Dear Thatha (grandfather),
May 5, 2020
I’m writing this wearing your old shirt. It’s funny how your scent still lingers within the fabric. On May 4, 2010, I wrote the last letter of my life to you. And all it said was:
Please get well soon and come back home let’s go have that spicy haka noodles from Chinese Corner or Ragi Mudde and Nati Koli Saru (South Karnataka delicacies), I promise I will not ask you to buy me more play dough sets and make Amma scold you. Aanya, Atharva and I even went and prayed to Lord Shiva and went to the church and lit a candle. I love you.
Well you did read it, before you left me alone and became the beautiful star I still think of. Flashback to 2004. My parents came to take me back from Hassan where I spent my childhood with you. Well now it was time for me to go back to Mysore and start living with my parents again. I remember crying hard and how I hid under your bed but they took me back to Mysore. I missed you so much, but Ajji (paternal grandmother) was a bit stingy and never let us (kids) use the telephone. So, watching me struggle, Amma introduced me to the world of letters, post offices, letter box, stamps and the postmen. I remember all I could pen down in my very first letter was:
Dear Ajji and Thatha,
The maid here doesn’t know how to cook keema curry like you do, so come and take me back to your place.
I even pasted my favourite loony tunes stickers on the letter, drew a house using my half-broken crayons and decorated it like any five to six-year-old kid would do. Then, Amma taught me how to fold the letter in a rectangular shape, place it in an envelope, post a stamp which had Nehru’s face on it, Amma wrote down the address for me and then with extreme excitement, I dropped it into the red post box. I can still smell the fragrance of the letter on my hands.
The next three days, all I did was come back from school and stare out the window and every time the postman Ramanna came, I would run to him to ask if I had received any letter and Ramanna would say no every time (we knew Ramanna because my mother had helped him once). On the fifth day, when I ran to Ramanna, he had this smile on his face and yes he was the letter from you. I ran to my room, ripped it off impatiently and read it, it said:
Please learn your spellings properly first and don’t worry I and Ajji have decided that we will visit you every weekend and bring keema curry every time we come. I love you putti (sweetie), study well and make us all proud. I was, am and will always be with you forever, whenever you miss me, go hug Bunty (Bunty was the dog that he had sent for me the same evening).
After that, Ramanna, the red post box and Bunty became my best friends. Thatha, you never ever missed a single school event. I remember this one time, I got into a fight with my friend and was asked to come to school with a guardian. Needless to say, you came with me, asked the guy who called me ‘fat’ to apologise and then bought us both a Kinder Joy and the rest is history. More such stories happened and those letters are what kept me sane throughout my parents’ divorce.
I remember sitting there as I held your hand, watching you on a ventilator, and I asked you if you read the letters and you just nodded your head and then passed away. I didn’t know how to handle the wave of grief.
I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t written that letter, you would still wait for it and be there for me. I was angry at the doctors, my mother and myself and, in that moment of anguish, I burnt all those letters and saw them turn into ashes. Believe me, I now wish I hadn’t done that. Those letters were the only memories I had of you.
But I was a kid back then. And now they’re just charred memories.
It’s been nearly ten years. Every year and every day, I wish you still were there.
(If you’re watching me as I write this, consider this as another one of those letters and as I write this, I’m reminiscing over every one of those letters. So, I hope as you read this, you smile the same smile I’m smiling as I write this.)
I love you, Thatha,
Aadya Gowda is a second-year law student at Christ (Deemed to be) University, Bangalore. She is more into academic writing and she also has a law blog called LicitWorks, which she started a few months ago along with her friends. This is the first time she has mustered up the courage to share a personal story from her hidden dairy and the experience, she says, has just been overwhelming and amazing.