18-year-old Sayali was irritated. “Where will I find a memento from the British era for my history project?” she complained to her mother. To her surprise, her mother opened her cupboard and handed her a letter. The penmanship was beautiful, and the letter was in English.
At the age of 11, you were the boy next door who wrapped a piece of cloth on my finger when the rose thorn pricked me. My father was furious and punished me with no meals for a day.
A year later I was married off, to an abusive, alcoholic man. He sent me back to my parents’ house for producing a baby girl. I was so glad when the stray British bullet killed him!
Savitribai tai* persuaded my parents to send me to school. You didn’t throw stones or dung at me for going to school. You didn’t curse me for coming into your sight as a widow. I loved you.
That last night, when you came to my shed at the back of the house, you wept as you confessed to loving me back. Unfortunately, my brother saw you from the kitchen window. I was sent away to Nagpur, separated from my family and daughter. Our love was forbidden.
I mourn only you. You were the husband I accepted in my heart.
“The letter was never posted,” Sayali’s mother said sadly. “You panji ajji, great-great-great grandmother hid it in her belongings, that the ashram sent us after her death. I was the first to read it, because no other womn before me was educated. Panji ajji’s behavior was looked at as proof that educated women create trouble.”
The history lesson proved more valuable than Sayali had expected.
*Tai– older sister in Marathi.
Check out Arjun Rana, the co-sponsor of this event (Failed to deliver)’s book here –