Dear Abu ji,
I don’t remember the format of writing an informal letter, because I left school long ago. Almost since you left to buy the ‘red and silver’ bangles for me on Eid four years ago. Ami says we do not have enough money to study at an English Medium school, so I had to join a local school. But a year ago, I had to leave it too, because Daadi wants us to survive, rather than ‘wasting money’ on buying books. We cannot meet our expenses, Ami and Daadi say. I wonder, why do they talk like that? I still remember the sheep we had to slaughter, that Eid, and I had forced you to buy me ‘red and silver’ bangles first. I had told you to not return until you get those bangles. Maybe you haven’t bought them yet! Are ‘red and silver’ bangles that rare, Abu ji? Why didn’t you get them till now? We haven’t slaughtered that sheep yet, and a few weirdly dressed people had taken it away from our home. And that Eid, a lot of relatives had come over to our home, they were upset, crying a lot. An old man said, “It is a funeral!”
What is a funeral, Abu ji? Is it a celebration? We haven’t had any funerals since you left. I don’t know why, but besides guests, Ami was sad too. And I had assured them, when my Abu ji comes back, he’ll help you all out, because I know my Abu ji is the best, and since you earned a lot of money too, you would help them with money (if they were upset because of lack of money). And Ami said, “I wish he comes back”, maybe she misses you a lot. Then, we had to move from city, to a very small village. It smells bad here, we have a very small house, broken windows, torn curtains, rusted utensils. We do not have a backyard in our house now. I know you too won’t like it, when you’ll come back. We seem like poor people. Why do we seem like that now, Abu ji? We do not grow roses or tulips anymore. I had to tell you a secret, but don’t tell Ami this when you come back. Ami has turned witch-like. She looks ugly. She doesn’t wear makeup now. And, she wears torn and smelly dupattas. She wears the same clothes everyday. And, forces me to do the same. Ami says, “Widows and orphans don’t wear color.” Abu ji, what is widows and orphans?
I ask Ami about these things a lot but she answers none of these questions. I already told you na, she’s acting like a witch. She sometimes cries and screams at me, asking, “Why did you force Abu ji to go, buy you bangles!” I think maybe she is jealous, I didn’t tell you to buy bangles for her. Maybe she wants you to return empty handed without buying my bangles. I think, she doesn’t like me anymore.
And Daadi calls me a curse. Abu ji, what is a curse? And Daadi sometimes says, that “Your Abu ji will never get those bangles for you!” Why? Why does she say that? How far have you travelled to buy me those bangles? I had to tell you, Ami doesn’t buy me toys too. Then I beat the plants with the stick, when I get angry, I do not have any teddy bears to punch at! And I see Ami sometimes eating the old food that I waste. Why does she do that? Now the relatives don’t visit us as well, but I wonder why.
Abu ji, I wait on this dirty, colourless window every day, so that you come back with bangles for me. You must have grown a bit taller and slim too, with a long whitened beard. Then I must tease you, “My old Abu ji.” Then you would take us back to the city, in a big brightly-painted house, where we would grow beautifully colorful flowers in the backyard. And we would have a beautiful garden and we would play hide and seek there. I would go back to the school and I would learn to write a lot of letters. You would buy me a pink bag and new clothes. We would celebrate an Eid. Ami and Daadi would wear new clothes. Ami would turn to a fairy again. It will be like before, Abu ji, isn’t it?
This is the 64th letter I’ve written with the same words, with the same ink pen, that was once yours. The pencil of mine, its graphite lead breaks, and Ami doesn’t buy me a new sharpener, or a pencil now. We cannot buy another ink bottle, either. So I put a few drops of ink, and a few drops of water, so that the ink bottle doesn’t empty sooner. Then I let the ink on this paper dry. And I fold it, and put it into the Brooke, which lies 14 minutes away from this dirty house.I always hope that the letter floats and flows to the far land where you have travelled to, and when you open the letter, the color won’t be dark blue, but a faded light one, but I know you’ll read it easily. But, Abu ji, the waves never take the letter away, the next I find the letter on the edges, the ink gone, with the water, and the paper wet, and empty. I take this paper home again, dry it again, write again. Ami says, “Many of our fathers have gone far like this, so no need to write those letters!” Don’t their daughters write them letters? Or if they write, do their letters reach the other side of the Brooke to a river, to seas, and reach to their fathers. I don’t see any other wet empty pages by the Brooke. If their letters reach their fathers, Abu ji, why not mine? But I still hope, someday the shores will take not only my ink, but my paper with the printed words too. And when you read this, do come back soon, even if you don’t get the rare red and silver bangles.
Your loving daughter!
Summiaya Nilofer Kichloo (The Awam News)