Friday, 6 May 2016

To You, Ma

(Backstory: There were a few requests to write letters on mother’s day  so I gave it an honest attempt. The problem became glaringly obvious when my mum and her anecdotes sneakily snuck into each one. So I gave up and decided to write one for her instead. Also, it is colossally hard to even attempt to describe how much you can love your mother without making a royal mess or a Hallmark card of it; here’s hoping I've done neither. This picture was taken after she came back from work. Her first question at ("50+  and not a day older") was, “is this for a hand modeling job?”.)

To You

You have a distinct knack of getting under my skin.
I think it’s because you made me, so you know all the secret passages, password protected doors and every emotional loophole in the contract.

What I’m trying to tell you today is that I love you, indescribably, inexplicably, inconsistently and insistently. Let me break that down:

I was five, seven, or nine (only in adulthood have I kept a meticulous track of my age almost willing it to stop) when you came home with four cages with birds and a strange man waiting outside our door, squatting. Your face was beaming with a plan as you hustled me outside. 

Squatted man, bhaiya, looked at us like we were screaming mad or his best cons of the day. Either or. I think my role being outside was only to add legitimacy to your plot.
Hi Bhaiya, look at my innocent daughter. I’m a mother which makes me sane and respectable.

You proceeded to buy ALL his birds and watched hawk-eyed as he transported the birdcages into our living room the window of which opened up to an expanse of sky and a car park below. After shoving inside each cage tiny containers of water and seed, you told me to pick out my favourite bird.

I picked the parrot and you said his name was, “Mithoo”, colloquial Indian name for friendly parrots who are dearly loved. I peered inside Mithoos cage and saw specks of blood and solemnly reported this to you, objectively and with no emotion, already showing promise of a future as a journalist. Quick inspection later you said that Mithoo had worn his beak thin and was bleeding, having pecked away at the wires of his cage. My eyes turned to liquid, watery discs enough to be a small-sized city swimming pool, but I had lost your attention. You turned to the cage and half-sang, half-cooed
Mithooo betaaa

Talking to the bird like it understood you, you somehow stuck your finger into the cage. Horrified, I was convinced in a second that your forefinger would be soon be an ornitho-french fry. Mithoo beta however, suck up that he was rubbed his fat, parrot-green belly against it. Slowly lifting my hand up, you unlocked with it Mithoos wire cage. I gasped and stumbled five steps back. Mithoo did not even blink. You told me to carry on with my 500-piece jigsaw puzzle and Mithoo would be ready, when he was ready. After an hour of watching intently with the corner of my right eye, I saw him tentatively put one claw out and then clumsily flap his wings and half fly, half fall out of his cage.

“Ma, it’s flying.”

I was told to please not to disturb him: did I like anyone watching me practice my Bharatnatyam steps? And soon enough, after flying, perching on a vase, flying and collapsing, excitedly pooping next to our TV remote, perching on the blades of our ceiling fan, flying, perching on the top of the never-dusted bookshelf he eventually flew out of the window and into the sky.
We hugged and clapped spent all afternoon freeing the remaining birds.
Our maid, the next morning, refused to clean what looked like the inside of a giant angry birds cage.

I don’t know why I remember that afternoon so well, of the countless others. You made me name all the birds before we freed them. Too tired to be imaginative I just went with 

Mitthoo 2
Mitthoo 3
Mitthoo 4
And so on.

Why do we have to name them all?
A name is a powerful thing, Kakul. Yours was chosen with love and you’ll carry it no matter where you are, or how old you are. It will set you apart and when someone tells you that it is lovely, tell them the story behind it.

You were 28 years old when you completed your Phd, married and had me a year later. Year28 accomplishments for me have been lying face down across my bed congratulating myself on surviving my commute and wondering how many friendships would continue if I never actually met the people involved because I had zero energy and I was a barely functioning adult.

I left home at 19 and only then did I decidedly conclude that you had probably been sneaking into my room at night like a Wiccan mixing the smell of you into my bones. What else would explain why I carry that smell inside the knots of my stomach when a day turns itself on its head and me with it?
For when I travelled, lived and worked in colder climates you were the sum of all those fat pink bottles of cold cream, cardamom in your morning tea and all the dog-eared old books that fell asleep on top of you, when you did. You were summer, winter, spring and monsoon in India, especially summer.
Why else when friends, heartache, studies, jobs didn’t work out did I crave to just be near you and bury my face into the side of your stomach knowing that no matter how old I got and how many almost failures or complete disasters I stacked up, you’d think I’m perfect and always have a shot at absolute and complete stardom?

