You don't receive many inland letters these days, thanks to the netty means of connectivity. I received one recently. My address was written in a beautiful hand in English on its front. All the folds were as if glued painstakingly, making sure that no one in the transit had a peek at its contents. On its back was the sender's name and proclamation from where it had come-an old-age home.
I opened the letter and found that it was written in Urdu. The calligraphy resembled the inscriptions on the walls of a mausoleum. I couldn't make out the Alif, Be, Pe of it-as the Urdu alphabet goes. Thankfully, it had a post script: "If you don't understand Urdu, then please have it read over to you." I wondered why the sender couldn't write me in English, if he knew what I could read.
On my evening stroll, I took the letter with me and buttonholed an old man who I thought would know Urdu.
Sadly, he didn't. I walked ahead and ran into another octogenarian who declared with pride that he knew Urdu and would be happy to read out the letter to me. "But I am not carrying my near-vision glasses," he lamented, adding to my woes. Meanwhile, the man I had met earlier walked up to me and offered to bring it translated the next day. I agreed and gave him the mysterious letter.
Eager to know its contents, I started for my stroll a bit earlier the next day, but the man didn't come. "Did the letter point out to some treasure the sender wanted me to know about? Or did he send me ciphered clues to a murder mystery?" I began to imagine, though knowing well that anyone who could read the letter would be too old and infirm to rush into finding any treasure. "Crazy," I said to myself.
Next day, another old man whom I would meet regularly on strolls stopped me to say that he had the letter but would let me know about it some other time. He said someone had given it to him for translating. "But why him?" I thought, "And what is he holding back?" When I was going through this curiosity-ridden phase about the mysterious letter, the domestic help brought me an envelope, saying an old man had dropped it at the gate. I opened it hurriedly and found a paper in Hindi, with the original Urdu letter tagged to it. Lo! It turned out to be a treasure trove of blessings from an 85-year-old LN Rana. I began counting them.
The writer is an IPS officer in Haryana