Planning for Retirement
My search for a happy, fulfilling and productive retirement
By Dr. Dinesh O. Shah
Several of my friends encouraged me to write this brief article in the hopes that my retirement story may inspire others in their retirement years!
In the middle of 2007, I retired as a professor after 37 years of teaching and research at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. As a professor emeritus, I still have an office and a laboratory at the university to continue my research; however, I no longer have teaching responsibilities. My two children (and six grandchildren) are settled in the New York and Boston areas. My wife passed away nearly nine years ago in August 2000 after a brief illness.
I have always been aware of the fact that my first 22 years of life was spent in India. In 1961, I came to the United States to earn my Ph.D. degree in biophysics at Columbia University. During the first twenty two years of my life, the responsibility for my food, clothing and education was assumed by the society in India. I felt that it would be satisfying if I could in some way reciprocate the support I received from India throughout my early education. I felt now was the right time, as I no longer had teaching responsibilities and hence I had more freedom with my time.
COLLABORATION WITH DHARM-SINH DESAI UNIVERSITY
I visited several institutions of higher education all over Gujarat. I avoided big cities and chose Dharmsinh Desai University (DDU) in Nadiad as the right place for me to teach and build an active research center. The management was progressive and forward looking. Based on my previous experience, they requested that I set up a Research Center for Surface Science and Nanotechnology at DDU. Now, the university has five colleges, including engineering, pharmacy, dental sciences, commerce and business administration. Also, a medical college with sixteen departments will begin shortly. So, for multi-disciplinary research projects, this is an ideal campus providing a broad range of expertise.
I did mention to the university officials that I was not coming here to earn money. I am coming to pay back what I owe to this society. In appreciation of this gesture, they named the research center “Shah-Schulman Center for Surface Science and Nanotechnology.” Professor Schulman was my professor at Columbia University in New York City and was a pioneer in surface science and nanostructures. They also kindly offered to pay for my travel, lodging and boarding expenses as well as provide a car and driver. I did explain to DDU administrators that I could only come for six months each year, as I have responsibilities to my children and grand children in the USA as well as to some of my colleagues at University of Florida in our joint research projects.
After a few initial visits, I have decided to make two visits (three months each) to DDU every year: one trip from January through March and another trip from September through November. This allows me to spend December and the summer months with my family in USA. Also, I avoid the extreme hot summer and heavy monsoon in India.
After visiting several nearby universities and research institutes in Gujarat, I was pleased that several researchers have expressed enthusiasm and willingness to join me in collaborative research projects.
RESPONSE FROM GUJARAT GOVERN-MENT AND INDUSTRY
After submitting a proposal to the Ministry of Industry and Mines of the Gujarat Government, I am pleased that they approved $875,000 to purchase the center’s necessary instruments. An additional $875,000 from DDU has been approved to fund infra structure, faculty members and staff for the center. About 5,000 sq ft in a new building has been provided to install these instruments. Several other grants are pending and I am optimistic that more funds will be approved in the coming months.
My concept was to create a world-class research center with a joint partnership of Government, academia and industry. We also planned a ten-member Industrial Advisory Board to suggest the direction of research for the center.
REFLECTIONS ON MY RETIREMENT
During my conversation with a number of friends, I have heard comments such as “Dineshbhai, we wish there were more people like you who would return to India and give the benefit of their expertise to the new generations in India.” After stimulating discussions with my colleagues and students, I feel that my coming home to India and assisting in the development of the new research center will certainly produce positive results. It will stimulate young minds and initiate new projects to meet India’s present and future needs. To my surprise, the Vice Chancellor asked me to be the guest of honor for the flag-hoisting ceremony on 26th January on the University Ground in front of students and faculty members.
I must also say that a lot of people came forward to assist me in this effort. Secretaries of the ministries, industry managing directors and many academic colleagues assisted me at every step of the way.
With my interest in music and poetry, I also spend some weekends interacting with musicians, composers and poets. I must admit that I am a lucky person who has found retirement to be 100 % satisfying due to my new academic adventure in India.
In summary, I hope that there are retired professionals in the US, Canada and UK, who may find my experience interesting and inspiring. I must caution that one should not expect to find all of the western countries’ amenities in India. You can never compare the life-style in US and India. That is a sure way to become unhappy. Enjoy life in India as most people do there. Each country has strengths and weaknesses or pluses and minuses. If you have a desire to contribute to India, giving your expertise to new generations of Indians is an ideal way to serve India. Come with the spirit to give and take nothing in return except deep satisfaction. Then, you will be a very happy person in your retirement.
On a personal level, I kept working religiously from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm every day. I took my lunch and dinner at a neighbor’s home as a paying guest. The lady served me meals with lots of warmth. If I had a cold, she would prepare boiled Tulsi, masala hot drink to help me get over it. I have become everybody’s uncle in India. Even though I am by myself in India, I never felt alone. My colleagues, neighbors and students treated me as if I am one of their close relatives. Even my driver said, “Sir, come back soon, I will be waiting for you”. I immensely enjoyed the spirit of Navratri and Diwali in India.
In summary, India has that masti (enthusiasm), vibrancy and gusto for life in its various processes that are truly unique! I have not seen any country (I almost visited 40 countries in last 40 years for my lectures) that can come close to India in its various colors! Like any other country, it has its positive as well as negative aspects. Every Indian must learn to enhance its positive aspects and decrease its negative aspects. I am just happy with the visible fruits of my visit to India and thankful to God for making my retirement years most productive and happy and serving India in my small way!