Isolation Blues

Isolation Blues

March 27, 2020 by Umanath Nayak13

Medical professionals are at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak, with a caveat! Senior doctors, especially those above 65 years, are better advised to practice social distancing and isolation – not unlike the rest of the population.

This has set me thinking about ways by which these doctors could be motivated to stay cooped up at home during this tumultuous phase, something that might be relevant even later on when it is time for them to retire from active practice.

I am reminded of the ICICI Prudential TV ad I had seen many years ago – a man sitting under a glass-roof with the rain pouring down, enjoying his coffee. He is at peace with himself as he has secured himself and his family financially. The ad ends with him refusing to pick up a call from his office. The message – isolate from work, not from life!

I was so enamored by the ad that years later I had a glass roof put up in my balcony and one Sunday morning sat there under pouring rain with a cup of coffee in my hands, telling myself that this is what I would do when I retired. But today it’s clear to me that financial planning may be only one aspect of what you need to consider when you plan retirement.

By the time we are sixty-five, most of us who have worked hard in our respective professions would have saved and invested enough to retire with sufficient bank-balance to pull us through the remaining years with comfort.   The more important question is – what do you do with all that extra time suddenly at your disposal? You can’t be drinking coffee under a glass-roof the entire day. If you are not doing something useful or constructive with your time or haven’t developed a serious hobby, you would be frustrated, irritable, depressed and age into a cantankerous old man. Planning ahead of time to identify your likes and passions and developing it into a post-retirement activity or hobby is what an intelligent person would do and if this also brings in some additional income, all the better!

But what can doctors do after they retire that does not require additional learning or skills?

The vast majority of us, for lack of anything better to do, continue to practice until one fine day we just fade away. For a surgeon; skill, dexterity and surgical decision-making has a shelf-life and it would not be fair to our patients if we continued to operate beyond a certain age. Many of my surgical colleagues have invested in farm-houses and dabbled in farming. A few are into golf and one neurosurgeon I know is into serious coin-collecting and won awards for his collection of rare and antique coins. Ultimately whatever be the hobby or activity one takes up, if the passion does not last, sticking with it for a decade or over would be impossible.

For many years I have been mulling over my options for developing a serious post-retirement activity. I possess few other skills and my PR abilities are non-existent. But one activity that I have consistently enjoyed right from my college days is writing.

A few years ago a colleague requested help in compiling a text-book and I readily agreed. Gradually writing became a hobby and with time, a passion.  Penning my thoughts became an outlet…a release, for work-related stresses and also gave me something to do during my spare time.  In these past ten years I have managed to publish a cancer self-help book, couple of novels which includes a medical thriller and another text-book.

A career in writing I have realized is in so many ways a lot like building up a surgical practice. Creating a reader-base takes time and patience. And like patients who recommend you to others when they like your work, your readers help spread the word. Like surgery, with time and practice, writing becomes easy and better. One has to keep writing though, even if it may look ordinary. You can trash it later. But publish only once you are convinced of its merit.  An opinion or two from well-meaning people can help. What you may believe is Shakespearean prose; others may dismiss as pedestrian.

I have also learnt some bitter truths. Writing is easy; getting published and getting people to read your writings is the challenge. And till you pen a best-seller, making any decent money is out of the question.

So if you are inclined, keep punching at that keyboard and hope that one day you may hit jackpot. Even if you don’t, this could just be what the doctor ordered to get you over this current social-isolation business.


  • Jyotsna Rao

    March 27, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Very relevant. Having a passion or hobby in addition to the grind of practice is important. It has been for me to re energise myself. But for most doctors it’s not easy with the attention and focus medical practice demands. One can start off with something that one wanted to do or learn as a child. One could also start off with something totally radical going against the grain of one’s personality. Not sure which path l would take but as you said would not like to fade away not doing justice to myself or my patients.


  • Shriram

    March 27, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    Definitely some food for thought, Dr. Nayak! I agree, identifying what one likes to do is key, as is a growing involvement in that interest or passion, as we carry on our regular profession. Depending on what the interest is, and a bit of luck, it could turn out to be more than just a personally satisfying endeavor.


