DECCAN HERALD/ Summer 1993

Letter to a Father 
The morning post brought little Kelly a letter from her father stationed in an obscure hamlet in the Kashmir valley. As I watched her jump up and down with glee shrieking ``Dadda`s letter, Dadda’s letter,`` I remembered with a sudden pang that that was how I used to react when I got a letter from you.

What prolific letter-writers we were, Dad. Even as a not-too-easily-impressed Lit major, I recall telling you that you were far and away the most expressive word-wielder I knew.

After I left home and was barracked in one-horse towns all over the north, your letters became a virtual lodestone for me. I’d eagerly wait for those pale blue sheets filled with your elegant miniscule script, full of news, views and your own brand of wit and wisdom.

While I’d  read your letter, I’d conjure up a picture of you, just as I’m doing now. You at your writing desk, a faint smile creasing clefts in your cheeks, your grey eyes holding wry amusement, your nicotine stained fingers holding the old-as-hills cross pen Mom got you ages ago.

The hoary saying about the special bond between fathers and daughters notwithstanding, we cemented  a bond through these missives, didn’t we,  Dad?

There was, there is,  so much to tell you, all the time. The idiosyncrasies of eccentric uncles, trivia about the current place of posting, a zerox on the evils of tobacco (not very subtle, I know), how someone traversing the Drass-Leh road saw a plaque stating that the Border Roads had built stretches under your command.

You were indeed my father confessor in a very real sense. I turned to your encouraging letter when Math got the better of me, and it told me there was more to life than algebra. I turned to your consoling missive when life seemed unfair and I found the strength to face another day. I turned to your calmly happy epistles when I wanted to mark a milestone in my life and it was as if you were there, saying ``That’s my girl.``

Oh, we had stormy exchanges, too, remember Dad? I’d rave and rant and you’d refuse to write back till my anger had evaporated.  At other times, you would put down words that cut like a knife. I would carry the hurt inside for days on end, only to have it melt in the warmth of your next letter to me.

But now, I carry this sharp lancing pain inside of me, all the time Dad. You have been gone a while now but I don’t know if I will ever come to terms with the cold cruel fact that you will never write me a letter again.

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