If you hate saying “bye” then the Malayalam phrase “poitta varra” is the one for you. Loosely translated it means “I am going and will come back.” The person staying behind would reply, “poittu varru” which means “You go and come back.”
This past week I had to use this phrase from my childhood to say farewell to my son as he went off to college. I think this is a lovely way to say bye to anyone but especially your college-bound teenager. Without realizing it our family has already been using a variation of this phrase with our beloved family pet, Duke, the coonhound. Anytime one of us leaves we always reassure him with the words, “we’ll be back Duke.” And in the strange way that dogs come to understand us, Duke will sigh and go back to his busy day (napping).
But with both “his boys” gone Duke is not buying into the phrase “coming back” anymore. He mopes, he sighs and pouts. He spends most of his days sprawled on the bedroom floors of one of the boys and we don’t have the heart to reprimand him and tell him to get off the carpet.
Duke is an optimist and has remained hopeful, getting up and standing eagerly by the door when he hears a car driving by with its stereo blaring. Then the minutes pass and no one enters the house and his entire body slowly sags. A hound (especially Duke) can look sadder than anyone in the world. But as the hours pass and night falls, his already wrinkly face gets droopier and his deep brown eyes have a melancholy look. His tail stops wagging and reluctantly folds down. He goes back to his lonely vigil on a bedroom floor.
I am happy and excited for my sons as they start the next phase of their young lives and so I cannot fully share in Duke’s misery. That is because, unlike Duke, I know they will be back for a visit. “Pottu Varru, my boys.”