Aashi, I say gathering my purse and other paraphernalia, and unbuckling the seat belt clamber out of the car. I wave, mouth aashi, once more at the departing vehicle, thankful of the ride on this snowy, winter afternoon. I am meeting a friend for lunch at the mall.
In the Bengali tradition we are taught, from an early age, never to say goodbye. We say instead, aashi. Although technically, aashi means coming. So then, why say coming when we are actually about to leave?
Is it because we hope to meet again, and have trained our minds to think it.
But then what about saying goodbye to a stranger? Someone I met, chatted with, will never see again.
In that case, I will say bhalo thakben/ keep well, as I take my leave.
Here’s another interesting aspect about Bengali culture.
The word aashi is also used when answering a call. That is, when someone calls me, I respond by saying aashi, wherever I am at that moment, and appear before the person.
We are taught never to respond to a call by saying kee/what? Instead, aashi is the norm. In this context, aashi has a sense of urgency, a willingness to pause and pay attention to another.
In this photo, on a visit to my place of birth in October 2018, I am taking leave silently – whispering aashi to ancient trees lining the road. How was I to know that would be my last visit to India? The pandemic swooped down, and I haven’t had a chance to return.
Hope you liked this tiny peek into the Bengali culture and traditions. Do share yours.
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