How I dealt with retirement

I still remember the day when I came home after losing to P.C. Thulasi in the Quarterfinals of the Pune National in June 2015. That was my last competitive match in Badminton. When I came home my parents and sister gave me a group hug and my father joked, “So already retired at 27? I am 58 and I still have two years to retire. What are you going to do now?” I smiled at him and realised I did not have an answer to his question.

Netflix has a documentary called, ‘Broke’, that talks about how 60 percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. For 78 percent of NFL players, it takes only three years. Sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems, and naturally prone to showing off, most pro athletes get shocked by harsh economic realities after years of living the high life. Ian Thorpe one of the greatest swimmers in the world confessed to dealing with depression and alcoholism after retirement. Abhinav Bindra in his book “A shot at history” speaks about how after winning his gold medal at the Olympics he felt depressed because he had nothing left to prove. Recently there was a full page feature in The New Yorker on Micheal Jordan with the headline “How Air Jordan became Crying Jordan”.

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To see one of your heroes like this is scary.

 

Dealing with retirement is tough and hard. You are used to a routine. You always have goals that you set for yourself to achieve. You are used to the adrenaline of competition and your will to win against all odds. You are used to the fame, the awards, the felicitations, and the applause. The day you retire you are set to lose all of this. Your life is much silent and you lose the limelight. There are no articles about you in the newspaper and suddenly you find yourself becoming a part of the millions of other people whose success is not merely defined by being featured in the newspaper. You have to change your definition of success from winning a match to something else which you may still not have figured for yourself. That realization for any athlete can be pretty intimidating.

I really can’t compare my achievements to the the great athletes I have mentioned above. They are way more successful and have a much bigger bank balance than mine. I can though compare myself with them for the love and passion I feel for my sport and a certain degree of hard work I put in the sport to succeed for 15 years. I too had to go through my share of post retirement issues and it was interesting to see myself go through it.

The best thing about being born to a traditional middle-class Marathi family is that you are a part of a tradition. A tradition which is based on age, marriage, and kids. There is a particular age to do things and they need to be done as prescribed by your elders. I have a lot of friends who defy this tradition and don’t believe in it. For me though I never had a problem being a part of it. I believe in marriage and family just like my parents do. For me it is a wonderful thing and makes life much fuller and complete.

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🙂

 

Unlike my counterparts in the western world who are not big on fixed traditions or marriage for me being part of a tradition turned out to be a joyful distraction from retirement. My marriage took me to a foreign land, United States of America. In the first six months I realized my limitations as a house-maker. I had to learn cooking, washing, cleaning, rationing, budgeting, setting up the house, and decorating it. In a course of six months I set myself goals to get better in each of this department. I think my approach to this challenge was very athlete like. I refused to accept the fact that I couldn’t cook. Playing a sport makes you pretty tough on yourself. It is a blessing. From making chapatis in the shape of a triangle I started making round phulkas by the end of my six months. Believe me the joy of seeing a round phulka on the gas gave me as much joy as seeing my name in the newspaper. By the end of a year I had people come over the weekend for dinners and lunches. When some of them complimented me and asked me for an extra phulka because they loved my vegetable curry I did a small dance inside my head.

The one year post retirement has been a story of a lot of such small victories for me personally. Professionally though I have gone through anxiety and some tough patches. The H-4 visa in America gets tricky from the get go. You can’t work on this visa. Being an independent woman all these years, not earning was killing me. To keep myself busy I wrote a lot and self-researched on a lot of topics that I was interested in. Though I realized very soon that this alone was not enough to satisfy my needs. For quite some time I wanted to get a master’s degree. I started looking for courses in University of Texas in Dallas. Looking for a course in universities in America is a harrowing task. There are more than 100 degrees to choose from. My search led me to a degree in Public Administration. I loved all the courses the degree offered. Courses on Government, policy making, public management, non- profit organizations and so on. In my limited time working in NGOs and social sector I knew this is an area that I would love to officially be a part of. I applied for the summer term of 2016. After a series of tests, an essay, transcripts, grade evaluation and interviews I finally received my admit letter last week. When I visited the UTD campus and attended my first class I immediately knew I was in for a roller-coaster ride and an experience of a life time.