They say you get your creativity and insecurities from your mother: but what I got most was your mind, your will and your optimism which was sometimes so deluded I think life gave in due to its sheer audacity.

Growing up you taught me the Latin names of plants while my friends were happy to point out gnarly trees as “the one that ghosts lived under”. Ficus Religiosa: Because my elder brother taught me that when you learn the ecosystem you’re a part of you really understand your place in the world, you’d say.
We learnt how to love plants, art, animals and each other because we couldn’t help it: we were of you. You worked yourself into our lives so seamlessly and cleverly that we don’t know how to function without. Just FYI you’re a microbiologist PhD which is not a real doctor and so your advice on antibiotics should be taken with a pinch of salt or not really at all. 

Yet, all I’ve ever known what to do whenever I’ve fallen sick is call you, report symptoms and wait for further instructions.

That’s how you took care of your father, when you were 19 and he was paralysed with cerebral thrombosis. You'd come home from school, sit by his bedside and read him Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir while he wrote translations and meanings on a paper for you. That’s what you did, when a few years ago I was heart broken and crying in my room. You sent me an Iqbal poem on text saying:
Abhi sitaaron se aagey jahaan aur bhi hain.

Thank you ma for giving me my ridiculous, weird ideas of life. For teaching me with example that the only way to love a family is to give them space to grow into their own, for knowing so much about kitchen made face packs and having so much disdain about practical complications to achieving ridiculous personal dreams, for consistently talking about the importance of personal hygiene “because millions of microbes live everywhere”, for teaching us to laugh into the face of all paranoia and doing it for us when we couldn’t, for taking all our weird, sullen, ungainly, stubborn bits and turning us into a family.
For never knowing how to tell an anecdote and always starting from, “so back when I was in college, Anita and I,”, for being the girl who experimented with smoking with her brother and his friends and the mother who bragged about it to us years later, whose own heart got broken until she found my goofy (ridiculously cute and Prince Charming to the entire family) Pa, for never learning to keep account of money or keys in her bag, for being the voice in my head and for telling me definitively year after year, “I am telling you, fashion goes in circles. Flared pants will make a comeback.”
You’re right, they did.

With all our love,
Kakul & Mithoo Beta

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: )

Sunday, 17 April 2016

To You, Daan

(Backstory: Contours of friendships and countries were never meant to be drawn out by man. Land and love run where they must, wilfully errant, incorrigible and responsible for the best poetry.  This To You letter is of a friendship and love between two people who admittedly would have been together had they not already been married when they met.
This is a birthday letter because mail was made to transcend distances and blur those damned lines of land and love.)

To You

The first time I met you I was a corporate fawn. A week old in that new organization.

I walked into your cabin to say hello, business-face and MBA head screwed on tight. That plan would've been executed flawlessly had your almost faded denim-blue eyes not disoriented me from the pitch I had prepared and rehearsed so well in my head. 

So I sat down and did what instinct had taught me best to do: I rambled. I rambled long and hard about my vision for the company and my role, outlining basics and emphasising on the necessity to focus on digital if we were to look at any growth. You patiently let me carry on, only to interrupt gently, what were technical definitions I was spouting at this time, to point out, “I do know a little bit about digital, you know.” I think my cheeks flushed an entire blood stream.

Moving to a new city while your friends and husband stay back in another is much easier in your early 20s than when you’re almost 30. Did people make new friends anymore? How did they do it? Was Dale Carnegie still relevant? I’m fairly certain that the dread of eating lunch alone in this city’s oppressive heat made me lose my appetite. Until you saw me, lone wolf around the office elevator and kindly said, “You’re not going to eat lunch alone.” Unlike what Instagram memes would have us believe, kindness isn’t being thrown around like confetti; which is why I remember that day and wonder how much of it you had in spades to take time out from your schedule as Marketing Director and eat lunch with me.

