It was a beautiful spring morning. Aditi was determined to clear the clutter in her study, despite the temptations from her garden that was now in full bloom. Like most other women she knew, she had an urge to declutter every time she had to clear her mind off the needless muddle.
She was also tempted to tend to the shrubs in the garden. The place reserved in her garden for the Matura tea tree has never been blessed. The bush always took life and just when there was a promise of a bloom, something killed the plant. She forgot the number of times she had to uproot the shrub. It killed her every time she did it. The place was large and the conditions favorable, but the plant probably was long dead internally, like her.
This time she had planted it in a small patch of soil right outside of her bedroom. ‘The place is too small, and there is no hope for nutrition there. That patch is polluted with concrete dust’, her father had warned. Nevertheless, her precious Avarampoo shrub gave the promise of blossom, and she felt it had found its home. However, she had not seen it in the last week that she was away. When she had enquired her mother about the plant during one of their phone conversations, all she received was a blatant reply.
She put the garden out of her mind and entered her study. She started with the first rack of her bookshelf. Behind the books on the top shelf lay a beige paper box decorated with shells. She knew what lay inside and was tempted to open it. ‘Later,’ she thought; but soon gave in. She took the box with her and settled on the floor cushion, careful not to disturb the Ikkat patterns on its cover.
She hurriedly let her hands search through the neat stack of letters inside the box. She found the one she was looking for. It was a simple light yellow envelope, now stained and battered from the decades of preservation. She opened it to read the letter for the umpteenth time.
The letter read:
Date: April 2003.
My most beloved Child,
I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and good spirits. It is increasingly difficult to believe you will be graduating college next year. I do not know though if I would live to see that. My hand shivers constantly and I am writing this letter with the utmost difficulty.
If there is no further correspondence from my end, know that Nana loves you with all his heart and soul. You gave me a reason to live when I was approaching my twilight years. Yes, there were other grand-children before you, but you were you. You were the only one who sat through when I opened to read a book to you all. You were the only one who was never bored of Mahabharata. You were constantly amazed by the tale.
I do not know what life has in store for you. I see in you a luminous spark. I wish you find contentment in living, and strength and determination to cross the hurdles that obstruct your path. Always remember my child, no matter what comes in life hold on to your dignity and self-esteem. You have to know that conceit is not a harmful term. If you face a situation when you have to put your self-respect above everything else, never have second thoughts.
May you find everything your heart wishes for, dear one. You are in my prayers today and forever.
Love and Prayers, Nanna.
This was the only letter that Aditi had not replied to. But she read it every time she had to be sure of herself. She pulled the letter pad from her desk and began to scribble the reply that was long due.
A decade and a half is a very long time to reply to a letter. I write because it is summer and I miss you the most this time of the year. I miss balancing on your shoulder while trying to pick mangoes in our backyard. I miss falling asleep on your shoulders, and I miss our dinner table conversations.
I also write because nobody is ready to listen. There is not a single human who is willing to see me as I am. They either sympathize or dismiss me as impulsive and bullheaded.
All along, I knew marriage was not my cup of tea. I was a fiercely self-reliant soul, and I did not see myself living in harmony with a stranger that I had never met until a year before we were destined to live our lives together. Yet, I obliged.
I thought I could sail through the storms that were aplenty. As I tackled one high-tide, the other one emerged, stronger and fiercer. Yet, I swam with the tide.
It was idiotic of my family to believe that a lovebird could come out of a vulture’s stick nest or crevice. My life might have been destined with an Agapornis; nevertheless, the loving bird was groomed by a deadly vulture. How can a lovebird be any different when it is nursed by a vulture? I lived in a dark, unkempt cave of those birds that feasted on the living and sometimes took me for a prey. Yet I made room while offering myself.
The birth of the twins brought-in all the light I needed within the dark cave. Least did I know, my light would kindle the worst kinds of resent in the Dowager (A demon of a woman). Through most of my postpartum days, I went to bed while the acids in my stomach consumed me. Yet, I rolled with it.
I stood up to defend myself on several occasions, only to be accursed and tagged as hot-blooded and hasty. Yet, I put myself out.
True, my ex-spouse was not an alcoholic, nor a smoker. I was never assaulted physically, ever. But the wounds my mind endured are deep and intolerable. I am still healing, and I have a long way to go. Yet, I tolerated.
My palatial mansion was rather a den that longed for some light. My luxury car only wanted a companion and nothing else. My glittery jewellery longed for some honest smiles. The more I enthralled in opulence, the more lonesome I became. Yet, I fit-in.
As the girls grew, I knew I did not want them to become desolate beings. I wanted them to be the woman that Nanni was- confident, independent, strong-willed, resilient and joyful. I knew that a den is the last place to look for joy and optimism.
Together we walked out, one beautiful morning tackling the attacks from the beast. Yes, we have scars for life. But, they are the lessons we will carry onto eternity.
As you would say ‘Conceit is the quicksand of success.’ I do not know in the future, but it helped me overcome an enormous demon.
Yours (no more in distress), Aditi.
As she opened the window of the study, the bright, glowing buds of the Matura tea tree spread their radiance as the grey clouds converged.