From an unknown lover...
The packet came in time, like it always did. She opened it. The heart leapt up to her throat. Beads of sweat drenched her skin and made her neck softly moist. The inside was parched and thirsty. Afternoon wind blew into the layers of mildly grey hair and made whistling sounds in her ears. A cotton salwar stuck to sagging middle-aged breasts, hiding rapid anxious uneasy beats.
The letter in handmade paper came out smothered in Chelpark fountain ink. The round words written in a growingly shaky running hand. The margins defined neatly as if it were a portrait. The perfect words chosen with care and affection. The signature, long and relaxed, from someone who loved and ached, who longed and cried, who belonged and owned.
This time it was scarf. A silk and muslin mix with Lukhnowi weaving at the border, bright blue with mangoes printed in the centre like a traditional Indian mehandi design. She felt it for a long time. The smell was familiarly mystical. The touch was known, acquainted, close. She could feel her senses aroused in the same intimate way, her flesh rose up in goose-pimples and her deep within was jelly and spongy. All the monthly symptoms which surfaced after the packet positioned itself on her rosewood round coffee table, next to the huge Victorian English window, came back. The restless twitching of her long fingers, the brisk blinking of her hazel eyes, the numb emptiness inside her mind.
She placed the scarf fondly in the bottommost drawer of her study table. There was a host of things. She missed a beat. The plastic clip from a Hyderabad street, the artificial earrings from Delhi’s street market, the magenta nail paint of a local Jaipur brand, he had sent his love wrapped in gifts from everywhere. She smiled and ran her hands through the things. Then she secured the drawer and came back to the coffee table to unite with the letter.
Dear Deepa… the letter began. The simple words from a desolate, wretched loving husband seared her heart at an alarming speed and she experienced the same concoction of emotions which will now burn and fire her mind and soul for days. And then she will read the letter again like a hapless addict to get solace for some more days, by which time the next packet will arrive to rouse her, kindle her, soothe her.
She sat looking into blank space for infinite time and did not know when Ajay opened the door and entered the house. “Early morning presentation again, Geeta. Am taking the food up to my room and sleeping soon enough.” By the time she looked in the direction of the voice, he had already taken out the reheated boiled vegetables from the microwave, put it on a tray and started for the staircase. Geeta looked at him from behind, climbing up the stairs, tall, well built, attractive, even as old age was beginning to set in, then heard him get into ‘their’ bedroom and switch on the television. She picked up the pen and the airmail letter sheet.
Received your letter. Hope you doing good, recovered from the back pains you developed as indicated in your last letter. Work keeps me busy as usual. Yes, I have forgiven you for all your temper and ill behavior, but like I keep saying my commitments here might never allow me to return to India. London has adopted and owned me in a way. Don’t know if I can free myself from these fetters. But yes, I do want to see you once… once, before I close my eyes forever.…..
Geeta looked at the untrue, yet true, words she had penned so effortlessly. Then she sealed the envelope and put it in her bag, to be posted on her shopping trip tomorrow. There were no traces of remorse or guilt. Then she served a portion of boiled vegetables for herself and sat in front of the television next to the Victorian window, playing old Hindi film songs.
This is God’s way of wiping my tears, of making up for my feelingless, loveless mechanized life, else an unrecognized letter wouldn't land unfailingly at my doorsteps from an unknown lover every month for ten years. This was his way of giving me what I deserve for leaving my life behind in my country, my loved ones, my securities, my sensibilities, for a man who fails to see the sensitive woman in me, human being in me, who is fake and wooden, who has never stirred an inch in me despite spending days together, nights together, who could not comfort me when I felt breathlessly nostalgic, wistful, about my roots, and wanted somebody to hold me and say he/she loves me and is there for me.
In a suburban town of India, a graying, small man called Harish, walks to the letter box, knowing well its some days too early, and returns disappointed. This was also God’s way of making up for the tears of a forty-eight year old man, getting weak and drained, holding on to a dying job, alone, isolated, abandoned.