Made by Survivors | How do I say goodbye?


How do I say goodbye?

01 Jul 2010, by elance programmer in Uncategorized

In two weeks from today, I’ll be leaving India for good. Well, at least for two years. Over the last few months the women at Destiny and at the shelter homes have made some forelorn comments, "Becky di, you’re leaving and then you’ll forget us." But I keep ignoring it and responding that I don’t want to hear anything about me leaving until the day I actually leave. This past week has been especially hard though, because I’m going on a jewelry trip to Delhi and Jaipur tomorrow and needed to say goodbye just for a week. My mind kept racing with things I needed to tell everyone – remind Puja to stitch bigger handles on the wine bottle bags, tell Rupa to cut the duffel bag sample with only one layer of foam, ask Neel to drop off the rent check…

On Saturday, I had been rushing around getting fabric and finally got to the office for a meeting. The women noticed I was looking tired, so we spent the afternoon watching a horror film (in Hindi) and eating rotis. I feigned fear in order to curl up close to Bhornali on the floor mattress. She’s been with us since the opening day of Destiny, July 21, 2008. I’ve seen her grow into a confident young woman and a skilled tailor, and she’s seen me struggle to make this production unit work. She even lived with me for a while when she first left the shelter home. What will it be like to wake up every day and know that I won’t get to see her. That I won’t know her latest love story. That I won’t know when she has a fever and needs medicine. Who will make her favorite dish (rajma) on her birthday?

Then there’s Nayna, the woman from Nepal who would still be in the brothels if we hadn’t hired her. She doesn’t know Bengali, and has been trying to help me learn Hindi. She patiently waits as I try saying "I’m coming in five minutes" and it comes out "5 minutes next time I had been coming." Who will laugh at me when I make such mistakes? She’s our store keeper and helps me write down all the local sales. I give her a high five every time she does the math right. Will she remember that when I’m gone?

Today I went to the jewelry training unit after Destiny, to collect samples for my trip. Each one of those 12 girls is incredible, spirited young survivors who’ve been robbed of everything but give everything they can. There’s one in particular that I am still trying to figure out how I can say goodbye to. She’s the tiniest of them all, with the loudest, most booming voice that just bellows across the room. Every time I leave, she tells me the day and time I’m expected to come next. If I answer, "No no I can’t that day," I get a stern look and she repeats herself in her loud voice until I agree. Today I told them I was going on a trip, and wouldn’t be back until next Friday. Her eyes sank, and when she looked up she said "Tomorrow’s Friday. You come tomorrow." I just gave her a hug and said "I’ll try." How will I tell her I’m leaving and won’t be coming back next week, or the week after, or the month after. Will she even look at me? 

I knew that this day would come. And I know that the women have grown, that they’re much more independent now and there lives will carry on without me. But I want to be there for them, I want to see the next bag they make, I want to be there when they get married or move out of the shelter home. Emails and phone calls just don’t seem like a good enough substitute at the moment. And I really, truly, just don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye. 

  • Lauren Garrity

    Hi Becky,

    I wanted to leave you a comment on this, because in some ways I know what you’re feeling- my last week at work was both uplifting and heartbreaking, and I understand completely how it feels to leave survivors you’ve had such a close bond with for so long. I’m sure the women you work with will leave you with their own messages, but as for what I can tell you, I have no doubt that they are all better off for having worked with you. Even if you feel like you have some things left unfinished (I had about a million), or are worried about how people will get along with you gone, it’s important to realize that they will all be fine. And that’s not to say you are unimportant- rather, that the work you’ve been doing has given them the tools they need to move forward and to continue on with their lives, and though sometimes it feels like everything will fall apart if you’re not there, I promise you it won’t! And the women will understand- I was both surprised and pleased that most of my clients’ reactions weren’t anger or disappointment, but that they were genuinely happy for me and felt that I deserved the chance to “mejorarse”- to better oneself. Of course they were sad as well, but almost to a person they showed remarkable maturity and resilience in dealing with it. I think I did almost as well myself 😉

    Feel free to give me a call when you get back to the US, if you find yourself having trouble..I’m up in Boston now, but most of my friends are still in NYC so I’m down there often enough!