Tonight is my last night at my homestay with Ankuri in Dehradun and, while sitting in a cafe on the way back from a farm, I have finally come to understand the full reality of that statement. I do not know why this coffee shop with the Route 66 American Diner and the Spanish dub of the Will Smith movie “Pursuit of Happyness” posters caused me to realize this. Perhaps it was the added boost of caffeine from my Americano that heightened my awareness. Nevertheless, I am currently sitting with all of these emotions that I chose to share in this post. It may not make sense, but it is how I have felt for the past two days.
Yesterday I said goodbye to two groups of students which I have come to know and respect greatly over the past two months: my class at Inter College and the local children who come to study at our Literacy Center at our Thikana campus. Both moments were filled with profound sadness on my part but also carried an air of mutual understanding and joyful remembrance. And, perhaps on purpose, both moments ended in song and celebration. At Inter College, my fellow teachers and I had been teaching two songs to two different classes — “Country Roads” by John Denver to one and “ABC” by the Jackson 5 to the other — and after two final performances of the numbers they came to love and know by heart, we promised they could teach us some songs in Hindi and Garhwali. The students immediately decided which songs to teach and wrote the words on the chalkboard. In a chorus of yelling and drumming, we worked our way through three songs. Then we said goodbye.
At Literacy Center, after a lesson on rhyming, we played a game where they had to match rhyming words, read a story, and then wrote a song based on the story we just read. We made up a melody and I played a simple chord progression to go along with it. With thirty minutes left, we put on some Bollywood songs with my speaker and I let the kids stum our guitar while I played the chords next to them. The moment the different chords hit their ears, grins and chuckles were in abundance. We did dance routines that the students knew by heart. I followed along as best I could. I think they appreciated the effort. Eventually, we all gathered around to take pictures outside the Center. Again, the waterworks almost came flooding in from yours truly. I was able to hold em back. The students gave me a card. I’ve attached photos of it to this blog. It hurts me to read every time. Then we said goodbye.
These moments of farewell from both groups of students were incredibly bittersweet. However, not everyone gets one moment to say goodbye. There isn’t always “One Last Day” filled with music and joy and closure. There almost wasn’t one for Inter College due to Independence Day preparations and celebrations, heavy rainfall, and the passing of a former Indian Prime Minister canceling school. Luckily, the rain held off for the last possible day for us to teach. What I’m saying is, in situations like this where the possibility of never meeting again is very real, we should be thankful for even the opportunity to say goodbye. Saying goodbye is a luxury, not an expectation. Treat that moment with the utmost respect and gratitude because for some, it isn’t available.
If I have learned anything from these last few days, it’s this — the sun will always set but the brilliance of the rays still lingers among the clouds. Everyone has to say goodbye at some point. But being grateful for the opportunity to hug it out and part ways at one moment is a part of the healing process.