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The Lost Letters

About Sufia Khatoon

Sufia Khatoon is an Editor, Translator, Author, Poet, Artist, Illustrator, Designer, Social Activist and Philanthropist, Curator, PR and Event Manager.
Her Poems and short stories have been published in various National and International anthologies.
Her Bengali poem got featured in Tollywood Movie ANTOR SHOTTA starring Soumitro Chatterjee recently
She has Co-Founded Rhythm Divine Poets group initiating poetic movements globally.
She has received recently Amio Santa Award 2017 for her social efforts.
She is an Art Curator, Artist and Illustrator having exhibited her works in more than 20 group shows in reputed art galleries and widely appreciated for her solo show on Peace and Voices. She has illustrated International Poetry books of repute.
She is the owner of Sufi's Touch, a lifestyle designing brand that focuses on artistic products and recycling art.

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Prologue
Dear Nani,
How are you? You didn’t come last month to meet me and I thought you got sick again. Please ask mamu to bring rabri for me and gulab jamuns and I want small fishes for my aquarium too.Summer holidays have begun. The clay pots you gave me broke again. I, Imran and Nazia had cooked our first dal and rice in it. Ammi made the fire in the clay stove and we cooked in the pots. Ammi loved it. I was punished again for cutting out the drawings and pinning them on the walls. I was decorating the room walls, they had no colour at all Nani. I also broke the hot flask and I drank water from it. Ammi got very angry and thought I’ll die. I wrote her a letter, Nani, which she will read after I die and I have packed all my clothes also. If I die here, ammi will cry. I’ll leave soon Nani, so please take care of ammi.
I think I’ll go to Heaven. It is just outside our house, over the next lane of the park under the trees, where the squirrel lives.I’ll write you from there whenever I can, and don’t forget to come and meet me there Nani.
Yours Faithfully Neelam
Part 1
This had come as a shock to my Nani and she had rushed back after reading it. Ammi had found out about the letter and she was crying and laughing hysterically. Abbu had pulled my cheeks from one end of the world to other and held me in his arms as long as I remember. I was his most sensitive, shy, big hearted, honest, courageous and beloved child. I had actually made up my mind to leave home thinking I’ll die when ammi had scolded me, and maybe travel as long as I lived. Grandmother kept explaining that I will survive after all. No one died of drinking water from the broken flask, but they got sick for sure; that I should listen to my mother in the future if I wish to be healthy and I should never ever think of leaving home.
Qamrun Nissa, my grandmother, I remember was the first pen pal I used to write to, since I was six years old. It was more of a ritual for my young hands that loved scribbling because I was never good at speaking. I spoke in an alien language till quite late and I used to get chills if I had to speak to anyone in school. I had huge stage fear and great nervousness, but I was always great with written words.Somewhere in the summer of 1995, when I was almost eight years old, I had become an expert in communicating to distant lands, especially across borders through the art of letter writing. I was the youngest in the family who could write a letter in broken English then. Though mom had taught me this and my grandmother was well versed in letter writing in Urdu herself, warmth and love of my young words gave them immense joy. Whenever they met me after reading my letters, I would be showered with kisses and hugs. Well not after the naive attempt of a eulogy before but most of the time, my letters made them happy.
My mother, Nani, khala, daadi, khalu, mamu, would keep waiting for my letters, written with wiggly hands, given to them whenever someone from my nani’s and dadi’s hometown came to visit us. They would read the letters out loud because a child had asked them to and reply to it with overwhelmed hearts. It was also a way to meet all my demands of toys and pets. Being the eldest of my siblings, I was always pampered by everyone, especially my Nani. She would never say no to me, even though I got scolded and punished always, sometimes for silly reasons and often because we siblings fought like anything. But we three were loved immensely by everyone.
I loved to live in my grandmother’s cottage like home in the heart of a hustling bazaar in Belgachia. This very place has been the home of my ancestors who lost their inheritance in the riots and wars. Nani had lived in a family of rich heritage , wealth and prosperity. She had seen the loss of her siblings, her home, her father Md. Abdul Hamid’s death. My great grand father was the leader of Awami League in Sabzi Bagan in the 1960’s Kashipur and he had owned ancestral properties in Barackpore and Kolkatta. She also saw the loss of her 14 children out of the 22, one of which is my mother. She saw the riots, deaths, horror, war, poverty, but of all, she saw the testing of her faith by God all her life and I saw her never failing at it.
Part 2
I had learnt later, letter writing in Urdu. Though Urdu was a little difficult to pick up initially, it had similarities with English because none of it used or depended upon a conjoined symbol but on the alphabet itself. My nani in her times always conveyed through letters. After the riots my family line got separated into Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. My ammi, Shabnam Begun and Nani wrote letters across the borders to know the whereabouts of their loved ones including one of my eldest Aunt, my khala in Pakistan. She could never return to see the last rites of my Nani after her death and my great grandfather, or Nani’s surviving siblings’ families and other ancestors in Bangladesh.
I remember meeting my great grandfather who had came to see his beloved daughter after many years and soon passed away. We had travelled to Bangladesh, at Khulna, to see her family after the last rites and lived there for a month. Nani had begged my aunts there to give her the letters of her father and her brother, but they refused knowing pretty well that it would break her heart. Those letters still survive in their trunks. I wish I had the sense of copying them, perhaps I could have saved the words of my Nani, who still exists in those papers.
I remember writing another letter to God, asking for a baby brother to be my playmate when my other two siblings always left me alone. And soon I heard, I was going to be an elder sister again. I knew it was my baby brother who had saved my mother after she was seriously ill. She was struggling with life and death and I had seen him in the glass box, all weak, moving his arms and legs. I was outside the ICU and I could never see him closely or hold him in my arms. He was born with half of his body with blood clots and all blue, he died the very next day. No one had informed her about his death, she never saw him. When she gained consciousness, she learned about his burial. I remember Nani brushing her hair and ammi crying. I had written a letter to God again, thanking him for saving my mother.
It has been almost 6 years now, that I have lost my Nani. It was during another Ramzan. She suffered, yet prayed to God for forgiveness from her death bed and left a deep wound in my memory. I was closest to her, she had been my fairy godmother, often holding me in her warmth and her stories of fairy tales and strength of God. We sold out the old cottage house and never returned there. I still go to that house in my dreams and meet her. As for those letters of mine, which she so cherished and always kept safely were lost. I couldn’t find them in her old trunks and cots and things she never threw. They bore memories for her – the letters of her father, my letters and all other letters she read and re-read, whenever she needed strength. I wish I could have found them. I had searched everywhere, I cried too and I prayed as well but I never found them. Those letters had been an integral part of my blood line, my history, my childhood and my nani. It has seen the changes in Time and witnessed the emotions of life and death, and it had been a living memory of love.
Now I feel the letters have gone with her in her grave, maybe giving her warmth in cold nights and I am able to visit her grave in my dreams.