Being new to the city and the job meant I came in to work before others. So did you; to get a head start and some music into your day. Soon, over coffee, discussing favourite songs we stumbled onto a friendship, with me always hyper-aware of the food chain hierarchy over us, and you never, not in a gesture or even an affliction of a word reminding me of that.
I could attribute that initial connection to you not being from my country but kindness, grace and chemistry between two people is rarely culture specific.
I could give you a timeline of our friendship but in my head it’s like the riff of a fantastic old school rock-n-roll song: all guitar, a little bass, just enough drums and no lyrics. I don’t recall when we slipped into texting each other for at least an hour a day, but there I was on my phone at home with a pissed off room mate who was annoyed that our House M.D binge-watching tradition was being interrupted.

My 30th birthday in a strange city could’ve been meaningless but you and a few other friends at work made it into a carnival even my own hyperacid dreams couldn’t match. When all the champagne was done and the last of the revelers had left, I asked if you would stay. You did and we out-lasted the night,talking up until 6.30 am. Making me realize that if world leaders just hung out at night, talking and being vulnerable there would be more peace and definitely complete disarmament.

Which is what your eyes did to me the first time we went to dinner at the Korean restaurant. You took off your glasses and went from 38 to 25 and I had to recite the entire periodic table in my head, backwards, to will my body from not sending all the tell-tale blood to my face. Sometimes I think you deliberately and premeditatedly broke through my barriers. There I was, awkwardly handling chopsticks and telling you about my dreams, my relationships and all the questions I had from life. And somewhere in the too much talking and too few pauses we became us. A friendship so unique and special that I will body block anyone who tries to harm it.

My own marriage had a fractured limb and it was you, and our friendship that held my hand while I tried to slap on a plaster and work my way through the pain. You navigated me, like only you do, sternly, objectively and protectively through crisis after crisis. Your advice though never emotional was always laced with worry and concern for me: and that got me wondering how I’d made it through the 29 years before, without it.

You’ve moved countries, but it seems like we've beaten time, space and geography. At least it feels like that on all days other than the ones I want to meet you for our customary four hour brunch conversations.  I don’t know of a day when we haven't spoken, even when I whatsapp “BRB” and show up 5 hours later.

I’ve lived days of your life when you would put me on video so I could say hi to the kids while they ran around and you made breakfast for them. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve bugged you about the length of your hair because Nick Carter only barely made that look work in the 90s. I’ve forgotten to track the number of times your impish smile and truly sometimes-evil sense of humour have made sense of a harrowed day for me. There’s also a constant wondering why, like Michaelangelo’s David, must you think and pout at the same time?

It’s your birthday, best friend, and I remember today a story you told me of many birthday ago when all you got in the name of presents were socks. That broke my heart. So this year, for someone who loves words, I’m giving you all of mine:

Happy birthday blue eyes, I wish for you to invent finally that time travelling machine so we can fly back and forth in and out of each other’s daily lives, until then I wish for both of us to always have strong wifi.

Happy birthday friend extraordinaire, I want you most of all to be surrounded by love. To have the happiest marriage where when you come home after a hard day’s work, you know that numbers and targets are immaterial to what you have at home.

Happy birthday best buddy, more than anything else I wish for the world to reflect back at you trademark sparkling conversations, intelligence, kindness, grace and a limitless appetite for fun that only you have.

This is sealed with all my love,

                              (A.L sent this picture, it's from a brunch that wouldn't end, she tells me. From a Sunday that always makes her smile)

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: )

Sunday, 28 February 2016

To You, The Boy From Far Away

(Backstory: Most of my To You letters are written after long phone-calls and email exchange interviews, this was the first which happened over several cups of coffee and too-loud laughter. This letter is not for a boy (though, of course there is a boy). This is for a feeling which, in the white noise of everyday and too many internet trolls, sometimes comes far too rarely. With this girl it took years coming and the letter is so she can trap it on paper for posterity.
For those who are suckers for plot-outlines: these two kids aren’t "officially dating"; they’re not more but they’re not less either. They’re stuck somewhere in the interesting: in the in-between).

To You
The Boy From Far Away,

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of memory. 

The way it lends itself more to what’s happening right now than to what has already happened. Maybe this is what makes me want to rush in like a firefighter and scoop all the sounds and sights and smells and tastes on my tongue and ledger them in a ruled notebook, alphabetically for posterity.