As I write this I am in a peaceful place professionally after a year of uncertainty and searching for a goal to per sue. This year made some very important revelations to me. I realized everything in life is temporary. The success, the failure, joy and sorrow. Change is the only constant. If you can embrace change, never resist it and actually use it to build you and not break you the world can be a pretty amazing place. A year and a half back I was a professional athlete today I am a student at UTD. The transition is not going to be easy. I am in a place where my past really doesn’t count and I have to start from zero. To never live in the past, to put yourself in a spot where you naturally don’t belong but you still try and make a place of your own. Isn’t that what life is all about?

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I wonder where this takes me! Excited 😀

 

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The story of New York

When Henry Hudson an English sailor left the Dutch shore, his mission was clear: “FIND CHINA”. He set sail with his men and after a few months reached this massive piece of land to the east of the Atlantic Ocean. He called upon his men with joy. They finally found China. After a couple days of living on the land, calculating and giving it a thought, Henry Hudson realised it wasn’t China after all. As he left the island to continue his search for China, he named the island ‘Manhatta’ after the tribal people who lived on the island. He also wrote back to the Dutch West India company who were his sponsors, that although it was not China it was a great island which could be a port and a place where trade would flourish.

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An artist’s view of Henry Hudson’s ship Halve Maen reaching the island as the Native Indians look on.

The first Dutch colonies arrived on the island of Manhatta in 1624. They soon realised the potential of this island. Being a vast resource of forest and animals they invested in beaver skin and the fur trade. It became a provincial extension of the Dutch Republic as of 1624 and was designated the capital of the province in 1625 and they called it ‘New Amsterdam’. The Dutch were not interested in anything other than making a buck. This purpose of the Dutch led the foundation of New York’s materialism.

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Peter Stuyvesant the one-legged General was called upon by the Dutch to bring order to the island.

The birth of ‘Wall’ Street

By the time Peter Stuyvesant started ruling this Dutch Colony in 1653 it wasn’t doing too well. There was disorder and chaos and people were leaving the island. In a span of few years Stuyvesant turned things around. He increased manufacturing and enforced policing to establish some order. New Amsterdam was flourishing again with business and trade. People from all quarters of the world sailed in to share the profits of the island. The first to come in were the Jews in 1654. Slowly the island had inhabitants from different parts of the world, with about 18 languages being spoken. The English rulers soon realised that this place was a gold mine and they needed to own it. Even though Peter Stuyvesant, the great one-legged General, would build a 2340 ft wall around the island to protect his colony from the English it would not help. The English would annex New Amsterdam in 1664 crushing the Dutch resolve. They would bring down the great wall in 1699 and name the street Wall Street. They would also give a new name to the island and call it New York, after The Duke of York to whom this island would be presented as a gift. George Washington would win back New York from the clutches of the English in 1776 when America would finally win her freedom from the colonies.

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The map of New Amsterdam in the 1600s.

Man on the 10 $ Bill

George Washington had some great men in his first ever cabinet of the American Government. Alexander Hamilton was one of them. The most interesting thing about Alexander Hamilton was that he was an immigrant. He sailed like millions of other immigrants that came to the city wanting to achieve their dreams. He came from the West Indies. He was an orphan who studied, thanks to some wealthy men in his city. The same men would then sponsor his education at the Columbia University in New York. He loved the city and his passion for it soon made him one of the most important men in American history. Alexander Hamilton realised that the city could not just depend on agriculture and needed to get into manufacturing and commerce. He was the founder of the nation’s financial system, of the Federalist Party-the world’s first voter-based political party, the Father of the United States Coast Guard, and the founder of The New York Post. The foundation of banking, manufacturing and emancipation of slaves was all led as early as 1790 by him. His focussed vision for the city so early in time remains one principle reason for New York being the financial capital in the world.

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Alexander Hamilton

Most powerful city in America

New York is one great human experiment. Hell, its a human miracle. It is a war between the human species and the nature, which the human species seem to have won. When Henry Hudson found Manhattan it was an island of hills, forests and lakes. It was in the early 1807 when DeWitt Clinton who is known as the greatest New Yorker of all time and was the Governer of the city had a vision. Realising the potential of the city he knew the had to build a city not just for thousands but millions. In 1807 he led out a plan with his team of engineers and architects for the city in a grid system. The map was 8 ft long, 12 avenues wide, 155 streets long covering about 1000 acres. Today when you roam around the city you realise even though you are surrounded by huge buildings on all sides you hardly feel suffocated. It is because there is the sea breeze coming in from both the sides of the island due to the grid system. DeWitt Clinton would also build the Eerie Canal which would connect New York to rest of America and Canada. It would take seven years to complete and man power of thousands of men. By 1825 thanks to the canal and the trade opportunities, New York would confirm it’s place as the most powerful city in America.