Dear Nani,

How are you? You didn’t come last month to meet me and I thought you got sick again. Please ask mamu to bring rabri for me and gulab jamuns and I want small fishes for my aquarium too.Summer holidays have begun. The clay pots you gave me broke again. I, Imran and Nazia had cooked our first dal and rice in it. Ammi made the fire in the clay stove and we cooked in the pots. Ammi loved it. I was punished again for cutting out the drawings and pinning them on the walls. I was decorating the room walls, they had no colour at all Nani. I also broke the hot flask and I drank water from it. Ammi got very angry and thought I’ll die. I wrote her a letter, Nani, which she will read after I die and I have packed all my clothes also. If I die here, ammi will cry. I’ll leave soon Nani, so please take care of ammi.
I think I’ll go to Heaven. It is just outside our house, over the next lane of the park under the trees, where the squirrel lives. I’ll write you from there whenever I can, and don’t forget to come and meet me there Nani.

Yours Faithfully
Neelam

This had come as a shock to my Nani and she had rushed back after reading it. Ammi had found out about the letter and she was crying and laughing hysterically. Abbu had pulled my cheeks from one end of the world to other and held me in his arms as long as I remember. I was his most sensitive, shy, big hearted, honest, courageous and beloved child. I had actually made up my mind to leave home thinking I’ll die when ammi had scolded me, and maybe travel as long as I lived. Grandmother kept explaining that I will survive after all. No one died of drinking water from the broken flask, but they got sick for sure; that I should listen to my mother in the future if I wish to be healthy and I should never ever think of leaving home.

