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Adieu Friends

The scene at Maitri today was of excitement and hectic activity. It almost bordered towards commotion though not in any negative sense. Since they are returning all the way by air to India, they were anxious about the weight of their luggage. They have collected a few things here: souvenirs in form of Antarctica stones, their own pyrographical work on wood, water from the lakes etc. They are discarding now things they had kept with them but find no use for them. I received a bag full of goodies: sweets, namkeen, chocolates, and a bottle of premium brand whiskey. Last night the Maitri lounge was alive till the wee hours of this morning. I had asked some of the departing members how many hours of sleep they had planned for the night. And they had very confidently and nonchalantly assured me of usual seven hours. They were walking like zombie with swollen eyes when I met them this morning at the breakfast. This morning some of them reminisced with me about their time in Antarctica. They shared some funny and a few not so funny tales of their time here. Now they do not care in divulging some sensitive information; they have nothing to lose. Their excitement was almost infectious. I too got into a kind of hyperarousal state. I had just finished reading print-out of the daily news in the lounge when someone asked me what were the headlines or main news. And I just could not recall anything coherently. Only some words stuck like cricket, weather, Thackeray, petrol prices etc. I could not elaborate on any news. There was extended 'bhajan sandhya' at the temple in the late afternoon. In any case, every Tuesday, there is one hour programme at the temple, but today it almost got extended to two hours with reciting of 'Sundar Kand' from Ramayan. It was early dinner this evening as the members were to leave for airport at 7:30 pm for their flight at 10:30 pm for Cape Town by IL-76. They would reach Mumbai on the night of 9th February after a two-night stopover at Cape Town. A large contingent has gone in snow vehicles and choppers to see them off. I was offered a ride in the chopper to go to the airbase, but I declined. I do not find such moments too comfortable for my liking. Right now a kind of emptiness is engulfing me. I have felt closer with the members of the 26th IAE and only with some of members of the 27th IAE who arrived with me here in November, 2007 itself by air. I have now spent nearly three months with them. Now I must also begin winding up here. I should start my preparations to board the ship any day for going towards Larsemann Hill. That excitement will ease the pain of this parting.


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