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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

May I take leave?

We think we have a corner on prolonged-leave-taking, with what we call "a Minnesota Farewell", but some of the departures I've experienced in India take it to a new level.  Our Christian friends there often send us off with a blessing, reading the scripture starting with "Unto the hills I life up mine eyes, from whence cometh my help...," (Psalm 121), before a prayer for traveling mercies..

Hosts insist we stay,when we say we are about to leave.  More food, chai (!), more conversation, more time, maybe even more people, if any have not come home yet, are proffered.  People delight in giving (presenting is the preferable word, here) gifts, either to the host (at the beginning) or to the guest, in which case it may not be proffered until a move to depart has been made.  Then, of course, one must stand (or sit) and talk some more, to be polite.

Another reason departure may be delayed, even though we are done-done and heading out the door, is an unexpected delay for virtually any reason.  Though I've never asked, (should I?  would you?) there seems to be a taboo related to interrupting a departure, exceptions being things  mentioned in the last paragraph.  But, having forgotten something, having to go back into the house for any reason,  and we find ourselves talking and waiting some more time...I don't know, maybe it's just taking the precaution of stopping to think whether we have everything and are really ready to go?  It might not make the situation appear very different from the "Minnesota Farewell," but, for some reason, this particular 'phase' of farewelling is more pronounced, here in India.

Until we beg off with a traditional, "May I take leave now?" which is used in both casual and polite conversations.  I personally think it's a polite version of "Okay, enough now, I really have to go."       The polite host will wind up the conversation and move with the visitor to the door, enquiring (if they haven't done so before),what means we have for a ride home: bicycle, auto rickshaw, taxi, car.  If they have the time and means, they may insist on seeing us home, or if we are  taking an auto rickshaw or taxi, on calling the vehicle themselves.

It is still traditional for hosts to accompany us to the railway station, even purchasing a 'platform ticket,' and waiting with us until ( or to ensure that) the train arrives, and seeing us and our luggage settled into our assigned compartment.  Although passengers' names, ages and seat assignments are posted on the side of the train car, there are might be last minute riders or those hopeful of an upgrade, sitting in our seats or occupying our berths.  The conductor, of course, has the list and the last word.

In any case, the traditional Telugu word for good bye is "vellirandi, or vellandi," a compound word meaning, literally, "go and come back"  (akin to the Minnesota 'come again'). It is distinct from "po," another word for "go" which could be understood as dismissive, insulting, or 'talking down,' depending on the situation. To :"vellirandi," the response is, "Vell'asthanu,"  "I'll return," accompanied by that typical waggle of the head that indicates agreement.

Or, to say it even more politely, graciously, with the aformentioned ending that indicates respect and politeness: 'andi,' which can handily be added to any sentence.  Until we finally just have to go.

May I take leave now?

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