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Golden years of life are really gold, enjoy them fully – Guest Contributor Sulekh Jain, Ph.D.

My name is Sulekh Jain and my wife and I live in Henderson, Nevada. As a senior citizen, I have been having unlimited fun. At age 61, nearly 22 years ago, on my own, I took early retirement from GE Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati, Ohio and have never looked back. Many times people ask “how do you pass your time”? To me, this is somewhat a negative statement because this connotes as if either I am killing time or waiting for the death to come. I respond back “I don’t pass or waste my time. I love my time and retirement”. 

To me, every day is a fun day. I remain reasonably busy (not to make money) and in fact, I work harder than even in my working life. In retired life, I don’t do any part-time jobs, the stock market (none whatsoever), real estate or insurance, etc. I just don’t do any of those things that many Desis do in retirement. I am actively involved in social, academic, some religious and spiritual activities, writing, traveling, public speaking, with family, spending quality time with my grandkids – taught them the foundation of ahimsa (non-violence) in life and other many such activities.

I am 83 years now and in reasonably good health. I was born in an Agarwal Jain family not too far from Delhi in Haryana (that time undivided Punjab), India.

One’s memories of childhood are often nostalgic (as will be the case with many of my age), invested with an illusory romance. My grandfather’s standing in the village was respectable. When I was born and up to the age of 10 (ten) India was ruled by British.  During all my life up to the partition of India, I don’t think I had seen (as much as I recall) a single Whiteman called firangi (foreigner).  But, I do recall seeing Mahatma Gandhi Ji when the train (in which he was traveling) briefly stopped at my hometown train station.  I also witnessed the tragedies of the partition of India, the riots that followed, murder, looting, raping, burning and the migration of a large # of people between India and Pakistan.  

In my early days, taboos were, never to eat in a Brahmin’s house. In fact, if there was any time a feast, new clothing, and some other occasion, always shared first with the Brahmins. As for the Muslims, the lowly chamar (cobbler) and the sweeper, the eatables that he/she touched must be thrown away. In case, of untouchables, not only they were completely outcaste but even if their shadow fell on a higher caste person (like us); we became polluted and must take a bath right away. The untouchables were not allowed to draw water from or even drink from the same well where we got our water from. 

Despite the seemingly senseless rigors of such injunctions, life flowed smoothly in the village. The various castes understood the taboos and respected them.  

If the elders were to call down a benediction upon a boy, they would invariably say” may God make you a Thanedar or a Patwari”- the embodiment of power and authority.  The Thanedar was the sub-inspector of police, a local potentate, and the Patwari wielded great influence as the village revenue accountant. If someone was fractious or arrogant, the villagers would remark acidly that he was becoming a Lat Sahib or Nawab. The Lat Sahib was the English Governor of the province (or State) and the ultimate repository of governmental authority, and the Nawab the highest symbol of feudal grandeur. 

All this defined the horizons of the villager’s thinking.  It was a narrow world we lived in. Contact outside our own small region was restricted. All marriages, for instance, were contracted within the same community (between Agarwal Jains) and within a radius of ten to twenty miles. Seldom would one look for a match across the nearby Yamuna River (only less than a mile away). 

In my one life, I have seen and experienced tremendous (I call them Sky-high) changes in everything. I was born before the use of electricity was available and common, (in fact, I did not see the electricity till I was 12-13 years old), telephones, radio, television,  fax machines, internet, emails, jet planes and long-distance air travels,  penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill were not even heard of or even invented. There were no credit cards, laser beams or ball-point pens then. The man had not invented: pantyhose, air-conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes dryers, and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and the man hadn’t yet walked on the moon. There was no talk of gay-rights, computer- dating, dual careers, daycare centers, and group therapy, fast foods, timeshares. Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends. We had never heard of AM, FM or any radios, tape decks, VCRs, CDs, electric typewriters, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, instant coffee, Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and soft drink. We cooked food at home using wood or cow dung patties as fuel. “Chip” meant a piece of wood, “hardware” was found in a hardware store and “software” wasn’t even a word. 

At the time of my birth, the maximum age was just about 60 and anyone who reached that age was considered very lucky. There was very little then what we call now golden years. 

Such was the world and environment around me. And oh boy in my own one lifetime how lucky I am to see and go through so much change in everything; just phenomenal. We should all feel lucky to be enjoying so many unheard-of luxuries along with the longer and better quality of life. 

This is the golden age, an age of fun, enjoyment, fulfillment and giving back something to the community that has been so benevolent in my own journey of life. This must be my duty. 

Nutritious vegetarian (in fact vegan) food/drink, exercise, active life, rest (including sleep), yoga, meditation, relaxation, respect and care for all forms of life, non-hurting, ahimsa (in thoughts, speech, and deeds), medicine/doctor as a last resort. This is my religion.

Life is not the way it is supposed to be. The way we cope with it is what makes the difference. Every day may not be good but there is something good in every day. Don’t blame people for disappointing you; blame yourself for expecting too much from them. Enjoy life and all the things you have at the moment because you cannot have everything all at once. Never compare your life with some else’s. Enjoy your own to its fullest. Remember this proverb “I always complained that I had no shoes till I saw a man who had no feet”.

Once an Indian poet said;

In all the trials and tribulations of life, 

The Childlike innocent smile on my lips should not leave me

In unlimited pleasures and comforts of life, 

The honesty and truth should not leave me. 

What more do I want from my life?

Please note that while describing society during British days, I borrowed a few of the sentences from the book “India, from Curzon to Nehru and after”   by Durga Das.  

Dr. Sulekh C. Jainis the Past Secretary and President of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA). Dr. Jain also authored a book An Ahimsa Crisis: You Decide, which can be accessed as an eBook free of chargeat  

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