City Moment – A Letter Writer’s World, Somewhere in Delhi
The memorable instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The setting is too picturesque. Here’s a centuries-old monument, an unknown grave in a shabby lawn, a cluster of pink bougainvillaeas, a couple of stray cats, and a man writing on a sheet of paper.
It’s not extraordinary to see people writing in a public place. Just step inside any Khan Market cafe and you would inevitably spot a few consumers immersed in their MacBooks.
But somebody writing with hand is a rare sighting indeed.
And Abdul, as the gentleman introduces himself, is penning a letter to a friend. “I have filled three pages but I might use up some more.”
Not willing to share the letter’s content, Abdul reveals that “I live alone but have some friends living outside the city, and whenever I get free time I write to them.”
He doesn’t wish to talk of his profession that constitutes his un-free time but clarifies “I manage to earn enough to daily eat izzat ki roti (honest roti).”
Abdul confesses his friends don’t reply him with a return letter but “sometimes they call me on phone.”
There have been occasions, the gentleman admits, when he completed a letter but didn’t eventually post it to the intended recipient. “Sometimes I end up writing things I later realise must not be shared with even the person closest to you… I keep such letters in my suitcase.”
Gesturing towards it, he says the suitcase has some of those letters, including a few “that I specifically wrote with the intention of not showing to anyone.”
Abdul now turns his attention to the letter-in-progress—with the tomb, the bougainvillaeas and the cats as his silent witnesses.
Like a dream