Letter

I said loudly, ‘Come fast, come fast!’ She was upstairs and was saying something. But everyone was saying something or the other, and I couldn’t understand anything that anyone was saying. I said again, ‘Please come, come quickly na.’

Here I was thinking of the sun but slowly and steadily it was dusk, and now I suddenly realized that it was evening.  But Dadi was not coming down. She was talking to Abba. I sat around quietly. And then I started drawing.

Dadi came down at some point and saw my drawing and said, ‘Allah, what a beautiful drawing!’ I didn’t say anything. She said, ‘My dear Shakeel, we would have gone out but I got engrossed speaking to Abba. We won’t go now.’ I said, ‘Dadi, I called out to you so many times. Go quickly and post my letter.’ ‘Abba has got lots of food today. So we’ll eat every day and we won’t have to go anywhere.’ I said, ‘Dadi, go quickly and post the letter.’ ‘Let me tell you a story. Once there was a girl and she was sleeping…’ ‘Dadi, why are you talking strangely? I need to send this letter … post it quickly.’

Dadi was suddenly quiet. I asked all the others if anyone could go out. Everyone said they couldn’t go now.

I went back to drawing and thought about the time when I’d gone to Delhi with Abbu and met a boy who was drawing. I’m writing a letter to the boy after a year. But I can’t send the letter. Now I draw everyday. And I think about sending my friend a letter.

I wrote one letter saying, ‘I saw the moon today. I watched the moon late into the night. Then it started raining. But it didn’t rain over the moon. I saw from the terrace that it was raining all over Srinagar. And the moon was really beautiful. I saw something like this for the first time.’

Then I wrote another letter that there’s a dog outside my room, but he can never be fully seen. Sometimes, he’s under the car, and then I can see his tail but not him. Sometimes he’s sleeping in the next room, and I can see his back but not him. Sometimes he roams around the trees, but I can’t see him fully. So I see him a bit. And he can see a bit of me too.

I wrote yet another letter: ‘I’m writing to you again. You’ll get this letter some day or the other. Six months back I saw Käthe Kollwitz’s drawings. She was from Germany. She made these amazing drawings. Drawings of people working, of people dancing, drawings of many, many mothers. Then I saw this drawing of a mother with a child in her arms. The child was dead. Käthe’s son had died and she had made this drawing then. I cried a lot. A lot, a lot. I remembered her and I cried.

I’m in Srinagar and the rest of the world is far away. When everything will be fine, I’ll feel really good. Then I’ll send you letters. Whether I’ll send you the first letter or the third, I don’t know.

It’s just that you are in the world and we are not there at all.’

—Padmaja Gungun
Translated from Hindi by Samprati Pani

Padmaja Gungun is a writer, photographer and theatre artist. She posts @_padmaja.

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