The stuffed suitcase was difficult to close.(She still does not have an almirah after so many years. She is ok without one anyway). She started pulling out the crumbled clothes which were shoved in the suitcase without washing since a week. Neha barely got time to wash her clothes during weekends. She thought of cleaning the suitcase at the same time.
Out came the red shirt which she had not worn since long.
A blue T-Shirt which had faded in patches.
An orange kurta that dint fit her anymore, yet she refused to throw it away because it was gifted by Megha, her dear younger sister.
A pair of worn out black jeans, shoved in the suitcase waiting for repair.
“Discard!” sighed Neha and piled the discarded clothes. Another pile was taken out to be washed. Neha dusted the edges of her suitcase. Slowly she pulled out all other clothes from the pale blue V.I.P suitcase which her mother had given to her when she first came to Jaipur from Patna. Light weight suitcases were not available during those days. A shy Neha had come to the pink city in search of a career as Patna was void of jobs then. A small village was where she was born and brought up and obtained high education despite pressures of getting married after she graduated from 12th standard. She shifted from one rented room to another in the span of her five years tenure in Jaipur. The suitcase too shifted with her. It was her mother’s wedding gift, so she could not have discarded it anyway. Neha thought of changing the newspaper laid at the bottom of the suitcase under the pile of clothes. It was dated way back in the year 2003. It had turned yellow and old with age. (It couldn’t have been older than the suitcase). She pulled out the torn newspaper from the suitcase to replace it with a fresh glossy newspaper. A bundle of envelopes and papers lied silently under the newspaper, resting peacefully & untouched. Were they not cared for or preserved carefully? Her hands reached for the stack of papers and she unfolded them one by one.
30 Sept, 2003
Hope this letter finds you in the best of your health and spirits. I have soooooooo much to talk about. I am wondering where to start from
First of all note my new yahoo id firstname.lastname@example.org. Now we can chat whenever we get time to come online. I am soo happy! But the only problem is that internet café is a little far from our house and Baba does not allow me to go there alone. Had u been here, he would have never stopped me.
Mmmmmmmmm I miss u, sachhi !! By the way did the kurta fit u? I made it as per your choice, v shape neck and full sleeves, and its ur fav colour! I am almost through with the hobby classes, likely to get the diploma within 2 weeks. Now I can make good embroidery too. U shud see the cushion covers I made. Maa is full of praise for me :-) And a piece of good news now! A new Mc Donalds outlet has been inaugurated in the city. We will have a treat when u come next time and m sure u will love it. I m quite excited about it. Rest all is well here. Baba has recovered completely from the stroke. Now he goes for a morning walk daily. Good na? I will take Maa also for morning walks soon. But u know how shy she is.
Hope u r taking care of ur health too. Maa keeps reminding u to have fruits. I will be joining u within few years and become a famous fashion designer. And I stepped on the threshold of my dream only because of ur support. I love u a lot.mmmmuuuaaah!!
Chalo, I wont make the letter lengthy now. U better take care of urself and don’t worry about us. We all are fine and want to see you soon.
Loads of love,
Neha smiled. She picked up the next letter.
Hi! How are you? We are fine here. Don’t get worried about me yaar. I will recover soon. It was just a stomach ache, that’s it.
I have designed a beautiful skirt for u.(Maa wont allow u to wear it here. U take it with u in Jaipur ok?) U remember Tanu, my classmate? She is getting married next month! My god, I cant imagine how cud she agree to get married so early? Shez just 18!! I was shocked. She has no aim in her life or what? Bloody aimless female! I will become a fashion designer and make everybody feel proud of me one day.
Ok lets change the topic. Did maa tell u that we would get our house painted this Diwali? I want my room pink in colour :-) ok don’t frown, we can get it done half pink and half orange hehe!
Baba bought a new kitten for the godown. The kitten is sooooooo cute and fluffy. I have named it snowhite. It’s a smart kitten di. Its killed so many rats of the godown. I will mail u its pictures wen I go to the café next.