  • Mody Praful P

    March 28, 2020 at 6:13 am

    Great going Umanath. I fully agree that we all must have a plan for the future beyond our productive years. I feel happy for you that you have good clarity on this topic which most of us will not have. One may use these isolation days to introspect and find out one’s hidden or forgotten talents or passion.

    Wishing you all the best and please take care.


  • Nam

    March 28, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Nicely compiled overview of the situation along with nuances and needs of the retirement life-stage that add to the current complexity of the situation!

    The underlying theme here being that all of us, irrespective of age and profession need constructive ways to not just pass time but also stay positive and cheerful in tough times!

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  • Pragati Nayak

    March 28, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    I fully agree with your thoughts. I have multiple hobbies myself and hence am never bored even though I have been “lockdowned” all my married life.



    March 29, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Very beautifully put sir. It is highly important to find atleast one other hobby that keeps one going and a time like this, when the country is on a lockdown is probably the best time to look inside and identify what other things they may be passionate about.


  • Sandhya

    March 30, 2020 at 5:38 am

    Agree absolutely!! I love trying new things ..recently me n my hubby went for French classes.. we did level 1 planning to do level 2 after this lockdown..I try to learn some new art now n then . Plus love singing …
    We have karoke meets which is fun plus food fotography n food blogging keeps me busy…hubby has plans to learn keyboard


  • Ankita Kushwaha

    March 30, 2020 at 5:51 am

    Well said sir!! 👍


  • Carrissa

    March 30, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Very thought-provoking Dr.Nayak.

    Whether be dire situations, like the one the world is currently grappling or retirement, which most of us someday will have to endure, it is essential to have a affiliation which can keep us going…especially with the pace the world is progressing and the busy lifestyle which we have ‘forcefully’ imbibed. The last couple of weeks have been a real eye opener, with lock-downs underway in many countries, the lifestyle which we are so used to seems to have taken a detour (thanks to entertainment industry, sporting events and socio-communal activities put on stand-still, for the time being…).

    I can’t stop thinking what would have happened if internet, social media and streaming services were not available. The thought literally brings an uneasy feeling and as you articulated, will drive many towards depression and other clinical illness.

    Reading your blog has motivated me to dig deep and replenish my hobbies and for sure it will take me a great deal of effort to reach a state of making a buck from my hobby. Irrespective of the outcome, I will make a conscious effort to pursue my hobby and hope by the time I reach retirement I would have made enough strides to keep myself engrossed and satisfied with life’s finer aspects.


  • Sanjay Kumar Deb

    April 1, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    I enjoyed reading your book Fatal Margin and I really appreciate your writing. Yes, you may not be able to earn anything from your writing but your brilliant writing surely will inspire many people like us . All good wishes.


  • Vasavi

    April 1, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    That’s inspiring sir. Passions definitely help in sustaining one’s interest for life!


  • Rajiv Sharma

    April 2, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Dr Nayak Sir, so far my impression of you has been that of a very good doctor and a great human being, as mentioned by me in the review I had written of you. But now I find that there is a 3rd dimension and that apart from being an expert with the knife and scalpel you are a wizard with the pen too. The literary world’s loss has been the gain of the surgical world which has benefitted thousands of people like my daughter. But this could be just the right pastime for you as and when you decide to hang up your surgical boots. And don’t worry, the first book itself will be a best seller if Isolation blues and the way you described the ICICI prudential ad is any indication of your literary skills. Your writing manages to engage the attention of the reader and he or she does not stop until the very end. But please continue to write on the side and it’s too premature now to think of a full time writing career right now. As of now, your patients and their families need you much more than your readers. They can wait for a few more years. Will continue to follow your blog very keenly.


  • Rashmi

    April 7, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Dear Sir, The narration was free flowing ,I could feel the connectivity expressed by your words,rightfully representing that passion is what that feeds the soul.And taking this into consideration ,the sentence ,”A career in writing ,I have realized is in so many ways a lot like building up a Surgical practice”Is though provoking .

    It is very encouraging to learn from seniors like you that even after ensuring one’s pension,passion can turn into earning reality.


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