Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Y is for Yours Truly #AtoZChallenge

We met this adorable one in Maunda, Uttarakhand in May 2019 when we spent a couple of hours at the local school exploring colours, creativity and crayons.


"What are you doing Arti?" Anu asked.

"Writing a letter."


"To whom?"

"To my baby brother. It's Rakhi." I reminded Anu.

"But, Aunty will be coming home today with your brother. Why do you need to write a letter?" Anu, my dear friend from across the street, was older than me and certainly wiser.

"But, Mummy always writes a letter to Mamaji for Rakhi. I have to write. Can you help me find all the other things I need to put in this lifaafa (envelope)?"

I was five years old when my brother Neeraj was born. 

Friends and neighbours who came home to give badhai (congratulate) said how lucky Seema and I were that our brother arrived just in time for Raksha Bandhan.

Mummy was in the hospital with the baby. We hadn't named him yet. That will happen a few days later at the temple. But, I will call him Monie when I will see him for the first time. Monie will stick as my name for him.

Anu helped me find a few grains of rice, some mishri (sugar crystals), a couple of almonds and a few strands of kesar (saffron) to put inside the envelope along with my letter. Someone had bought rakhis already. So I had that sorted.

Mummy used to write letters often: at least once a month if not more. She would get so excited about her rakhi/Tikka letters that I would be pulled into the excitement too. I'd watch her gather the rakhi/tikka samagri (paraphernalia) and lovingly enclose it all in an envelope addressed to her brother who lived in Vikasnagar.

Pyaare Veerji (Dear brother) would be the way she usually started her letters to him and she always used the greeting Jai Shree Krishna to continue.

I can't recall how she ended her letters but when she taught us how to write them, she encouraged us to use adjectives like pyaari (loving/affectionate) in between aapki (your) and (behen/beti) sister/daughter.

Replies from her maika (her family) written in blue inland letters or on creamy yellow postcards delivered by the postman were awaited with so much eagerness by our mother that to a five year old it seemed as if she was waiting for Krishna himself, her beloved God.

Letter writing continued to be the way I communicated with my family when I left home to study at Delhi University.

My much younger cousins who were living with Papaji recall his excitement when the postman tringed-tringed his bicycle bell at the metal gate.

"You know Didi, he'd run across to Sanjay bhaiya's house as soon as he received your letter. He was so fond of listening to them being read aloud in English and he'd ask bhaiya's father to write his reply to you in English, too."

My cousins were too young to be able to help Papaji read or write letters. The rest of the household would've told him to wait. He was never one for putting off anything till later. 

Papaji could read and write in Urdu and Hindi, but not in English. Of course, I had no idea about his trips to our neighbour's house to hassle him with the reading and writing task even in bhuree dopaharee (the hot midday sun) as I wasn't there to witness it. Kirti, my cousin, shared her memory recently and filled me in. 

For as long as I wrote letters to my family, no matter who I was writing to, the second line of the address on the blue inland letter always read: C/O Shri Kahan Chand Ji Kohli (my Papaji).

Raksha Bandhan fell on the 9th of August in the year 1976. It was also the day Mummy was supposed to come home with our new baby brother.

Daddy took me with him to see Mummy at Kalhan Maternity Hospital before she was discharged. He held my right hand in his while I clutched my rakhi letter in my left.

The antiseptic, Dettol smell was so potent that I can still recall it. What I remembered the most, though, were the drips and the glass bottles tied to the drips--the ones with glucose or saline in them--the clear ones.

"Where do babies come from?" I must've asked the question sometime. And the answer had been: "From hospitals."

Those glucose/ saline bottles hanging by the side of Mummy's bed became my storks that day. For a good few years afterwards I imagined little babies sitting snugly inside glass bottles being handed over to mothers when they visited hospitals.  

I gave the envelope to my mother who asked me to hold on to it so that I could tie my first rakhi at home properly: with mithai and flowers.

Tumharee pyaaree behen (your loving sister) was the sentiment I had put safely inside that envelope along with my rakhi, a few grains of sugar and rice and saffron even if I could not write letters or words properly. I miss not being able to use those words any more.

Mummy's guidance, our school lessons and the practice of letter writing  taught us two things: the true meaning of the most important words in human dictionary: sincerely, truly, faithfully, lovingly, and the fact that all these words, when one is writing a letter, always, always connect you(rs) with relationships and friendships.
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Do you remember writing letters to your family or friends and posting them?
Or, perhaps you waited eagerly for the postman to tring his bicycle bell?