Maa went to a pandit to show ur kundali. He said that marriage is still not on the cards. I was quite relieved to hear that. U deserve more in ur life yaar. I am happy that u studied and went out of this small place. I will do the same. My exams are due next month. I will crack the entrance exams, wish me good luck. Love
Dint get time to write since a long time. Sorry for that.
We all missed u a lot during Diwali. Ma was cribbing that I mess up more than helping her. Hehehe! How perfect are u, I realized then! We are incomplete without u yaar. I know it was difficult for you to take leaves since u recently joined office. Its difficult to make Maa understand though.
Hey, we got our house painted before Diwali, and guess what, our room has been painted in ur fav colour. Now come on, thank me :-) I wish I could say all this to over the phone, but u know how high the STD call rates are na.
Snow white has grown bigger and cuter than before. Lovely cat it is. Well, Maa must have told u everything. I am ashamed of myself Di. I wanted to appear for the entrance exams this time. I was so well prepared. But that stomach ache was so severe that I couldn’t bear the pain. Doc said that it was only gas. Maa is getting worried unnecessarily. The ultrasound reports will arrive within next few days. So till next year of entrance exams again, I asked baba to get me enrolled in B.A correspondence from IGNOU. Good idea yeah?
U know, Ravi Uncle has been paralysed waist down. Poor uncle, he’ll never walk on his own now. Aunty is a very strong lady. She did not loose her courage at all. She has started working in a school and supporting her family. Maa often visits them with cooked food. I feel sorry for Ravi uncle. His kids are so young ya. But hats off to auntie for being so brave. Nobody in the neighborhood is as bold as her.
Hey Di, whts ur plan for new year? If u can manage leaves then, please come na. Spent Diwali without you, don’t want to spend New year without you. U r the jaan of our family, u know that. I miss sleeping with u. Pillows cant fill the empty portion of our bed. Often I wake up with a jerk thinking how much I miss cuddling you. Our room is half empty, half lively, our house is misses ur aura, ur noble presence. Now when the room is painted orange, it reminds me of u every second.
Ok I gotta sleep now. Feeling tired. U please take care and don’t worry about me.
Love u loads,
Hey! How have u been my sweety pie?
My medicines were very strong and I feel drowsy all the time. I hate the taste. But I am sure I will recover soon. Ulcer does not last for long na. Afterall I have been punished for eating excess spicy food. I recall you scolding me for eating spicy without limit. I am sorry I should have listened to you then. Maa tries to keep the room infection free, so every thing has been washed all over again. I have to eat boiled food, less salty no spicy. I am not allowed to meet Snowhite too. That bad. U ask Maa to let me go out of the house atleast. She will listen to you.
These days I am reading all the Sydney Sheldon novels u had left here. Now I find them interesting. He writes well seriously. But I don’t like to be confined to my room ya. It feels like I am imprisoned. I cant stitch or make embroideries. Anyway, Ma told me that you went to Ajmer? Kooooool….I will go with u next time. Heard a lot about that place. Let me recover once, then I will surely visit Jaipur and be with u.
Next Month u will complete 6 months na? U make us feel proud of u always. Baba never stops praising u in any social gathering. We love u all. Accha u know about Kaku di’s marriage na? Its in Kolkata in December and we all have to go, else Kaku di will be very upset. So apply for leaves in advance ok? And there is a surprise which I could not keep to myself. Baba will buy me a mobile phone as soon as I recover. Great na? Then we will chat and sms on mobiles instead of writing these long letters.
I hope I dint make it long this time. Will write again soon. M wondering hu will post this letter?
Anyway, love u love love.
Tears swelled up in Neha’s eyes after reading Megha's last letter. An undetected cancer led to a wrong treatment and prolonged illness. Neha pulled the orange kurta close to herself. It smelled of Mehga, her presence, her full of life attitude, her smile, her last gift for Neha, whom she loved the most. Megha, who lost her life at a young age leaving her ambitions unfulfilled gave hopes to everyone, to live each day and smile even in the toughest times. Neha quickly entered the bathroom to wash the pile of clothes.
She kept her promise. She did not cry. The orange kurta was put back in the suitcase with great care. And the letters one by one.
The last remains preserved again, carefully.