Qamrun Nissa, my grandmother, I remember was the first pen pal I used to write to, since I was six years old. It was more of a ritual for my young hands that loved scribbling because I was never good at speaking. I spoke in an alien language till quite late and I used to get chills if I had to speak to anyone in school. I had huge stage fear and great nervousness, but I was always great with written words.
Somewhere in the summer of 1995, when I was almost eight years old, I had become an expert in communicating to distant lands, especially across borders through the art of letter writing. I was the youngest in the family who could write a letter in broken English then. Though mom had taught me this and my grandmother was well versed in letter writing in Urdu herself, warmth and love of my young words gave them immense joy. Whenever they met me after reading my letters, I would be showered with kisses and hugs. Well not after the naive attempt of a eulogy before but most of the time, my letters made them happy.

My mother, Nani, khala, daadi, khalu, mamu, would keep waiting for my letters, written with wiggly hands, given to them whenever someone from my nani’s and dadi’s hometown came to visit us. They would read the letters out loud because a child had asked them to and reply to it with overwhelmed hearts. It was also a way to meet all my demands of toys and pets. Being the eldest of my siblings, I was always pampered by everyone, especially my Nani. She would never say no to me, even though I got scolded and punished always, sometimes for silly reasons and often because we siblings fought like anything. But we three were loved immensely by everyone.

I loved to live in my grandmother’s cottage like home in the heart of a hustling bazaar in Belgachia. This very place has been the home of my ancestors who lost their inheritance in the riots and wars. Nani had lived in a family of rich heritage , wealth and prosperity. She had seen the loss of her siblings, her home, her father Md. Abdul Hamid’s death. My great grand father was the leader of Awami League in Sabzi Bagan in the 1960’s Kashipur and he had owned ancestral properties in Barackpore and Kolkatta. She also saw the loss of her 14 children out of the 22, one of which is my mother. She saw the riots, deaths, horror, war, poverty, but of all, she saw the testing of her faith by God all her life and I saw her never failing at it.

To Be Continued in Part 2…

I had learnt later, letter writing in Urdu. Though Urdu was a little difficult to pick up initially, it had similarities with English because none of it used or depended upon a conjoined symbol but on the alphabet itself. My nani in her times always conveyed through letters. After the riots my family line got divided between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. My ammi, Shabnam Begun and Nani wrote letters across the borders to know the whereabouts of their loved ones including one of my eldest Aunt, my khala in Pakistan. She could never return to see the last rites of my Nani after her death and my great grandfather, or Nani’s surviving siblings’ families and other ancestors in Bangladesh.
I remember meeting my great grandfather who had came to see his beloved daughter after many years and soon passed away. We had travelled to Bangladesh, at Khulna, to see her family after the last rites and lived there for a month. Nani had begged my aunts there to give her the letters of her father and her brother, but they refused knowing pretty well that it would break her heart. Those letters still survive in their trunks. I wish I had the sense of copying them, perhaps I could have saved the words of my Nani, who still exists in those papers.
I remember writing another letter to God, asking for a baby brother to be my playmate when my other two siblings always left me alone. And soon I heard, I was going to be an elder sister again. I knew it was my baby brother who had saved my mother after she was seriously ill. She was struggling with life and death and I had seen him in the glass box, all weak, moving his arms and legs. I was outside the ICU and I could never see him closely or hold him in my arms. He was born with blood clots over half of his body. All blue, he died the very next day. No one had informed her about his death, she never saw him. When she gained consciousness, she learned about his burial. I remember Nani brushing her hair and ammi crying. I had written a letter to God again, thanking him for saving my mother.
It has been almost 6 years now, that I have lost my Nani. It was during another Ramzan. She suffered, yet prayed to God for forgiveness from her death bed and left a deep wound in my memory. I was closest to her, she had been my fairy godmother, often holding me in her warmth and her stories of fairy tales and strength of God. We sold out the old cottage house and never returned there. I still go to that house in my dreams and meet her. As for those letters of mine, which she so cherished and always kept safely were lost. I couldn’t find them in her old trunks and cots and things she never threw. They bore memories for her – the letters of her father, my letters and all other letters she read and re-read, whenever she needed strength. I wish I could have found them. I had searched everywhere, I cried too and I prayed as well but I never found them. Those letters had been an integral part of my blood line, my history, my childhood and my nani. It has seen the changes in Time and witnessed the emotions of life and death, and it had been a living memory of love.
Now I feel the letters have gone with her in her grave, maybe giving her warmth in cold nights and I am able to visit her grave in my dreams.

The End

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