If you'd like to share any 'where babies come from' stories of your own, I'd love to hear them:)
Thank you for being such wonderful reading companions this month.
Yours truly,
Arti

41 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    I LOVED letter writing and had many pen-friends as well as sharing with family. When I first emigrated to Australia, initial few years I sent regular and lengthy letters... then email arrived and proved so much more immediate. I can type a great deal faster than write (if it is to remain legible), so I rarely put pen to paper now. That doesn't mean that one fails to sign off - quite the contrary! I am glad the we are 'e-pen'pals, and I send my love and regards, YAM xx

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    1. Thank you dear Yamini for your love.
      I'm grateful for your words that are typed and sent over ether.
      Love
      Arti xx

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  2. I wrote letters to my dad when I went on summer vacation in school. Then I used to write some to my grandparents when I was back home. Slowly, telephones took over. :(

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    1. Sweet. I hope you've kept some of them safe Srivalli.

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  3. I still write letters, for my parents' birthdays. And I know they will write one for mine ;)
    Y is for Young

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    1. That's a sweet tradition Frederique. I may start it with my children:) Thank yo for sharing with me.

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  4. ‘Jay Shree Krishna’ is how we greet everyone we meet and one another as a family everyday. What a heartfelt welcome you gave to your brother. I am sure he is smirking reading this. I remember the same scenario of hospital when I went to welcome my baby brother in the hospital in 1979. I don’t remember writing letters to my family but my husband and I exchanged a whole truck load of letters while our long distance three years relationship- before and after marriage. The only sound I would wait is the tring of the postman 😃. Your post reminds me to pull out those buried memories and re-read now...I think I found my next indoor project. Thank you for brightening our lockdown period with the trips of memory lane of our childhood.

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    1. Jai Shree Krishna Pinkz.
      I'm curious about this indoor project you talk about--will it be about those romantic letters you exchanged with your husband?

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  5. I remember writing letter to my father because his job required him to move across the length and breadth of the country. My mother, bro and I stayed in our home city with our grandparents. So I remember writing to and waiting for letter from him. Being from the South, we don't really celebrate Rakshabandhan but I still remember the day my baby brother was born, in 2020. He was too tiny that we'd nicknamed him "eli kunju" which means baby rat in Malayalam. :)

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    1. OOh! that's such an adorable name Shweta. Do you still call your brother eli kunju?

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  6. *my bro was born in 2000. Please excuse the typo!

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  7. I used to love writing letters. A few years ago a fellow blogger and I thought we'd try writing to each other with real pens and real ink. It was a disaster and only lasted one letter each!

    Y is for ...

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    1. Once one gets used to keyboards, pens and ink can be tricky to handle. Although, I do know of some who prefer the old way of writing to typing--even today.

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  8. Oh the thrill of receiving Inland letters and the ever so rare aerograms ! I still write the rakhi letter though its now only 2 lines in a card. I have a box full of letters that my mother, sister, friends wrote to me after I got married. Every year I remove the box and read some of them and relive those times..Thank you Arti. Your blog has taken me back to wonderful times..

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    1. You are welcome Arti:)
      That box of letters sounds like the wardrobe to Narnia to me--how amazing to lose oneself in the magic of days gone by.

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  9. Touching memories Dear Arti. Letters carry forward the past and brighten up the present.
    How kids emulate the elders and how elders communicate so much by just by body language and some old habits!!! WOW! you were so observant right from your childhood!
    Blue Inland,Stamps,Receiving letters, looking for Postman all of this surely something I loved too. I have written and received letters from my sister which is precious. There was one victim of my letters (Pavi) you remember his reply don't you? ( i had mentioned in one of my earlier reply)
    Sadly Letter Writing has got limited to English Grammar lessons in today's times. Infact my son once asked us, "in a world of computers why are they teaching us to write letters & calculate manually? Who writes letter anymore?"
    I was keenly looking down for the You-Tube link of "Dakiya Dhaak Laya" ..the Rajesh Khanna song.

    Where babies come from was not my question, I would be angry on & off with my parents, looking at their wedding album,for not inviting me to their wedding!

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    1. Your parents would've had no dull moments at all with you around Vidya. Thank you for sharing so generously with me throughout the challenge.
      Love you dear friend. xx

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  10. About Rakshabandan {I forgot to add earlier} :- Your letter was the cutest rakhi story i have heard.Lucky Monie!! Since we were just 2 girls at home, Amuma gave us a bright idea. We used to have a huge Krishna idol about 1 feet tall, we 2 used to tie rakhi to that Krishna every year and save one for our naughty cousin brother who lived few stations away.

