Friday, March 4, 2011

The farewell

It was his D Day. The day when he was to retire from his company. Precisely 25 years ago he had joined as a wide eyed young boy, to become a salesman. Coincidentally, on his first day in office, there was a farewell for a retiring colleague that day. There was a huge crowd. Speaker after speaker came up and extolled the virtues of the retiring man. A huge gift was presented. Many photos were taken. A few tears were shed too. The young man looked on in awe. His boss to be, nudged him and said, "Remember this young man; when its your time to retire from the company you should have done well enough to deserve a function like this ".

The young man started in all earnest the next day. He worked hard and learnt fast.Some days were good; others bad. He traveled many a kilometer, slept in many a strange bed, sold a million cases. The years flew by. After a decade or so he was promoted as a supervisor. He was proud as a parrot that he got promoted. He worked even harder. Nurtured dozens of young men who started out, just like he had , years ago. More years flew by. And suddenly, one fine day, he realised he had turned fifty. And had just completed 25 years in the company.

On that birthday, his wife nagged him to take a day's leave. So at home he stayed. That's why when the postman came, he was there to receive the letter in person. The letter from the company that said that , being fifty, he was being offered Voluntary Retirement. Could he please accept it and come to the office on the 31st of that month so that they could give him a farewell.

What choice did he have ? Its was a young man's world. There wasn't a place for the over 50s. He had to accept. Came that fateful day. He wended his way to the office. He remembered his first day when he had witnessed that grand farewell, all those years ago. Now, it was his turn. With a wistful sigh he went in.

Of course, nobody recognised him. Whoever recognises a sales guy from the field ? The pretty young thing at the reception made a face at this rather unsophisticated fellow who had come. When he said that he had come for his farewell, he was ushered into a room. And told to wait. The Branch Manager was busy on a call and would be late.

He waited and waited and waited. All alone. At long last, somebody came to fetch him. There were 15 people in the hall. He didn't recognise a soul. Most of the office had gone home - who was after all interested in the farewell for an old foggy, whom they had never even seen before. The Branch Manager came rushing in - he was a yuppy. MBA from somewhere. He loudly proclaimed, "Lets get this thing started. We need to finish fast as I have to get into another meeting ".

The Manager made a speech. Some 3 minutes or so. Of how the company was built by people such as the one to retire. He hadn't remembered his name. So he said - "this man". They had forgotten to get him his farewell gift. The HR type whispered in his ear - could he come after a week to collect it please. They had been very busy these days. Then came the dreaded moment. When he was invited to "say a few words".

You see , he had prepared his retirement speech very carefully. He had written and rewritten it some 10 times. Of how this was a great company. Of how he owed his entire life to the organisation. He wanted to talk about the good old days. He wanted to say why its values and caring were the reason he had stuck on for so long. He wanted to narrate the incident on his own first day. He wanted to tell the young people, how they could carry on his legacy and make the company even greater. He had even written a quote from the Gita to round off his speech.

When his moment came, however, he looked rather sadly around the room. The crowd had whittled down to 9 - a few had left to catch the bus. One was talking on the mobile; another was texting away. He folded his speech and put it back into his pocket. Instead he just thanked everybody for coming, of how much it meant to him and wished them all well. They came around to shake his hand and patted his back. Somebody thrust a cup of coffee in his hand. And in a few minutes everybody had left. He was alone in the room again.

He slowly made his way to the exit. All alone. A stoop had come to his shoulders. His thoughts were far away. His step was a tad slower, minus his customary spring. He paused for a moment at the door. A single tear dropped down on to the floor.