I found a letter in his book

Photo: Tazeen Junaid

Bhumika Saraswati

I found a letter in one of his books today. Signed by a girl and written in the year 2018 (December 29th). Maybe I shouldn’t have but I ended up delicately unfolding the ‘Wrapped with Love!’ three-page letter. I read it. I couldn’t make out if she was his friend or a lover. Or both. Or now no one.

It’s the Corona epidemic time. The Indian government has strictly asked people to self-isolate themselves (something known as ‘quarantine’ in a more exotic term). Basically, it’s next to impossible to go on the roads. Meet a friend. Or see any relatives. Today, I got his books. From his relative – Ranjan Kaka’s – home. These are homes and hearts I’ve got an unsolicited full access to (without any questioning). Access I didn’t ask for. An access I always longed for but one (specifically this one) that didn’t belong to me.

I asked for his books. They hand over to me. All of them. As if these were mine. As if there’s no one else who they’d rather give these to. (these books were a part of his belongings that couldn’t be shipped to Biratnagar, Nepal – a place where he originally belongs to, where his mother still waits for him, where he had promised to take me in less than 1,500 rupees if counted in Indian currency).

I get his books home. For, I feel it’s important that I read and watch the books and films that built him. Brick by brick. If I am to complete his yet-to-complete films, which I will, reading these books are the bare minimum of the first requirement.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a letter in there. It felt so real. So hard.

The book in which I had found it, is a fictional piece I know he wouldn’t read and I can say that with conviction. For, he was busy reading other stuff, always (mostly non-fiction). Reading, for instance, the autobiography of Ingmar Bergman (the Swedish filmmaker he looked up to). A book that is now possessed by me. Was signed by him, in this year, 2020. Dated 26th February. Precisely 13 days before he disappeared. (I don’t know how to put this into words. What are the right words? It’s dream-like: the reality. And the choice of words, hard. Very.)

Still, that fact that I was able to use the word disappeared/died/I-don’t-know-what-am-supposed-to-say/or I-don’t-believe-half-the-things-I-say-these-days is easier than dealing with the anxiety I felt when I was un-wrapping the letter. Honestly, I couldn’t fold it back. Properly. The wrapped with love.

The comfort that she had so comfortably written about, no longer exists.

Bhumika Saraswati is a journalist based in New Delhi and studies convergent journalism at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

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