi berukhi kya ki
Mera marna tak nazar nahi ayaa
Mein to tere intezaar mein tha
Tu abi tak kyun nahi aaya.”
As I read it, my face cracks into a smile. I am happy that at least my will has been honoured. But soon my smile turns into a grimace when I feel the ground slipping away from under my feet. My heart pounds hard and fast. I hear myself gasping, crying. I shriek only to realize that I was sleeping. I was still in my bed, under the warmth of a blanket. I open my eyes wide. “It was a dream”, I console my anxious self as I struggle for breath. I search for my spectacles and stare at the calendar to figure out that there are still 3 days to receive the next installment of my arrears.

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Lastupdate on : Mon, 21 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 21 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 May 2012 00:00:00 IST

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