Taking a farewell had always been child’s play. Accustomed as one was to transfers at the drop of a hat, one had got fairly used to the drill: solemn faces- marigold garlands (even if it did, on occasion, feel like a departure to the netherworld)-speeches-tea-modest gift, in that order. One usually made a crisp speech, consumed the biscuits (casting only a wistful look at the gulab jamun), and left with a cheery wave, the entire exercise spanning not more than thirty minutes. The senders-off, probably then relaxed with a relieved sigh and settled down to leisurely enjoyment of the snacks, interspersed with sage comments about the next incumbent being a jolly good type.
But the last farewell, after spending five years in Transport Bhavan, was a different cup of tea altogether. Initially, one had entered the bustling building with trepidation, imagining that the GOI deputation would be a tough grind. Reality belied expectations; it was rigorous incarceration, no less. After getting everything wrong initially, one cleverly resorted to asking complicated questions on each file. Needless to add, one’s unintelligible scrawl made the confusion worse confounded. But the team was unfazed and their never say die spirit ultimately prevailed, transforming what had seemed a hard labour camp, into a closely knit organization where interpersonal relations made all the difference. Net result—in five years, the battle/transfer hardened veteran, always ready with a packed suitcase, had softened into a sentimental soul.
Before you knew it, the time had come to leave. D-day dawned and the morning gently, albeit reluctantly, yielded to 5pm—in effect, farewell hour. The conference hall where one had attended innumerable meetings, even nodding off on occasion, was now the farewell venue. The hall was full but smiles were few. One tried to summon up the business like air which had hitherto been at one’s command but it turned out to be a surprisingly difficult task. The fault was entirely of one’s colleagues, soon to become erstwhile. They spoke so feelingly, it touched a chord in a heart that should have been its usual practical, unemotional self.
Put fair and square, one’s defences were singularly down. Prior planning of the farewell speech had not been done, on the lofty assumption that for a garrulous type like yours truly, this would be a cakewalk. Having delivered addresses and presentations galore, one was smugly sure of sailing through with a glib ‘We meet to create memories and part to preserve them.’ But alas! The throat closed up and the words struggled to come out. Everyone looked up expectantly, but instead of gregarious me, they found a red-faced tongue-tied individual. Mumbled thanks for the co-operation rendered and the speech was over even before it had begun. All the philosophical quotes expounding on one’s world vision were forgotten and one literally fumbled for words.
But all that is in the past. The old order changeth, so one became part of a new order and the months went by. Now the time has come for the referee to say game’s over—off the field! What is certain though is that one has lived unseen and unknown here and will definitely be unlamented after departure. For sure, this time round, both parties will have a song on the lips and nary a tear in the eye….