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!