My dear wife,
I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. It sounds cliched but I started with it, and I didn’t have the heart to strike it out. I desperately hope you are well and in good health.
I know you must be mired in distress, great unspeakable distress. Honestly, that would be a relief. It would mean you are alive and breathing. I pray, yes pray, fervently to a God I abandoned decades ago, that you are alive, and more importantly free. I hope they haven’t gotten to you.
I do not know if this letter will find its way to you. But the thought of you reading my words, reading them aloud like you love to, spurred me on to risk this. It fills me with joy, the thought of you reading out what I’ve written. The way you inflect emotion into everything, even the blandest of passages bringing them to life. How I loved to hear you read aloud.
I miss you terribly. No eloquent words can do justice to how much I miss you.
The silence around me is empowering. I crave for everyday sounds. I miss your throaty laugh, the tinkle your bangles making your presence felt even before you enter a room. I find a part of me broken down and cast away with your absence. The sounds of life, they all elude me, from the depths of my memory I strain to hear your voice every day and night in this hole.
I have nothing to do here but think for hours. I long for something to read. I long for the printed, the written word. I want to read like a child, trace my finger across the words, enunciate correctly, breathe in every page before I attempt to turn it.
Books aren’t allowed here. I befriended a guard, someone who says he is sympathetic to our cause. He gave me this pen and paper. He promised to see this reach you.
I have a thousand questions to ask, but I cannot bring them to paper not knowing if you would actually get this. But I pray and hope you are doing well.
I’m trembling with joy even as I write this. The chances of you receiving my letter were next to none as you very well know. I cannot tell you how happy I’m to hear from you. Oh, what I would do to see your face again. To see you smile.
Thank you for the pages from the Master’s book that you have enclosed with the letter. I remembered all the words even as I read them today. They feel so familiar.
Do you remember how we were swept up by the Master’s writings? How it riled us up, boiled our blood, made it flow itself into a frenzy, all the way to our minds? Do you think this man, this man that we elaborately planned to kill, and finally killed, do you think he was ever taken to a cause? No, he wouldn’t have believed in anything in all his life, would he have?
My blood has turned cold. In this dark, damp hole that I’m trapped in, it labors to even flow in my veins. The surge that it once had, this blood, that made it rush up with vengeance from my veins, rushing to my head to act, it is gone. My blood has turned languid, it claws its way through my body, reluctant, devoid of vigor and action. Sustain me it does, enrage me it does not.
All those books that we read, the books that were supposed to prepare us for sacrifice, all those dark chapters and essays meant to prepare us for an eventuality like this, I don’t understand what they say anymore. They are lost to me, I’m lost. I’m trapped within a four-walled hole, but I could have been lost, desolate in the mighty Tundra.
I don’t mean to distress you with all this. But you are a person of strength. I know I can tell you how it feels like in here.
The other thing. You have made no mention of it. I cannot bring myself to ask the question. I trust you would tell me more when you write to me again.
Why do you not talk about it? Why? Do you not understand how much I would be craving to know?
You understand, don’t you? You understand why I did what I had to? What we did?
Do you hold me against it now? All this? We decided on it, didn’t we? The cause, it comes first, doesn’t it? We talked about it.
Do you remember the day we met? That procession, the swell of that gathering that kept you close to me throughout? We were one, in thought, in our collective anguish. The knowing glances we shared as our cries rang out raw and unbidden. We were one, we all were, but you and me especially. And when it finally ended, when the crowd dispersed, you and I were left alone.
Our throats were hoarse from all the crying out, of our anguish, the slogans, but I couldn’t wait to hear your voice in its solitude. Couldn’t wait to know who and what you were. How you came to be a part of that uprising, where you were from, why you would have hated your parents, the society, your past, and mostly, how our common cause could have led you to where you were that day. Led you to me.
You know why I had to kill him, don’t you? We were right, weren’t we? He was the living example of everything that was against us, the epitome of everything that stood against our cause? Do you regret what happened?
How many hours we spent, simply resenting him. His actions, his words, his affluence, his lifestyle. Those hours we spent planning, to attack, to kill, in public. The world needed to know our cause was serious. That it was not just some passage in a book inherited from one activist to another. Not an obsolete way of thinking that we clung on to.
No, it had to be done, wasn’t it? We talked about this, we discussed this. Elaborately, elaborate plans. You agree, don’t you? We achieved our goal, didn’t we? Why, why then does my pen urge me to ask you this again and again?
Why, why then does my pen urge me to ask you this again and again?
This man, he lived a full life. He died a grand old man, sons to counsel, daughters to see off, and grandchildren to coddle. Friends to go for a walk with, free as a bird. He was free, always free. Even in death, he was free, wasn’t he?
He died at my hands though. Yes! But they celebrated his demise. They chained me down.
I wish our Master had written to us, explaining why this is a better life, for me, for you the one I had to leave behind, for us the revolutionists, we who fought for a better world. We won, didn’t we?
Has it inherited your dimples? Does it look anything like me, its ill-fated father? I wish I didn’t have to say ‘it’. But I have no way of knowing if our child is a boy or a girl. I wish I didn’t have to kill that man until our child was born. But the cause comes first, doesn’t it? We decided, didn’t we?
That man, he would have disciplined his sons and cajoled his daughters, even pampered his grandchildren. They would all remember him, wouldn’t they?
Our cause is right, it always has been. I know that. I do not know if we fought for it the right way. Is this dissent? Planning to trap and kill an enemy, and ensnaring ourselves in the process?
Our child, bring it up in the teachings of our Master, but let it go astray, even for just a while. The answers may not have been with our Master. Let it find them on its own. But whichever path it chooses to go, teach it to question, with reason, and to then act.
Write Club Hyderabad – The Design of Dissent – August 19th, 2017 & Epistolary Fiction – September 2nd, 2017.