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DeWitt Clinton
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The map of New York in a grid.
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Erie Canal took seven years to build. The Government had denied to sponsor Clinton’s vision. Clinton raised money anyway by approaching business men and people. Erie Canal was a project completed truly by the people, for the people, and of the people, showcasing strength of a democracy.

The city of Immigrants

The city and the great advancements made by it was followed by one of the biggest migrations in the world. Immigrants came mostly from Europe that was suffering from famines, poverty and corrupt government. In 1836 a ship carrying 15825 passengers sailed into the port of New York. Immigrants also came from Ireland, more than a million of them. There was a lot of African-American population right from the 1600s due to the slave industry. There were Jews, Germans, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, Italians; almost every race and religion in the world was a part of the New York population. Just imagine the confusion, the awe, the shock, the fear people in the city must have felt looking at each other’s differences. It is said that New York was a very democratic city. It wasn’t. Everybody was scared of everybody. A new immigrant was a danger to food, water, houses, jobs and thus also to the very existence of the present population. There were riots, (the period during the Civil War saw the worst riots in New York’s history), and protests all through the history of New York. But just like every great city New York would always survive and come back even stronger and better from all of it.

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The hustle bustle of the city in early 1900s. What an exciting place!
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School in the tenements
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The tenements in New York were occupied by the immigrants who came with mostly nothing in their pockets. They were the most crowded places and mostly ignored by the City Government which lead to very bad conditions to live.

 

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The immigrants came through Ellis Island. This was the place where immigrants were checked for diseases and mental problems. If they were very ill or mentally disturbed they were sent back by the same ship that they had traveled months on. There are some great stories about this process on Ellis Island today. The family in this picture seems to have made it.

Who REALLY built the city ?

This great migration caused a lot of problems. The most important of them all was creating enough jobs. Most of the migrant population was not really educated and did not know English. They were of no value to the financial workings of the city. The New York city Government found the answer to their problem in public works. Every great structure that New York city claims today is a produce of the millions of immigrants that came to the city. The Erie canal, the Brooklyn Bridge, The Central Park, Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, the subway system and so many more. What is ironic is that all these great structures were built between 1800 to 1900 ; a period when industrialisation and technology was not at all its peak. Most of the dangerous things that machines do today were done by human beings. The migrant population did all these things with great spirit. New York was the city that gave them hope, work, food and a shelter. It did not care about the language they spoke, the clothes they wore, the religion they practiced. If they were ready to work hard New York would pay them back in more ways than one. Some of the world’s greatest people from different fields rose in the this period of migration in New York. New York became a symbol for whole of America for how accepting different people would only strengthen America and not weaken it.

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The early map of Central Park. It was planned by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. None of them had done such a big project before. The park was built by African-Americans and Irish men. After the park was ready the same men who had built the park were ironically not allowed in it. It took some years for them to gain access.

 

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Central Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is the much-needed breathing space required for the ever-changing and a fast-paced city like New York.
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Ordinary men did dangerous things to make the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The first stone was laid in 1869 and the bridge was completed in 1883.

 

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There was great rivalry between the Irish and the African American communities. They were fighting for the same jobs and the same houses. Children did not seem to share the same hatred.

 

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Hanging by the fire escape.

 

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Protests was one of the strongest weapons of the labour unions. They fought for higher wages and better working conditions.

 

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Women in New York have always been a rebellious bunch. They fought for years to get their right to vote. It was 1920 when the first woman in New York cast her vote.

New York today is not very different from what it was in the early 1900s in spirit. It is still the land of opportunity, diversity, culture, pace, ideas and protests. It is the place where the richest people in the world live and also the poorest. There is an undying spirit to the city which is not brought by the massive structures in the city but by the people who live in it. I don’t think there is any other city in the world that can claim that the whole world lives in it. New York is the only city that can claim to be a city of the world and that in itself makes it an unforgettable place.

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Vibrant colours in Greenwich Village.
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New York is home to a lot of homeless people. Parks, subway stations, places under the bridges is were many of them live. Notice the pigeon on his hand.

 

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New Yorkers don’t care about anything you do. No one will give you a second look if you take off your shirt and sit in the park. Expect me of course!

 

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You will hear music everywhere in New York….everywhere.
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China Town
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37 languages. A million people. One mad place. – Times Square.
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The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French. The statue stands as a symbol of hope that New York holds for all the immigrants who come here leaving their homes behind with hope of finding a home here. Most of them do!