Sigh. Jogging in the park at dawn is not my idea of fun. Forced to do that by the doc (whose idea of exercise is jog, jog and jog), I decided to call it quits and take a break.
Crunch. Okay, on what did I step on? I moved. A brown old envelope? Not something your everyday jogger would drop. I picked it up.
Despite my conscience screaming at me for reading something as private as a letter, I opened it anyway. The old yellow parchment fluttered in the wind as I read it:
” 22 February, 2002
How are you, my son? We are fine here. Preeti is very excited at the thought of seeing you again. We all are, you know. Rakesh has grown a lot since you last saw him. He is starting to look a lot like Preeti, though he has your eyes. Maybe he’ll start looking more like you once he grows up.
Father is not as healthy as he used to me. His health is deteriorating everyday. He is becoming a little senile too, says the same thing again and again. “Wait and see, my Sumeet will become a great man one day”, he keeps saying. Maybe after seeing you, he’ll regain normalcy.
As for your uncles, they pester me everyday, “Why have you sent Sumeet to Ahmadabad? He’ll become a spoilt brat there. Tell him to come back immediately to Ayodhya”, they say. They threaten me everyday that if you don’y come back, they will divide your father’s hard-earned property among themselves. The senile old man will sign everything that his dear brothers give him.
Well, no use asking you to come back. You have got a flourishing career in the dairy industry, don’t waste the golden opportunity. We are leaving Ayodhya on the 25th of February to meet you. We are travelling in the Sabarmati Express, coach S2. We are expected to arrive on the 27th. Meet us there!
Your loving mother,
(P.S. Preeti and Rakesh send their love!!!)”
My eyes misted up as I remembered the 2002 Gujarat Riots. Were these innocent people the victims of the Godhra Train Burning? I had no answer.
With my heart heavy, I got up. The tears in my eyes clouded up. I couldn’t see clearly. Suddenly, I tripped, and I’d have broken my boned had not a middle-aged man caught me just in time.
“You okay?” he asked me, seeing through through those kindly almond eyes, hidden behind a pair of spectacles. Almond eyes…I seemed to remember something.
“Yeah, I’m fine, Mr…,”
“Uh…uh, Mr. Sumeet…I was wondering…,” I fished in my pockets and took out the envelope, “Whether this belongs to you?” I asked him, with my heart thumping.
He took the letter from the envelope and frowned. As he read it, his brows cleared and he smiled, almost whimsically.
“Dada!” cried a small boy, running towards us and hugging Mr. Sumeet. A remarriage, I thought. If Rakesh was still alive, he’d be atleast 12. What a shame, I thought, and shook my head. Men don’t value their family as much as women do.
“Thank you so much! I thought I had lost it! I carry it along with me everywhere, you know, to show that life is always a risk. You see, my mother, father, my wife and son had been planning to travel in the fateful Sabarmati Express. But suddenly, my father had fallen ill, and they had cancelled the trip. Instead, I went back to Ayodhya, you know, that’s where I come from. This letter has now become the solemn testimony to the statement, ‘a blessing in disguise’. Thanks for returning it to me!” He thanked me profusely.
I was never so staggered all my life.
(Note – This is a fictitious story based on the 2002 Gujarat Riots. Any names or incidents that may be similar are purely coincidences.)