You arrived in a package today
I’ve been up since 6am. I’m battling through a seasonal cold as the days grow short and we bid farewell to the faint traces of the sweet summer we never really have here in London. That always made you laugh.
“Tujhe thand ka kya pata? Kabhi Chicago aa — phir tujhe pata lagay ga.” What do you know about cold? Come to Chicago — then you’ll find out.
“That’s unfair, Malish” I’d counter. “It can get really cold here too!”
“Aray London ki thand toh romantic hoti hai — banda akaylaa hi kyoun na ho.” London’s cold is romantic — even if you’re all by yourself.
I suppose you’re right, I’d say. There is something poetic about London’s winter.
“Meri kitaab mein tu yeh hi likhna.” Write that in your book about me.
You loved talking about your twenties spent here; catching the tube; being a “working girl.”
Tu bilkul meri jaise hai. You’re just like me…
As the train pulled in, a chill spread through the platform. I tightened my scarf around my neck and boarded the East Coast service from Yorkshire to home. Three hours later I walked through the door — disheveled and hungry — to find you on the mantle piece by the front door.
I took my time. I didn’t want our homecoming to feel rushed. We hadn’t seen each other for so long.
You felt light. Too light, really. How can 80+ years of goodness and laughter and wit be reduced to just this envelope, I thought.
Inside was one of your scarves — selected for me by your daughter; the one you told me was just like us. The one you didn’t have to worry about.
And a pack of old printed photos, with a faded receipt still attached.
Pickup time: 17th August 2007, 4:02pm. You were served by Patricia.
Did I print these and send them to you? Did you have them printed? I don’t remember. But there they all are: pictures of my desk and my bookshelf, my bed, pictures taken with my cousins, some of me, and all the pictures I took of you during the wedding week.
How had I forgotten that’s how we communicated in the early days: putting together piece after piece of the jigsaw; recreating the worlds we had lived and the years that had passed before we met; the people whom we valued; mapping out the trajectories of their lives for one another; recounting their heartaches and how those had changed us impermeably.
“Tu kahaan beht kay likhte hai?” Where do you sit when you write? “Tujhe khirki say kya nazar aa raha hai?” What can you see outside your window? “Kaash tujhe mein nazar aa rahe hoti — kismat ne humein zuroor itni faasle pe rakhna tha?” I wish you could see me outside your window — did fate have to keep us so far apart?”
I suppose the short answer is yes. You’re in a realm that I don’t even know the area code to. How can I call? “Tu pata karle gi — teray say koi hushyaar banda ho hi nahin sakta.” You’ll figure it out — there can be no one cleverer than you.
It’s raining now. Or perhaps it’s you — tapping at my window, beckoning me to look out for you as I write this.
“Sun rahe ho na? Mujhe phone zaroor karna.” Are you listening? Make sure you call me.