Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Retiring into the unknown: Part 1

Guest post by Samuel G. Njenga

Around 2 years ago, I met John somewhere in Donholm Estate. At first I had not recognized him, in fact you’d not blame me for not recognizing him. John was my former boss in some Parastatal that I worked for 2 years in my early working life. He was a good boss, big bodied and exuded loads of confidence. But wait, the John I met looked much slimmer and the pot belly had shrunk and he looked much older. He smelt of cheap alcohol and I could barely stand next to him coz of the stench. I could not believe my eyes.

Boss, haki maisha imekuwa ngumu. Hebu nipatie soo kuna kitu nataka kuenda kununua”, he said. This is the guy who used to order me around and looked like he was generally doing well. What I was seeing was totally beyond me. Of course I was very keen to get to know when the rain started beating him. I requested him that we get to some food joint so that we get a chance to talk as we eat.

John’s story was as sad as they come. As soon as I left the Parastatal, he retired having reached the mandatory retirement age. John came from Taita Taveta and had worked for the Parastatal for all his working life.

“But I thought on being retrenched you got your handsome retirement package and you probably receive monthly pension”, I asked him. He confirmed that he received some cash to the tune of 1.6M lumpsum and he also was getting some monthly pension of around 15k. So I asked him what happened with the cash. “Kusema ukweli, mambo haikuniendea vile nilikuwa natarajia”, he uttered the words in his coastal accent.
I probed him further and discovered that after retirement he stuck around Nairobi, bought a matatu which was run down and which he later sold at a throw away price. The balance on the lumpsum he used to pays school fees for his daughter’s university education. Then I asked him why he is still around Nairobi whereas he could have gone to Taveta and live there. His response was totally unexpected. “Wajua huko kumekauka, hakuna cha kufanya wala sina nyumba huko so sioni haja ya kuenda huko”.

To cut the long story short, I discovered that he was in Nairobi doing nothing but drinking himself silly. In fact the 100 shillings he was asking for was most likely to end up in some changaa den. From boardrooms to the crazy matatu world and finally to the bizarre world of drunkards of illicit brew. In more likelihood, the destination of this man would be an early grave. But being a positive thinker, I felt there was a way out of his not so pleasant situation.

After all the instances of the dress downs he may have given me as my boss, his authority notwithstanding, I saw a man who had lost it and was probably just waiting to die and had to reverse the roles. After all, before I could release the few coins he so badly needed to quench his insatiable thirst of alcohol, I had to give him some harsh and hopefully helpful word. His is a classic case of a man who had lost it, one who failed to organize his life despite being in employment for long and earning some not so bad cash.

Next post will dwell on the advice I gave him and how best those in employment can prepare for retirement.

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