Taking out an old diary from a large heap of unwanted things, thrown out from a big house for old persons and removing dust from it, a septuagenarian removed his myopic spectacles and took the diary close to his heart as if it was something very special and he had treasured it for a quite long time. Conspicuously, he lost in some deep thoughts, while opening it and unfurling the pages. While opening pages with his trembling hands, five old rotten pale colored papers fell form the old discoloured diary one by one.
There, I was playing with some of my friends. I came near to the old man to help him in lifting those papers. I noticed that those were not ordinary papers, but were love letters. Indeed, they were love letters written by an old man of the age of my grand pa to his beloved. It aroused a kind of curiosity in me. My mind was concentrated only on those letters and I tried to read out them, while lifting, but of no use as I could hardly read even a sentence. At that moment, I did not know why, but just one thought came in my mind that I wanted to read them.
Glancing at the man, towards whom I developed reverence and respect like my own grand pa, and trying to read his mind, I reluctantly asked, “Grandpa! What are these?”
He gave me a smile and informed, “Kittu, these are love letters.”
He gave me a nice name “Kittu”.
“Love letters!” I exclaimed.
“Yes Kittu. I wrote these for your grand maa.”
“Oh Really! Grandpa, can I see them?”
“You want to see these? Come on, sit here.” Pointing towards a bench in a nearby park, he told me to sit there. We both sat there on a bench in the shadow of a big tree, on which several birds were sitting and chirping.
After looking here and there for sometime, he took out the first letter and began to read it.
20th September, 1967
My dear Sweetheart,
Yesterday, I received your letter and read it almost 50 times. Sweetheart, I am also burning in the same fire of separation as you. I had to leave you alone just after 3 months of our marriage, to complete my studies at Benaras Hindu University. Although I am so far from you, yet my heart beats for only you, sweetheart. I live in your memories and somehow bearing this pain of separation for our better future.
I know you want to see me because I have the same feelings and same torment to see you. I have made a plan. During the month of November, you somehow persuade mother for holy bath and accompany her to Benaras. There, I will come to meet you at changing room on Ganges coast. Do not reveal this plan to anyone.
I have bought a pearl necklace for you as well, from the extra money, which I earned by giving tuitions to some students. I will present this to you on meeting. I am sending an envelop along with this letter. So, do not make excuse for not replying.
“Oh grandpa! You were so romantic and caring for grand maa”.
Grandpa just gave a smile at this and unfolded the second letter.
5th May, 1975
I am fine and hope that everything there would be fine. You insisted that I should come to home for Holi in your previous letter. Radha, I can not come at this moment because I have been just promoted with extra burden of looking after two units of both Benaras and Balia. I am so busy with the work that I even do not get enough time for rest. I hope you will understand as all this is for you, Seema and Rahul only.
Also, for ensuring bright future to Seema and Rahul, I have to work hard now. After few years, my body will not be strong enough to do lots of physical work.
Last month, when I was at home, I noticed that you had become too lean. Radha, please change your eating habits and take one glass of milk daily. Do not take much tension. Everything will be fine.
“Grandpa, I do not understand why you did not go to home for Holi?”
He did not utter any word, but the depth and pain in his eyes were clearly indicating that financial burden and indulgence with family left little scope for him to live his own life.
He silently picked the third letter and began to read it.
16th August, 1990
I received your letter and my heart shattered after knowing that Rahul shifted to Delhi with his wife, leaving you all alone at home. I am feeling like all that we did for him, were futile. This generation has no respect towards their parents.
You know, I can not come at this time of the year as I am busy with regular office work. I wanted to keep you here with me, but this city is very costly and we can ill afford to survive with my meagre salary.
Radha, nothing is concealed from you. I have to give half of my salary for monthly instalments of loans. I do not want to put the burden of this loan, which we took during Seema’s marriage, on Rahul. So, I am working in this age also, when most of my friends have retired and enjoying a peaceful life.
Radha, you are strong enough to take care of everything and endure all difficult situations. You can sell one pair of cow and buffalo or some land, in case you need money. Those are of no use for us.
I will try to come in Diwali.
It was peculiar that with each letter, grand pa’s tone and feelings were changing. But, it was also certain that with each letter, his reluctance towards grand maa kept on increasing. I was quite confused. Did his love for grand maa abated with time?
I was muddled within myself, when grandpa asked for a glass of water. I went inside my home and brought a glass of water. While coming with water in a glass, I noticed him wiping his tears.
He took glass from my hand and drank two – three sips and kept glass on the bench itself. Again, taking out another letter, he told me to sit.
5th October, 2004
I am good and enjoying the company of new friends here. This old age home is not like others. Here, assistants take good care of all the elders. It is more like a big family. Rahul has done a great help by shifting me here as I was feeling so alone there. Rahul has sent me some money also. I told my assistant, Raghuvir to bring medicines of asthma for me. May God bless him with happiness and long life!
Radha, you might be happy over there, enjoying with your grand children, playing with them. Rahul and daughter – in – law would be taking good care of you. You would have been spending a life of comfort. Do not put on much weight in this age. It would be harmful.
Another letter was written along with the same letter for grand pa’s son, Rahul. He started reading that letter.
I can not become free from the debt of favour you did to me by arranging for my residing at this old age home. You are also taking good care of your mother. May God give a son like you to everyone! You are an angel and daughter – in – law is a goddess.
Your mother has been ill for a long time. I am not sure, whether she would be able to survive this winter. In case, she would die, pay tribute to her corpse on my behalf as well. I would not be able to come in winter as travelling has become much difficult for me. Your mother’s soul may rest in peace with both of yours efforts.
May you both live long!
Both I and grand pa were totally mute, after uncovering all these reminiscence of grand maa. At that tender age, I was not able to contemplate whether grand pa was cruel and barbaric towards grand maa or reason for this reluctant attitude was something else. But, now I can surely say that insufficiency, poverty and destitution are the killer of all feelings and emotions…………