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Can we be Penpals?

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“Vasanth!”, The owner and the chef of Joey’s restaurant called him as walked out of the building. The restaurant and the building were side by side. And as it happened, the owner whom Vasanth called Tia was also the landlady of a small rooftop flat that Vasanth rented. Tia and Vasanth had with time, become a family away from family and as such it was their morning custom to share a cup of tea before the day drew on and work piled on. 

Today was no exception. Vasanth took a seat opposite Tia who was already seated on the restaurant tables on the pavement. 

“Good morning Tia”, he said pleasantly. 

Tia smiled and asked one of her staff to bring tea for both of them.

In the few minutes that they sat waiting for their tea, they talked about the general topics that occupied their minds, of the weather and the upcoming festivities. Once the tea arrived both resigned to enjoy its warmth in content silence. 

Towards the end of the tea, the postman arrived, earlier than expected.  Seeing Tia outside, the postman handed her three envelopes and then rummaged his bag until he found another one.

Tia looked over her letters as the postman took his leave.

She went through each of the first three letters carefully. Two of them were the electricity and gas bills whereas the last one was an invitation to judge a culinary competition in the locality. During this time, Vasanth scrolled through his notifications, uninterested in any.

Tia reached for the fourth envelope and then stopped.

“It’s for you”, she said, noticing the name on the envelope.

“What? Me?”, Vasanth sounded astonished. “Is it from the University?”

Tia glanced at the sender’s address. And shook her head.

“Let me see”, he took the letter from her hand.

“There’s an address but no name.”

“Open it”, Tia urged.

Carefully, Vasanth tore open the envelope and the letter fell out onto the table. Tia shifted her chair close to his as Vasanth unfolded and paper. Together they began to read.

‘It’s the beginning of the monsoon. I can already feel it in the air around me. The cold that soothes, that despite its nature, warms.

I see the clouds gather around the mountains through my window, as time moves by they completely cloak it such that I can no longer see the mountains but only a pure white, where the mountains were supposed to be. 

The thunder has begun, slowly the first drop of rain will meet the earth and others will follow. Suddenly you can no longer hear your surroundings except the rain and the thunder. It soothes me. Doesn’t it soothe you too??

The dark melancholy that sometimes follows the rain calms me. No, I am not deranged. But rain and thunder make me feel small, all the worldly problems suddenly feel trivial.

The lightning strikes

And suddenly, there’s strength to handle life. To face the world. 

Flowers have started to bloom, the grass has begun to conquer the barren land. The rain had done its job and now, the sun peaks out. And just like that the mystic magic of rain now feels like a dream.

A dream of rain and thunder.

I am going with the flow of thoughts here but have you ever felt like breaking into a dance the moment you vibe with a song. A free-flowing rhythm that grips your soul, insulated from the world through the mortal shells of flesh, unable to break free, unable to dance to the rhythm.

I feel that every time I vibe with a song. But I am not a dancer, I can’t twirl with the rhythm so instead, I feel it. I feel it and I dream, allowing the soul to explore itself, unhindered, to roam. 

Perhaps, I am too vague, too distant for you to understand me. 

So I’ll stop here, until the time is right, until next time, until you ask me to write back. 

Truly,

A someone.

P.S. Yes, we are strangers never formally introduced but I have heard about you. I know you, well at least the address; enough to send a letter with a peek into my mind. Whether to reply or not is a choice that you have. But know that, I’m just someone wanting to have a connection with someone without the shackles of outings, WhatsApp and media. 

Both Vasanth and Tia read the letter, unsure where it was going. The letter ended with an equally subtle salutation and wanting more, Vasanth turned the page over to find the postscript. 

He read it aloud so Tia could hear it, who had once more shifted her chair, only this time away from him.

“What do you think?”, he asked.

” What do I think? Uff… it’s something. Who writes letters these days..”, Tia replied, now returning her letters into the envelope they came in.

“That’s it? But her descriptions…they are so apt, so different. Her state of mind is so different… it’s like it’s here concerning itself with petty things and in the next moments, it’s worrying about the universe. Like a….dreamer does.”

Tia smiled, “You think it’s her?”

“I guess”, he shrugged.

” You seem interested. Going to reply, I suppose.”

Vasanth paused for a second before answering, “I don’t know. Will it be an idea if I do?”

Tia said nothing but instead asked for the envelope to see the address. Vasanth handed it to her. She read the address and then squinted her eyes as she thought something. Then taking her phone she typed something on it. 

“Ah…here we go.”, she said as she handed the phone to Vasanth to see. 

Vasanth needed only to glance at the screen to know that it was currently displaying the map of the locality, with a pin pointing at a particular place. 

” What’s this?”, he asked. 

“That’s the address from where the letter came. It’s a cookery shop owned by Mrs Murti, a nice old lady; I have known her for many years now. You could go there and ask about the letter if you are confused. Maybe find the person, see if you are interested. And if yes, get their number…”

Vasanth scoffs. “Faster than letters”, she says mischievously.

Saying so, she headed inside and Vasanth shoved the letter in his bag. He, too, left.

As the subway station drew nearer the letter slipped from his mind, instead all his attention was focused on the shop. Vasanth worked in Pinto’s repair. A shop that not only sold electronics but also had hand in their repairs. Vasanth worked part time here, but since University wouldn’t be starting for another two weeks, he had started to work full time. His education stream in the university allowed him a slight advantage when it came to the repairs. Pinto, the owner and Vansaths employer had a policy that he could take anything from the trash if he thought he could make it work. Thus Vasanth got the equipment he used for his experiments in a very cheaper way. 

Today, as his boss was away, Vasanth was tasked with the sole responsibility of managing the shop with another one of the employees who worked full time there, Raghu.

The morning at the shop proved to be a busy one, both had to go through the inventory, manage the trash disposal, sweep the shop and repair the few equipment and household machines that had come during the previous day. 

Thus the morning and afternoon passed with work and customers. It was not until evening that they had nothing to do. Raghu being not much of a talker, the conversation always ended abruptly by Raghu nodding a reply or monosyllabic answers. 

Thus then his mind found its way back to that morning, to the letter. Something about it intrigued him. It inspired a curiosity, a deep want to know more of that person’s mind. Of that person themselves. Much to his annoyance he found himself wondering, what sort of person they are? The spiritual kind or the dreamer poet kind? Are they old or? 

He forcefully stopped the questions. Afterall, they are nonsense, he declared. And yet not find minutes later, he found himself typing the address in the search bar of the map. 

As the day drew to an end, Vasanth was glad to leave the shop and returned to his small flat cut into the roof. He liked it there. It was big and comfortable enough for him. And the rent was cheap.

Once home the task of cooking himself dinner threw all thoughts to the wind and Vasanth had quite dinner binge watching a comedy movie.

But humans by nature are curious people. Once a doubt, a thing enters their mind that inspires curiosity, it gets impossible to remove it. You have to do something to satisfy this urge and Vasanth was no exception to this.

Late at night, he found himself at his study table, the letter to infront and he wondered if he should reply. Then in a sudden impulse pulled out a blank sheet and a pen from the drawer and stared at it, under the light of the table lamp, unsure.

But dark clouds don’t necessarily guarantee showers. Staring at a blank sheet does not guarantee words to imprint on it. Will Vasanth succumb to the curiosity about the person and write a letter to a complete stranger?

Read Part-2 here

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