Deliberately unfocused photo by Mariam Zohra D.
It appears as if i am from the last generation of people who find ourselves in possession of hundreds of hand-written letters, and the realization comes right about now since there has been more time to look through paper filled boxes- perhaps from the Seventies- because of the ‘stay at home’ routine.
This is the continuing story of that small but highly benefic box from the 1976-78 that got left behind in the UK, and that was safe-kept by my dear friend Tim Hume and his partner Carolyn Hume for 36 years till they found me on the internet and sent it to me in Vancouver in 2014. I call it a ‘benefic’ box because it is full of uniquely valuable things- manuscripts, letters, photos. Already, i have retrieved, written and published Keerru, a novella based on a manuscript of a novel that i had begun writing in Lahore in the mid 1970s. I feel lucky because to me, that handwritten manuscript with no copies, had been lost.
When i got the benefic box in 2014, i was delighted to go through manuscripts and photos but not the letters. Now, not only that there is more time but the time is of being nearer to death, i thought, i’ll sift through my stuff to reduce the work of my beautiful children (Love You Forever) in clearing it after i move on. Wow! Some of those letters are so beautiful, and i don’t mean just the handwriting, some of the words and expressions are prolific and profound.
At the base of this is a sense of immense gratitude i feel as i see in front of my eyes the written proof of the love and support i received just in a couple of years in the UK. Also, because these letters are only a part of what was since some have been lost and some were returned to the sender; and, because this does not include the notes and greeting cards i got from people in the UK, later in Toronto, and now in Vancouver. No wonder, i did not perish at any of those times and places.
This pile of hand written and snail mailed letters was a lifeline for me and my baby daughter, and it was led by two people who had nothing in common but me, my mother and a guy who i wish not to identify (though if you like, you can see him as a fictional character in a humorous story titled ‘The Unnecessary- SahebaN vs. the Heternal Domination Loop’ in my novel ‘The Adventures of Saheban: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’). The lifeline contained letters from my sister, sister-in-law, my young and little nieces and nephews, even from my brother and brother-in-law. Letters from my dear friends, Rubya Mehdi, Ismatra Ahsan, Shahida Tabbassum, Riffat Naheed Farooqi, Bee Lee Sabuctageen, Shahnaz Alvi, Asia Arshad and Kausar Jamal sustained me throughout this time.
Please accept my gratitude, love and warmth.
The point is, what do i do with them now. Send back to sender? Recycle? Leave them for my children to deal with? What a waste. May be i can use them in fiction or something like that. Any ideas and thoughts will be appreciated.