So many goodbyes.
Goodbye, Sishu Bavan, and my circle table of children who had the capacity to listen well but often did not demonstrate that ability. :) Goodbye to your "Good morning, Aunty!" greetings. Goodbye to tying the sashes of your uniforms when they came undone. Goodbye to singing "Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes." Goodbye to break time with Gugga from Iceland and Janelle from Canada, all of us perched on plastic stools around a table, a tin full of good biscuits and a metal teapot of hot cha in the middle.
Goodbye, Sari Bari, and the lovely ladies who are building lives of new hope. Goodbye to colorful stacks of blankets. Goodbye to squatting on the floor next to my friends, watching their steady stitches and hearing their loud chatter. Goodbye to G and U, my Bengali pals who help run Sari Bari and who are always managing to crack us up with a new phrase of English they've acquired. "Mind-blowing," indeed.
Goodbye, red-light, and the alleys of darkness, lit not with bulbs but with the faces of women whose smiles never dim. Goodbye to the questions of "When are you getting married?" and "When are you coming back?" Goodbye to sitting on thin mattresses with one clay cup of cha. Goodbye to holding babies and admiring bangles and saris. "Oh, didi, tumi khub shundor dekhte." Oh sister, you are looking so nice.
Goodbye, Kovita, my big sister. Goodbye to your spot on the sidewalk where I sat with you and laughed, where I thought, "This is the Kingdom coming." Goodbye to looking at your leg and noting the healing progress, slowly, slowly. Goodbye to your beautiful heart, a heart I know will find full redemption. Like the mending of your leg, sister, slowly, slowly, it will come.
Here I have bartered in your streets, trading my despair for hope, my hatred for love, my apathy for compassion. May I hold tight to these new parcels in the leaving, and in the life beyond.