A Year of Goodbyes…..

The tersely worded transfer order from my employer was the start of winding down of life, as I knew it, for the last nine years. I was then based in the west of India, in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, which had been home.


It was also the start of new beginnings, however reluctant.


It is tough saying goodbye, both to the living and the non-living beings. The house we lived in had been built right before my eyes. I still remembered the un-plastered walls and the banister-less staircase, which I had climbed with trepidation on the early visits during construction. One wall held a record of the heights of my children on their respective birthdays as well as random days. Neighbors, strangers at first, later friends, with always a smile and a kind word. Trees- Ashoka, pomegranate and guava- which ringed the perimeter of the property.  The Madhumalika creeper which climbed up to the terrace of the house and filled the summer nights with the heady perfume of its pink and white flowers. 


And most precious of all – the Kadamba tree by the gate… favourite of Lord Krishna in mythology, under which He played the flute. My favourite too; somehow over the years, it became  so dear to my heart,  like another  child.  I first saw the Kadamba  as a tall, gangly sapling with construction debris strewn all around it. Slowly it grew, in height as well as diameter; strong and sturdy. The leaf cover so dense that even in the height of summer, (Ahmedabad summers cross 40° Celsius) it would be cool under its shade. 


However difficult, they need to be said, goodbyes. Time robs away the unhappy memories and gives the sepia tint of long ago photographs to the good ones left. The kindness of friends as well as strangers.  Colleagues and their warm farewells. The smile, which used to light up the pretty face of the vegetable seller lady. The boy who used to push his handcart laden with leafy green vegetables- spinach, fenugreek, dill, coriander and mint- who asked me to teach him number names in English and who grew up to a young man sometime in those nine years. The kind lady doctor who became more a friend than a doctor over the years of doctoring the children’s ailments. The sweet old lady who lived next door, whose stories of her life in Dehradun were a treat to listen to. The indefinable aura of books and the cheerful décor of the British Library. Many faces, many memories.


It was also the year to say goodbye to my daughter, who at eighteen, went away to University, four hundred kilometers away. Children need to find their feet and spread their wings, which in turn need space, yet that knowledge does not keep mothers from feeling heartbroken.  


Two long cross country flights and a world away, in a part of the country where the standard time and the actual time do not really match, I learnt that change may indeed be a destruction of life as we know it, but change is also life affirming, forcing us to step out of the comfort zone we all unconsciously fall into. Change is growth!



3 thoughts on “A Year of Goodbyes…..

  1. KS Raju says:

    Hi Sylvia,
    However difficult, they need to be said,goodbyes. Yes.They are..

    Can you imagine, some one so close to one’s heart, close to one’s existence, close to self, saying good bye for a last time.it is heartbraking for both .. Need to be avoided. But can we?

    I am thinking of Suni who had said good bye forever with out actually saying good bye.It is about, how she had bravely avoided saying good bye, or confronting the grief-filled eyes of her companion, who wanted to die before she wd have died, for a last time.When ever I think of her behaviour on the last day, those questions which only Suni could answer, come back to me again and again, and wd remain unanswered forever!

    This is a serendipity. On 3rd Feb morning, four years ago , when I had walked to the ICU on 1st floor of Lakeshore hospital , she was very indifferent.She was only staring at me unlike the previous day when she was talking, ignoring discomfortsof a tube put thru her nostril for feeding her and catheters, and the hell of needles for IVs and medicines. Her tired eyes perhaps wanted to say that she was resigning to her fate. Her indifferent behavior to me and Vishnu around 4pm , at times very angry to me and to vishnu for reasons and answers only known to her. Did she want to make us indifferent and unshaken to her impending journey the very next day? Did she want us to be firm, unshaken and heart broken the very next day when we wd realize that she was no more and all our comings days and nights are with out her? Why she did not allow Vishnu to hug and kiss her. Why did that Mother, who did not want to have another son or daughter after Vishnu was born ,thinking, that wd make her or I love him little less by sharing our love between two kids , Why did she not kiss him for a last time, or hug him last or did not cry. It is the same mother who had rejected a promotion with a transfer to MECON Bangalore and had liked and decided to be at home in Hyderabad for home making and for educating and bringing him up.

    She did not speak to me when I had walked twice again on the night of 3rd Feb to the ICU, she was busy talking to herself , to some one she cd only see.. relentlessly.. like telling some unfinished stories as if her allotted time was running out… switching from one topic to another- with no continuity. Nurses told me later that she had been talking and then gliding to sleep, adnd then talking ..and towards the morning, her condition had deteriorated. 4th Feb morning, when I was called by the doctor at 6am to ICU, she was unconscious on breathing support stuggling to breath, and when I had come to the room for my morning rituals for 15 minutes at 8am and a little later had to run to the ICU on call from Doctor only to see Suni was left for her abode of eternal peace silently. She had walked away very sliently and she was sleeping comfortably never to be woken up..

    She did say a bye bye to me, to vishnu, to her brother and parents, with out actally saying bye bye. However difficult, they need to be said,goodbyes. Some times with out actually saying bye.. bye
    She was saying bye to all of us by her silence, by her anger, by passionate staring.Was she not trying to make me and vishnu tougher to face the imminent next day by herself (deliberately ) having been rude and indiffent to us on the previous day of her ordeal. Was she not aware of her departure to the Solace, and therefore,the whole sequence of things, meeting and events through those three or four critical days in ICU.. she was silently and happily accepting and resigning to. So,I wd like to call it as serendipity.

    I could never talk to you this.. now got a chance to express you, her dearest friend, whom she had actually loved and adored like her twin sister.Do u know, Sylvia, when she had first showed me your photo in 1997, I had asked her, if you were her sister. Two sisters born to two different mothers..

    Pls don’t worry about Malu, she will take care of herself very well by remembering what all her parents have taught and inculcated in her wisdom. I am preparing my self for sendng Vishnu also to higher studies after 2 years to any of the elite engg colleges he would get admitted to

    God bless you..

    • Raju,
      Thank you for sharing those very private moments. Because they are very close to your and Vishnu’s heart and therefore very difficult to verbalise. The edge of the pain dulled but still there, beneath the surface.
      Sanitha was to you and you to her, the world. I know this because I have talked to her a lot, long distance, way before she was diagnosed, as well as during her illness. She thought the world of you and of Vishnu and felt herself blessed. So it makes your question all the more puzzling. Why was she appearing indifferent?
      I cannot claim to know the answers, not being wise enough. But the only thing I can tell you is that, even though we may reject this idea outright sometimes, everything happens with a divine purpose and He knows what is best for us at each point of time.
      Death is uncharted territory for us, feared by most. But what so many great teachers have reiterated time and again- Death is nothing but going home. Hanging up this old brown jacket our soul has been wearing for a long time, and leaving. To assimilate what we have learnt, see the mistakes we made and then to progress further on, till we become one with Him.
      She was one of the most well read persons I knew in college, who could converse on any topic. She was the soul-sister I never had, who took me into the bosom of her family. She was also generous to a fault. I too miss her most days, wishing I could talk to her, share the joys and sorrows life dishes out to us.
      She is still living in our hearts and will continue to do so.
      Bless you both.

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