Maybe this is why, I’ve always had trouble thinking and talking linearly and why I can’t tell beginnings apart from endings. And yet, I remember you with a fluorescent burn clarity from that party I never intended to go to.
I was running late, with a mocking half fever and absolutely no desire to meet “new people”. My best friend badgered me through a slew of two word texts and there I was, waiting for her, because like always she was running on promises and behind time. I want to say I saw you glimmering through the crowd but the only time I remember you is when suddenly for the first time that night the “my name is this/this is what I do/etc” conversation actually had my attention. 
The gauzy haze of wine, mostly white, intensified my interest in your interest of me.

This is how I’m doing most of the retelling, through feelings and Granta-approved  detailed anecdotes. Wondering if what I feel for you today is shiny, sparkling brand-new? Or is it a lumbering awakening of what I felt before, the last time I started to fall into love and a relationship? 
That was 10 years ago; five of which were spent in a beautiful relationship and five in unwrapping myself from its hold.
That’s what you did, BoyFromFarAway, you smashed your too-tall self through the explanations, flow chart order, grand plans and way of life I’d outlined for myself. 

I'd pledged allegiance to the church of the Agnostic to Love. I’d eventually wanted a companion, sure. Someone I loved and wanted to go home to, but here you have me fussing over the texture of your voice. The slow drawl of the “hey”, each time you call, and the way you make my insides squeal, dance and behave like a 14 year old girl at a concert. I stare at my phone far too often, willing for you to text and I’m a distracted heap of nerves during meetings when you do. I’m alien to my own body and it’s mutinous defiance of the importance of a working Monday!
Was it only a few weeks ago when we were at my house drinking merlot? Your fascination with full-bodied wines being a point of such deep interest to me that I wonder why sociologists, anthropologists and artists aren’t dropping everything and paying attention to this fact and its obviously startling beauty. So there we were, drinking Merlot and talking and soon it was 4.30am. 
We’re warriors of time, you and I, when we’re together. Beating it, bending it and slipping in and out of black holes of sleep, schedules and pauses; what Amelia Earhart I think was really attempting to do.

Which is what I almost told you that evening when I spent an hour discussing my theories of the multiverse with you. I self-edited hastily, which I’m excellent at and wondered if I was talking too much? But you taste my rambles, like you do wine: swirling what I say inside your mouth, keeping my point of view there and never forgetting to savour. 
I do the same with your operatic silences. I can lie on my back and float through all that stillness with you. It was in one of these silences when I first mentally mapped your body. Knowing well that if I was an architect or had any way with brick and mortar, I’d draw buildings and cities in tribute: clean lines, angular planes, sharp symmetry but once inside: all home.

In my home, my mom wrapped us in hugs more than blankets when we were growing up and yet a part of me never learnt how to give affection, always hungry silently though for its receipt. I’d forgotten how to be affectionate with touch.  You brought tenderness back into my life, and I’m not quite sure how to navigate it. Next time just don’t kiss my forehead so easily and carelessly. It’s unchartered territory and leaves me more vulnerable than my rambles can find words to explain. 

I don’t know if this is scary for you to read. Spelt out loud, in text.
How much intensity of emotion is ok to display? For your health? For that of others? 
Those are questions I never felt I needed to answer, until now. Because I find myself wanting to spend my evenings, bleary-eyed as I may be the next morning, with you. Like that work Wednesday when we ran into each other at the bar. I promised to stay for a drink, rapidly forgetting my own internal scoff of promises (especially those I recklessly, valiantly and repeatedly make to myself). Details flutter away from my hold, but I remember fragrances, too many wearied, dismembered peanut shells strewn around our table and all the energy of all the world intensified around your mouth, as you told me stories from when you were 15: the boy in high school who played too much football and built a house with his grandfather from scratch.

So what next, Boy From Far Away?
Maybe we’ll have grander adventures. Maybe we’ll officially date. Maybe we’ll succumb to those famous thrill-dulling vagaries of time. Maybe we’ll walk into many rooms and laugh together at many fun-house mirrors. Maybe this too will become a caricature, as most things are ripe to be.
Maybe you’ll finally have heard all my stories and maybe I would have thrown a dance-party to all your silences.

Let’s take another second to find out.

The Girl Who Never Thought She Could. 