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  11. And thank you for your sweet comment on the official AtoZ blog ;)) I know I will always found great memories here!

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    1. You are welcome Frederique. Loved seeing your presence here:)

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  12. So much endearment in those letters. Lovely. Missing my brother and maikai in this time of quarantine. Though we all live in the same city, we haven't been out of our houses.

    Loved your idea of where babies came from.

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    1. With your talents Namratha, I'm sure you'll be penning some wonderful lines down to express the missing.

      Thank you:)

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  13. Yeah letters were staple back then and so were postmen...nostalgic memories..they were so formal in their greetings back then..I was amused when I found a hidden stash of letters my parents had written to each other when engaged...they addressed each other as Dear ........, followed by SSA short for (Sari Akal)...

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    1. Sat Sri Akaal Ish:)
      Such a sweet thing to come by after their passing.
      Sending you hugs my dear friend.

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  14. What a sweet story. I love the idea of the Raksha Bandhan celebration. Threads of love delights me, as does the imaginative conclusion you came to about the source of babies.

    I absolutely love writing letters and receiving mail. I suspect I'll remain a hold out until the end. In fact my 100 Day Project during this time of sequestering is creating a bit of art daily and sending it out as a love letter.

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    1. Thank you Deborah.

      I'm curious about your 100 Day Project. Will hop over to yours in a bit and check it out. I never got any love letters but I'd love to send out some;)

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  15. I have always loved to write...and therefore letters were the first logical means to explore this passion of mine as a kid....I used to write a lot of letters to my grandparents.... But received less letters back as replies.... My family is strange in that way that they don't believe in expressing much be it letters or verbal... Everyone talks less... So I remember I had graduated to finding pen friends after a while and then mobile phones came in.....and now whatsapp... And my long letters have now reduced to few words... In fact short cuts... HBD... Happy Rakhi... :)

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    1. Your love of writing is evident in the way you weave your beautiful poems Ira.
      Please keep writing long letters--you never know when you may want to read them.
      I used to write a letter every year (in my diary) to my children when they were little--for them to read when they are all grown up.
      Then blogging took over!
      I think I will go back to that practice again.

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  16. How wonderful to put so much love and care into letter writing. I did write a lot of letters when I was away at college and I kept all the letters I got from my family and friends during that time. I recently went through and reread them all. It was a lot of fun. Weekends In Maine

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    1. Reading old letters and cards is something I like to do too Karen:)

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  17. I love the idea of a bottle full of baby!
    I have really enjoyed your memory month. :-)

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  18. I didn't write many letters when I was young because everybody lived in the same city. But I wrote postcards when I went to camp and when people started moving out of Detroit, we started writing to each other. So many letters! So many memories.

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    1. Yes Kristin, letters are memory boxes. I've enjoyed reading the ones you've shared on your blog and those were written so many decades ago. Such treasures letters are.

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  19. I still have boxes of letters from friends mostly and a few from one of my brothers who was in the service many years ago now. My best friend left our home town in her 20s and letter writing was a joy. I remember the excitement of finding a letter from a loved one in the mailbox, and I remember pouring so much out in the letters to them. We had stickers we'd put on them and had our own emoji system. The closing of the letter was accompanied by a small cartoon of me jumping high and smiling. The days computers came in 1995 all of that ended. I miss it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your letter writing ritual with me Jade. Love the idea of your very own 'emoji system' and that little sign off cartoon--how lovely it would be to receive one such letter:)

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  20. Writing letters, such a lovely way to communicate, compared to the present-day impersonal electronic way. I used to write lots of letters to my friends and cousins. Still I write letters to a friend in England, who doesn't have even an email ID. That's the only letter-writing exercise I have.

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  21. I used to love writing letters. Must have written countless to my friends and family. In fact last A to Z I wrote something similar for the alphabet L.

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    1. Cheers Sonia. I'll have a look at your L:)

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  22. Its so fascinating to read sweet little you writing letter to your new born brother...
    Letter writing was indeed something to cherish about our age people, I used to write letters to my sister, who got married when I was in 7th grade, then I got a pen friend Angela from US, I used to write letters to her.
    Later, a lot of letter to my hubby after engagement and marriage, as he moved to Saudi Arab after few months of our marriage, and then it took another six months for me to join him there. So, letters was the intrinsic thread in addition to the phone calls.
    Apologies for delay in reading your beautiful A-Z. Love Nisha

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