A dummy’s handbook on Goodbyes

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1. In the ingenious Malayalam movie, Kilukam, there is a dialogue that Mohanlal delivers, which is way too delicious. 

“Aval paranju…goodbye ennu paranju. Valare aduthupoyavarkum bandhathinte aazham nokaade evidevechum eppozhum kaikondu ingane oru goshti kanichu yaatra chodikanula oru vaakaanalo, goodbye…”

Translation (the best I could do, but it is so pure in Malayalam):

“She told me goodbye. Even people close to us end a relationship, with a caricature of waving their hand. They don’t even gauge the depth of the equation”. 

I am pretty sure, even without giving the context or the plot of the film, something of what he said unlocked some memories. The beauty for me, lies in the selection of words. And then the construction of it. Layered by his emotions, and taken on by a great background music track. 

2. My teacher told us on the last day of school, “This is not the end. It is a bend”.

When she said that, at our formal graduation ceremony, it was almost as if she was talking to me personally. Perhaps. Because that is the only line that has stuck with me from that event. Everything else is a blur. I don’t remember what came before, or what came after. 

By that time, we had all signed our slam books, cried and gave emotional speeches, signed on our pale dark blue uniform, heard a million lectures on how to conquer the world, but when she said that, I could hear my name. 

“Rekha, this is not the end. It is a bend”.

That I don’t have to put a full stop. That I drive going forward, looking back. That it is in no way sugar-coating that the curve has a blind spot. But also that the confidence that the miles I have covered till then, will invariably take me onwards. That it is a stretch, an extension of what I was already doing. That I have to also be a bit cautious on what lurks around that corner. That so many more bends lie ahead. 

3. I do not know about everyone else. But in the households that I visit and the people who come into mine, we have a phrase that is tapered with a great sense of emotion. 

It is, “Poyittu varam”.

Translation: I will go now and come back. 

This has to be the most beautiful oath that anyone will ever take. It carries a promise. Not that they will actually come back, but for the intention that they will. It carries a hope. Not for a better time. Not for a better place. Just for time. And for a place.

This two-worded sentence takes “goodbye” to a place of reunion. They have substituted separation with the anticipation of another meeting. That there is a return. There is a sequel. There is a future. 

They are also, in very many ways, saying that there is a future where we are still friends. Where we still matter to each other. Where we still have a need for each other. We are saying you are in our lives, as you are now, even then. 

Goodbyes are too direct, and sharp like a knife. So before you use it, make sure you know how. “Poyittu varam” makes the knife a bit blunt, but it does the job of cutting the vegetables.

4. Airports and hospitals. Airports and hospitals. 

Take any movie. Take any book. Emotions can be cooked up in these places like milk spilling over the pot.  

It could probably be the last of the human habitats that are so pure in nature. When I leave from somewhere, the ride to the airport is like trying to settle down the boiling point. When the car/ bus comes to a stop, and the luggage is kept out, that’s when goodbye hits on our faces. What do we say? What do we do? When will we see each other? 

We have done this probably ten thousand times, but each time is different. The hugs and the kisses have a different texture. They have a different flavour. They are seeped in a heat and rush, unspoken words that tumble from the cheeks, eyes that try not to betray its true emotions, and hands that tightly wrap you around. There are also words that are spoken, so that they remain with us in the stead of the people we leave behind. Those words have as much pulp as any fruit. These words take the shape and form of the person, their touch, their smell, and their clothes. 

5. Goodbyes have a different taste in heartbreak. 

Here, it is not so much as saying goodbyes, as much as it is taking them. We can say “goodbye”. But can we be on the receiving end of it? The sting is greater on each end. 

Goodbye has a sour taste, for sure in this content. How can this one word be enough to compensate for the time you have spent together? However little, however big that time was. How can one word slowly turn the tap to a close? The waterfall that once was, slowly becomes a thin thread of water and then drip, drip, drip and eventually stop.

However, the courage, if done right, is on both sides. One, to say it out loud. Two, to take it with some semblance of dignity. 

6. Gratitude.

The best way to end something is to acknowledge it. When actors win awards, they always have a list of people they thank. The film they worked on is now in the past. With gratitude, it is easier to make peace with goodbyes. 


I am no expert myself at saying goodbyes. But this past year has been a series of endings. After graduation, I was determined to take a gap year and cross off my bucket list. I am nearly done with the list. Each time I cross it off, it is a bend to the next one. 

Carrie Bradshaw, in her epic Sex and The City series says, “It was official. A new season had begun. Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we wouldn’t fall in love or have babies or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it is comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you are very lucky, a plane ride away.”

Featured Image Credits: Sri Harsha Dantuluri

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