                              (In memory of evenings out, this one is from my fav one last year with my childhood friend at Perch, Delhi)

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: )

Sunday, 21 February 2016

To You, Mrs. Abraham

(Backstory: This is not a commissioned To You letter, or one I ever wanted to write. One in fact I should’ve written and read out loud and handed over to her, with a hug a while ago. Mrs. Abraham, the principal of my school, (that ochre painted, gorgeous turret-topped castle I called home for 14 years) lives on inside me and every girl from La Martiniere who ever knew her. There is no way to write a letter to Mrs. Abraham without writing it to La Martiniere and to my entire childhood. It involves, above all else, wanting to invent time travel, to go back and do it all over again.)

To You,
Mrs Abraham

Time is never on time, I’ve noticed.
It’s sloth-paced and languorous; filling up years and lifetimes of reading in the afternoon sun, chocolate ice creams and 5pm evenings during summer vacations when you're 12 and it’s a mechanical drill of Monday to Friday work projects and “Oh! has it been five years already?” when you are an adult.

And that may be how memories conspire too. Those you scooped up in your arms and collected during school, technicolour and bursting with sights, smells, references and inside jokes. 

And those later you only remember as milestones: the first job, the next job, and that time you turned 25 and then 35.

My school life could be cleaved into two. 

Until Cl. 7 when Mrs. Keelor was the principal: her shock of beautiful white hair, the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen and her ability to quiet a room the minute she walked into it. We weren’t really sure how school would go on when we heard she was retiring. There were rumours that it would shut down and we nodded our 12-year-old heads gravely. That made sense. Of course going to any other school would be the deepest betrayal so we discussed which of our parents got to teach us when we would eventually be home schooled. I picked my mother and went home and broke the news to her.

To say that we understood and fell in love with Mrs. Abraham, the day she took over would be a stretch. To say that we did this inadvertently and absolutely soon enough wouldn’t even begin to cover it. To us, in those first few weeks Mrs. Abraham seemed like a new parent.
What does this mean? We’d ask each other.
And no one had a convincing answer.
But that’s the thing with parents. They come in sets. And I had no choice in the matter of falling in love with both, like I did with my biological ones.

I remember clearly, that first assembly led by Mrs. Abraham. We listened expectantly, maybe for a prophecy. What we got was an anecdote of a boy overcoming a problem later in life because when he was younger he’d read many books, each of which had taught him lessons he did not know or understand at the time, but served him later in life. And in her fierce love of reading and books I identified a burning kinship.

I couldn’t name the date when Mrs. Abraham became indistinguishable from the walls, passages, classes, smells and sights of my school: that drafty walk up from Junior School to the dorms or from the senior school staffroom (always neat as a pin. Always a mystery.)
To meet her: you needed to cut through the study room, where protractors met wood and names were carved, claims were made and a clock that seemed to loom larger than the length of the room, smile at Matron Michael and pray fervently she doesn’t ask you what you were doing out of class and how you had no business being near the offices.
Stop at the precipice of the office, re-arrange meticulously the pleats of your tunic (sometimes twice over), pull your socks up and sleeves down and then convince Mrs. Healy to let you see her. That your problem or question was possibly of State interest. Once in, her voice and she filled the office. You didn’t sit, because you’d practiced what you had to say in the walk from there to here, and timed it to under two sentences, but you almost always left her office smiling or definitely less terrified of the scare you’d drummed up, on your own, inside your head.
There was always a solution and a smile at the end, followed by a
“You’re welcome, Kakul, now go back to class.”

In school every class you were in felt like the most important anyone had been in yet. Class 9 was scary. We were near adults, because looming around the corner were the dreaded ICSE Board exams. All of us walked faster and looked at the class 7 girls goofing around like they were children at least 15 years younger and so much more irresponsible. We didn’t think there was anything more important going on in school than what our class was doing at that moment, and she helped solidify our belief. I wonder today, as I run to keep up the demands of my day, how she managed it all.
She ensured she made it to almost every Inter-house elocution contest, impromptu speeches, sometimes even flower arrangement competitions. Mine one year, was a long red flower, curved along a rocky bed and coloured gravel. In my best calligraphy, I had typed out the caption: Rhett. She told me that it was interesting I didn’t go with the obvious choice: Scarlett and wasn’t Gone With The Wind a delightful book and hoped I was reading better?

Monday morning assemblies meant her reading out snippets from books, anecdotes or just stories of what doing the right thing meant. And every time she spoke, without a microphone, her thick, soft voice always met silence and seemed to effortlessly glide across the space and reach the Prefects standing at the end. She shook our hands solemnly, every prize distribution ceremony, ensuring that Best Student (English) Cl 8 felt as accomplished as General Proficiency -1, Cl. 11.

