Saying goodbye

Delma shivered. She woke up in the coves near Aquatic School. The lake had frozen over in the winter but now as the weather was becoming milder, the thin, silver layer of ice covering the water was gradually melting.

It was a Sunday and Delma hated holidays. It was the one day she felt alone as she had no family.

“I wish evening would come fast so I could meet Dazel and Din Din,” she mused as she finished her breakfast. She swam around the coves as part of her morning exercise, when suddenly she spotted some movement in the Aquatic School coves.

“I wonder who it is.” Delma wondered and decided to investigate.

Lithely, she cut through the chilly water and popped her head into the coves.

“Oh! Olly Sir,” she said. “What are you doing here on a Sunday?” she asked.

“Hello, Delma,” Olly the octopus said smiling slightly. “I just had some unfinished work, so I thought I’d get it done.”

“Anything I can help with?” Delma asked eagerly. Olly was the Aquatic School principal and Delma’s favourite teacher and guide.

Olly looked at Delma thoughtfully. “Why not! I am actually packing my stuff from my office.”

“Why?” Delma questioned in puzzlement.

“I am retiring, my dear,” said Olly. He smiled when he said those words but it was a poignant smile.

Delma was speechless. When she could finally find her tongue she said, “What do you mean?”

“It means I’m old and I get tired easily and it’s time for me to step down as principal,” Olly explained.

“But… but… that’s absurd,” spluttered Delma. “You have always been principal; you have always been a teacher at Aquatic School. You can’t retire. Wiz Rooster is old too, so is Old Rex… they haven’t retired.”

“That’s true but I feel that someone younger should now step into my shoes; he will be able to do a better job,” Olly said. “Remember, a few years ago when I was unwell, Asin the alligator was Principal for a term and he did a wonderful job.”

Delma did recall. Asin was stern and very different from Olly. The students feared his strict ways. With Olly they always felt comfortable.

“When will you retire?” Delma pressed.

“Next week — when the new month begins. I’d rather not discuss this any further,” said Olly. “Will you help me pack up a few things to take home?” Subdued and upset, Delma helped Olly carry a few prized possessions to his home which was situated in the colourful lake reefs.

His wife welcomed him, “Come dear, lunch is ready. Delma, please do join us. I have made fresh seaweed pie,” Mrs. Olly said kindly.

Delma ate while she heard the old couple talk. She still couldn’t believe that in a week’s time Olly wouldn’t be in school.

While helping Mrs. Olly clear up after dinner, she asked in a whisper, “What is this about Olly retiring?” She looked around to make sure Olly was out of earshot.

Mrs. Oily nodded solemnly. “Yes, and I do think it’s the right decision. He can’t manage the pressure and workload any more. As a matter of fact, I have pressured him to do so as his health is suffering. Don’t worry Delma; he has great plans. He will write a few more books and his passion is traveling —something he has been unable to do in the past.” She finished with a smile.

Delma bid farewell to the couple and set off towards the lakeside where she met Dazel and Din Din every evening. When she shared this news with her friends, they too were flabbergasted. “What?” gasped Dazel.

“Unbelievable!” exclaimed Din Din “But I do understand why,” said Delma. “I have seen him work late into the night. He falls ill frequently and tires easily too.”

“Then we must give him a farewell,” said Din Din.

“Let’s plan a grand goodbye for him… not just the students of the Aquatic School but all the three schools in D’Land.” Delma’s eyes lit up, “Yes! That ‘is’ a grand idea.”

The next day, Delma spoke to a few teachers at Aquatic School including her young Science teacher, Luke, the lake trout.

“Yes, it is sad news that he is leaving,” Luke agreed, “Your idea of a huge farewell is fitting.”

Soon the news of the farewell spread like wildfire in all the three schools. It was a challenge to keep it a secret from Olly himself. Many creatures looked at the farewell as a reason to celebrate together while others genuinely wished to pay a tribute to Olly for his contribution to education in D’Land.

The day was decided to be the following Saturday and the venue was the Aquatic School. Delma was entrusted the task to fetch Olly from his home.

“Sir,” Delma said as she asked for permission to enter the octopus’s home in the reefs on Saturday morning. “I wanted to ask you to accompany me to the Aquatic School. There is a guest there to meet. I don’t recognize him — he’s a stranger.” When Oily reached the school premises, he was shocked to see a sea of creatures.

“Why are all of them gathered here? Is everything okay?” he asked Delma in puzzlement.

“Surprise!” a shout went up.

“For he’s a jolly good fellow!” chimed in a group of teachers singing in unison. “It’s a farewell for you, Sir.” Delma explained to the flustered Olly. A feast was laid out on a huge rock table. Flower petals were showered on Olly as he blushed with pleasure.

Soon the humbled octopus was led up to a high rock by Asin the new Aquatic School principal and asked to make a speech.

“What can I say… I am overwhelmed by the love of all the creatures of D’Land,” the octopus began. “It has been a journey of teaching for fifty years. That’s a very long time. I must say I will miss it. Thank you all for being part of my journey. “

Applause followed his heart-felt words. Speeches were made by Old Rex, head of the dinosaurs as well as Wiz Rooster who was Olly’s close friend and principal of the Aviary School for Birds.

“We have all written essays and poems for you,” shared Delma as she presented a bundle of banana paper sheets, stone and wooden tablets to him.

“I will prize this more than anything,” Oily said as he accepted the token with his arms graciously.

As the celebration came to an end and all the creatures came up to the octopus to bid him farewell, Olly looked strangely content. When they were alone, Olly told Delma, “Opting for retirement was a hard decision, Delma. However, today when I saw all these creatures and all this respect I realized that I have tried my best and touched many lives. I am content.”

Delma smiled, “That’s all we wanted. To make you realize how special you are and how much you will be missed.”

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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