Thursday, March 02, 2006


I have received a very strange email today. Presumably from a stranger, and not just a strange person. It is a little bizzare.
And I have suddenly realised that I haven't written a real letter in years. I used to write a fair number of them, once upon a time.
I stayed on in my old school for my ISC - but my best friends, AJ and MC didn't. AJ moved to Delhi with her parents, and MC transferred to a different school because ours wasn't offering the subjects that she wanted to take up. In hindsight, I should have shifted schools, too. But I didn't, because the people closest to me were moving away, and I wasn't quite prepared to face an entirely new world. And at sixteen, school pretty much made up my entire world. So I stuck on, only to realise that there was no comfort to be taken in the familiar. For one thing, it wasn't familiar anymore - the plus two level had just started out, and it was not physically located where I had been going all these years. It was a completely new and different school in faraway Salt Lake. The faculty was new, and mostly quite bad. Most of the teachers were hired on a temporary basis, had no earlier teaching experience, and certainly not the competence required to be teaching science at the ISC level. Only a couple of my old teachers remained, and though I shared a great rapport with one of them, the degree of comfort that I had felt in my old school did not remain. And the majority of the students were also new ones. The school, new and eager as it was, opened its gates fairly wide, and of the one hundred and sixty students who made up my I.S.C. batch, less than eighty were schoolmates from I.C.S.E. days. I did make friends in my two years there, specifically IC and PC, and also grew much closer to MB (who did go to the old school) than I used to be earlier, but in the early days there, I was very unhappy. Actually, I was very unhappy the entire two years that I spent there - but I'm rambling. The point that I am trying to make is that in the early days of class eleven, I was lonelier than I had ever been before. And it hurt. I hated being separated from MC and AJ. I hated my new surroundings. And I felt desperately alone and scared. MC and I would speak frequently over the telephone, and meet every week, and I'd occasionally call AJ up, too, but it was just not the same as being together five days of the week. I'm the kind of person who always likes to have someone that I'm close to nearby. There are very few people in this world that I'm actually close to - fewer now than it was then - and the fact that the two I was closest to were not physically near me all the time was killing me. I carried my misery around like an ache in the pit o my stomach, for the first few months of class eleven.
That's when the letters started. I don't remember who wrote the first letter, whether it was AJ, or one of us, that is, MC and me. It was probably AJ - she was always the one with initiative; besides, she had our addresses before we got her new one in Delhi. Anyway, the first couple of letters were exchanged, and soon it became our little ritual. And what letters they used to be! Each of them would range, on an average, from twelve to twenty written foolscap sides. The longest letter, I think, took up thirty sides. And it once cost me twenty five rupees in stamps because the letter I was posting was 'overweight'. Anyway, AJ would write one letter a month (or was it every two months? I don't remember any longer), alternatively to MC and me. And we would rush to each other's houses, and read them out loud. In the same way, the one who had received the letter, would write back, sometimes writing on behalf of both. We shared our lives over those letters. Crushes, studies, really bad jokes, heartaches, sorrows, laughter - we exchanged them all. I remember the anticipation with which I'd wait for a reply to one of my letters. I'd give a week for AJ to receive the letter (I never had much faith in the Indian Postal Service), a further two weeks for her to compose a suitably lengthy reply, and another week for the reply to reach me or MC. We were quite generous in those days, and never made an issue over who'd been replied to. But of course, I'd always be just a wee bit happier if she wrote me rather than MC. And over months, the pain lessened. And life looked up somewhat. More friends, even if not best friends were made, and IC, PC, and MB happened. Just before we finished school, there was a frenzied exchange of letters between AJ and me. We were both studying science and preparing for all manners of entrance examinations, while MC wasn't. AJ was trying to decide between medical and engineering, and I was toying the idea of not continuing with science. Eventually, AJ opted for medical, and I decided to study English. She moved to Bangalore; MC and I joined different colleges here in Calcutta. And though it all, the letters continued, although slightly more irregular now. Until August 2004, which is when the letters stopped altogether. And AJ went in communicado. Neither MC, nor I, have been able to get in touch with AJ since then, whether over the telephone, or through letters. And an attempt made by MC to contact her parents, who should still be in Delhi, in an effort to track her down, didn't work either.
I worry about AJ, sometimes. The friendship is over, and I have come to accept that. But I'd still like to know that she's safe, and happy, wherever she is. Things have changed between MC and me as well - we aren't the way we used to be. We are not best friends anymore. We are friends, perhaps, but of the kind who only meet on birthdays, and other such occasions, now. I remember the last time we talked, but I don't remember the last time we had a heart-to-heart conversation.
MB and I still exchange letters of sorts, sometimes. We write each other mushy notes for birthdays and Friendship's Day and so on, like we used to in school, and the way AJ, MC and I would, too.
This evening, I remember it all, and the memories are bittersweet.
I've changed a lot in the last few years. I've become more realistic, pragmtic, cynical, with significantly fewer illusions left. I dream, but I remain acutely conscious of the fact that it is a dream. But some part of me is still some part of the starry-eyed girl who believed that things would always remain the way they were. And everytime I acknowledge my naivete, it cuts like a knife.

I wish i still had someone that I could write letters to.