It was in Class 10 when Ruchira and I found ourselves outside her office. Standing straighter, feeling as grown up as we ever thought we would be, we were asked if we’d like to go to Welham to represent the school for the debate next year. I don’t remember what we said, I remember her face, the sunlight streaming through from behind, the ochre of that almost round room and leaving thrilled and certain that the pride of the entire school rested on our excited, wiry shoulders. Since that day, we never ended a debate without her and Mrs. Dasgupta reassuring us that irrespective of results all that mattered was how well we spoke and argued. No one cheered us on as loudly, fiercely and proudly as they did, each time we won. 

During the final round of Frank Anthony Memorial in Trivandrum, we walked away with the runner up prize. Two Type-A girls sullen and semi-sulky decided to spend the evening watching TV in the guesthouse, to honour that special relationship teenagers seem to have with TV. She told us to go outside and soak in the colours of the sunset against the water, because debates will come and go, what if we never came to Trivandrum again? 
We went out. And she was right I’ve never had a chance to return to Trivandrum since. 

She loved us kindly too. In Class 11 when the Boys’ school cruelly heckled us, she ruled that the girls would not attend the Social that evening. Crushed with disappointment, as young girls before the evening of any dance they can’t go to would be, I know now that it was her teaching us to put before all fun and revelry our pride and dignity, and let no young boy(s) who challenges that, come first. Another time Class 11 Science decided to bunk school together; we thought we were entitled to that experience. All the badge holders who participated were issued a stern letter and when she found us laughing and making light of the letter, she told us how disappointed she was. That being a House Captain or Head Girl necessitated that we remember those young babies of Class 6 who would emulate our behavior. Teaching us that pride in offices is preceded with the responsibilities we shoulder.

Mrs. Abraham became the beginning of all things to us. My center-point during march past, on sports day, “Lyons House, look at Mrs Abraham and march sharpest when crossing that section”, who during the Cockhouse social, at my reluctance to open the dance, told me, “have fun and dance for one song, and then you can go back and just have fun with your own friends” , the person who after a trying career counseling session and my disappointment with the entire process sought me out to tell me that I could be anything I wanted to be, and La Martiniere would be proud. Except a ballerina, it may be slightly late in the day for that career choice. But anything else at all, and she would be proud.

And so I told myself I’d return when I had made them (La Martiniere and her) proud. Visiting only once after my Masters, but promising myself to write that book, and return again with it, to her. To stand in that auditorium, the ceiling panels  of which we whispered sported blood stains and remains of past founders. 

I thought of school often as the years went by,  it’s was my primary reference point  and where in a deep vault lay my happiest memories. It’s where I was convinced I could be Darrell from Mallory Towers, because other than Lacrosse and constant rain, La Martiniere was almost the same as St. Claire’s, Mallory Towers and Hogwarts. And Mrs. Abraham stood in the centre of it all.

My first week at LSR in Delhi University, I would answer, “La Martiniere", each time we’d discuss schools we came from. Unmistakably proud, I learnt after several weeks that the school life I'd known, loved and was fiercely loyal to wasn't the same as everyone else. That La Martiniere, my teachers, that Christmas cantata, our house competitions and Mrs. Abaraham were memories and a time and tribe of belonging only ours to hold and cherish. A special secret that I could attempt to describe but you wouldn’t be able to taste and feel unless you’d lived there for 14 years.

In 2013 I ran into Mrs Abraham and Mrs A Dass in Delhi and couldn’t stop smiling, or fidgeting with the belt of my dress. Because she looked as regal out of school, in her floral sari, as she did when roaming school grounds, and I was sure I wasn’t standing up straight enough. She smiled at me and told me that the school missed me and I should come visit. And I promised her I would. 

The fact that I didn’t when she was around is still a coal shaped, burning regret. I may not have had all the awards I want and that book yet, but I know she would’ve been proud, no matter what I’m doing. Because, she made a 13 year old girl feel that, as she leaned against an interpretation of a flower arrangement- neither professional, nor centerpiece worthy-“It comes from a story Kakul, and that’s what makes it special.”

With all my love,

(Mrs. F. Abraham, principal, La Martiniere Girls' College)

(Those turrets and that moat - one of my fav buildings of school. La Martiniere Girls, Lucknow)

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: )