I’ve just finished writing a letter to my friend Elizabeth who stays far, far away in Scotland. We started as scrabble partners on Facebook and now we share a nice warm friendship . Thanks to her , I’ve resumed the habit of letter writing, not through e-mail, but right and proper with paper and pen.
I must’ve been in the Fifth standard when I started writing letters . My good friend Suchitra would go off to her grandmother’s place for the Summer holidays . That’s when I picked up the habit of letter writing. How enthusiastically one would jot out all the trivial little things that kept us engaged, how eagerly we would wait for the postman to come by after a couple of days for the reply to our missive. I’d like to think that the letters that we exchanged cemented our friendship in a way to help it last a lifetime. I feel so lucky to still have the warmth of that friendship in my life even after all these years.
I also remember the first love letter I received. Makes me smile now when I think of the innocence of the first stirrings of the heart. I was in the tenth standard., the final year in school. Those were the days before the Senior Secondary exams came to be held in the school itself. We had to continue in college , two years of pre-degree and then graduation. Well, this boy would be one among a small gang of lanky lads , who would walk past us every evening , while we waited for the bus to take us back home . I remember how my heart used to begin beating faster the moment I spied them walking towards us from a distance. We never talked to each other all that while. We just exchanged smiles . Must have gone on for eight or nine months .
Then we finished our Board exams. So would have ended that little love story. But on the last day, while returning home alone, he followed me across the maidan that we had to cross to get to the bus stop , still not saying anything till we were almost there. Then and only then did he manage to pick up enough courage to open his mouth. He asked me for my address and whether it was okay for him to write to me. Ah..the recklessness with which I complied 🙂
And so it happened that after a few days , I receive this envelope from the postman with my address written in an unfamiliar hand . How my heart thumped with anticipation. I knew it was from him. I managed to get to the toilet as unobtrusively as I could and tore open the envelope. The letter was long..literally long..for it was written on small strips of paper , diligently stuck to each other like a long streaming ribbon and then folded and refolded in such a way that it could fit into the envelope. I don’t remember anything of what was written in it, nor do I remember anything of what I wrote in my reply. I did receive a few more of those innocent declarations of love..yes that much I do remember ..it’s the exact words that slip away from memory.
The matter came to an abrupt end when my elder brother found one of those letters amongst my books. I had started going to college then and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be stopped from going to college if I didn’t stop this letter writing business. And so my romantic leanings was nipped in the bud. Not loyal enough , you may say. Oh well… you wouldn’t say that if you knew how hard I had to plead with my mother to let me go to college in the first place. I was old enough to be married off, she said……all the other young cousins of my age were already married and a couple of them had become mothers too. What was I waiting for and what further was to be gained by further studies? My father was okay with my education. He would’ve been glad to see become a doctor, which was my burning desire in those days, but my mother was scared that something just like this would distract me and bring “scandal” to our doorsteps.
I lost my heart again a year or two later to a cousin . That too ended when he went away. We exchanged a few letters too , but then I think he realised that it wasn’t going to work anyway and the eagerness with which I waited for the postman gradually got replaced with disappointment and eventual resignation. Remembrances of those first yearnings have stayed with me as tender memories of my youth metamorphosing into affection and a kind of innocent wistfulness. I haven’t ever met that boy in all these years. Wonder if I’ll recognize him if I do. And that charming young cousin with whom I shared my love for english pop songs and comics, said good bye to this world recently. I met him briefly after decades when he came to visit my mother in the hospital. He was so changed from the twenty year old youth that I had fallen in love with. But I realized that we still had a lot of affection for each other.
Strange, when I started out , I didn’t think that this would be a way of bidding good bye to him. I hope that it makes him smile, reading this .