I had to visit the airport recently to see someone off. I had arrived early and had some time to kill. It was during the wait that a casual observation of the people around me sparked a host of reflections and introspection on the eventuality of goodbyes and our complex human natures.
First there was the reticent son who had to leave for work. His mother, father and sister had come to see him off. The mother kept giving hugs at regular intervals, while the father just teared up a little bit and waited by the side. After the sister was given the friendly nudge and an awkward "take care", it was the turn of the father. The father gave a brief hug and both the son and the older man patted the others′ back so many times, I wondered who was reassuring the other.
Next was a young lady, in the company of her excited parents. The mother showered her with many kisses and the father hounded the passers-by to click their family photo at the gates, with the luggage trolley and the whole works. The daughter was clearly embarrassed to be the centre of attention for what she hoped would be a sombre farewell. The father had only started. With the weight of a looming goodbye bearing on their shoulders, he nudged them for a selfie. He had to. They put on their best smiles, which quickly disappeared in the apprehensive eyes that just couldn′t tear away from the glass doors, long after the daughter had disappeared into the travelling crowd.
An old couple that silently watched them all with me, abruptly got up from my side, acknowledged a goodbye with a brief nod and parted ways. The husband was taking a flight to meet his son in some other continent. The elderly woman just sighed and walked away into the distance without once looking back.
As I waited for my friend, I wondered about these goodbyes. Whether it is for durations short, long or forever, said or unsaid, on a note which is happy, so-so or sad, goodbyes are always overwhelming. I remembered some of my goodbyes, naturally and thought of all the people in my life.
There was that really close school friend to whom the goodbye was just the way of picking up the conversation next time from where we left now. Then I thought of other goodbyes, which were naturally followed by immediate hellos, because we never lose touch with some persons. Coming to think of it, the ‘goodbye-and-good riddance’ ones I have hardly experienced. Mostly, because they were unsaid but understood. The heaviest of them all had to be the unsaid goodbyes.
I spoke to my grandmother quite often in the last few months of her life, she was then battling cancer. Every phone call was a slow race towards bidding that one goodbye. Nobody wants to reach the finish line here. Then I thought of another school friend and then, my father, whose time for a goodbye never really arrived, but they moved on anyway.
Like the airport, I wish life too had an acceptable emotional baggage limit. And strictly only that much should be permissible on journeys. The goodbyes are overwhelming because we are weighed by the emotion of it. The baggage does not lug us so much as the burden of waiting with it until we meet next.
Well, my friend did arrive and the customary hugs and easy jokes smoothened the process of a hard goodbye. The security net of an all-pervasive communication technology never really renders people distant actually. Goodbye, funnily, is just the reduced word for "God be with you". Then, we are never really on our own. Are we?