Mission Delhi – Jinachandran Nair, South City 2
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Jinachandran Nair’s farewell party was celebrated in a restaurant not far from his office. Colleagues from various departments, including his own, arrived in groups. There were sandwiches, pastries, samosas, biscuits, coffee and tea. At one point, eventually, everyone fell silent and gathered in a huge circle. Mr Nair fondly talked of his years with the company, and of the friendships he made at work. A few others shared memories of tender accounts concerning Mr Nair. Some people looked moved.
This proper send-off, though, never happened. A senior manager in an Austrian automotive consultation company in Gurgaon in the Greater Delhi Region, Mr Nair retired on 30th June. By that fateful date, the coronavirus pandemic had already eliminated everything that could have been considered normal in our earlier daily lives. All the people still fortunate to have a day-job were already working from home.
So was Mr Nair.
“During one of our online meetings on WebEx, the senior manager formally announced my pending retirement. People gave me their best wishes, urging me to take care and to keep in touch,” recalls Mr Nair. He is chatting on WhatsApp video from the isolation of his second-floor apartment in South City 2, Sector 49. It’s soothing to hear this man speak, even on phone. His is a heavy-sounding voice, with the softness and cadence of an experienced voice-over artist reading you a bedtime story.
In the few days following this expected announcement, Mr Nair had two more online meetings with various other colleagues, in which similar somber exchanges were made to mark this important milestone of his career. While his co-workers are disappointed that they could not host a proper farewell, he graciously accepts the extraordinary situation of these times.
In his late 50s, Mr Nair, a Kerala native who grew up in Maharashtra, has been in the Millennium City for 20 years, and here he plans to live his post-retirement life too. This flat is his own. Truth be told, he already had got a retirement extension for two years but the ongoing pandemic compelled him to recalibrate his priorities. “I now wanted to get out from hectic life and spend more time with my family.” Mr Nair lives with wife, Mini, who recently sprained her back and has to be regularly driven to a physiotherapist, son Siddharth, and two guinea pigs. The retired executive is certainly not planning a future of idle hours, but “in my own way I will try to do something that might help me give something back to society.”
For now he is acclimatizing to a new way of living. Morning walks, yoga, household chores, reading books, catching up with friends on phone, and table-tennis—“I used the excuse of the pandemic to convert our dining table into a tennis table, purchased bats, and net, and my wife didn’t object.”
Meanwhile, some of his ex-colleagues have hinted that if things get back to normal—-if!—there might be a formal farewell party for Mr Nair. “It will be a conventional affair… people will say nice things about me, and I will say nice things about them.” Just the kind of a ceremonious closure that one would have taken for granted—in another time.
[This is the 342nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Farewell, Mr Nair