Letters to Nina

Baatein started a new chapter a month ago. When Hubhopper presented the idea to start a podcast, we hopped on board instantly for it became a new way to interact with stories and people. We started creating a story every week and you attentively waited to hear from us.

Here is the fifth story that went on the platform. For those who are new, welcome to our weekly channel: Baatein by Chhaya Dabas.

You can hear the podcast here.

Dear friend,

How are you doing today? I have been meaning to write a letter to you since a while now. I hope the rain would have comforted the day’s angst and you would find this letter to be of respite after a day’s fatigue.

I have been meaning to ask you, how have you been? How are your heart and mind? Are you at peace? Are you happy?

We live far apart from each other. The sun often sets on you, as I yawn a sleep away. The art of writing letters is dying and so have our conversations over the last twenty years, which is when I saw you last. There are days when I yearn to hear you giggle or miss the embrace of your hug, but before I am able to cherish a memory for long, the clock chimes in sync with deadlines and I rush along, leaving the memory behind - gulped down with guilt, remorse and an apology. We haven’t crossed paths in ages and age too has caught up. I have a family now and live in a tiny town in the mountains. I have a beautiful daughter, who often hears tales of our bravery, mischief and shenanigans for her bedtime stories. I tell her that one day she will grow up and visit her aunt Nina and while my words quiver, for I could never fulfil that promiseI do hope she makes it across the bridge. For you have so much to teach her.

I do hope she learns to live and breathe as you did just as I hope you do today as well.

The world we live in, is often harsh and cold and barely waits to to listen to remedies. We hurt and we brush off. But you always paused from chasing your million dreams, to listen and to heal. You healed me. You make me wrinkle in my smile, add a jump to my stride, add a goofiness in my dance and a yearning in my heart. You gave me a friendship that became my most valued teacher.

So today I sat down to write you a letter. I spent the morning gurgling my words and recapturing my memories. It so happened to be that I spent the last night rummaging through the attic, where I found our college year book. We both, crinkled in those black and white pages, looked so happy. There was an unspoken comfort that we shared in that laughter – one that I often miss listening too. And while I flipped through those pages, emption rushed to fill a void that I had considered a cushion for so long. My daughter, hearing me sigh, rushed to occupy my hand’s cavity and asked me whether I was okay. I said, "oh yes my daughter – a loved memory visited me today!" We both sat down together and I began telling her the story of how we chased a cat into the college warden’s room to hear her squeal with fright and ended up laughing every-time a cat made her jump for the rest of her life.

When suddenly, in between those pages, I found a folded yellowed paper. Surprised at its audacity to tress-pass such an intimate moment, I unfolded it. And you wouldn't believe Nina, what I found, a letter I had written to you a few years ago, about two weeks before your demise. It was an ode to the person you were. A woman who taught me to be free in its purest of sense. And I couldn’t help but smile. I read it out to my daughter and she looked up to me as I wrapped up the last words, and said, “If I had met aunt Nina in this lifetime, I would have met the most sincerest, passionate and fearless person.” I wish I could tell how happy I was that my daughter aimed to aspire for something so beautiful. And I wish I could tell you, how blessed I felt in that moment, for I had already lived a life with you. A decade of knowing happiness and friendship with you.

I never posted that letter. I wish I did, so you know that I do miss you each day. Maybe I kept it to hold onto you, a little longer and keep a part of you, a memory of you always with me.

I am writing it here again. It is exactly, as I wrote it then. Do send it back to me, once you are done. I won’t be able to bear the loss and separation again.

To Nina,

I often recall a story that captures human life and its trajectory in reverse. In the story, a blank journey crawls out of a grave, gradually grows younger and lives a healthy youth. From where it moves to experience childhood and eventually culminates into an orgasm.

I found the concept utterly fascinating for in such a trajectory we could trace our steps from our future to our present. It also fascinated me more, for it opened up so many opportunities to remember all those who left a mark and gave us a chance to remember them again and again.

In a limited life span, innumerable people mingle with you and intersect your path, but very few create lasting conversations. Out of this multitude of scattered rhymes, a few that you choose filter through and become a permanent impression- one that you continuously learn from and consider a companion.

In my life too, there have been many who taught me something, shared a story or simply walked beside me providing company or shade. One such person was Nina. A friend, a neighbour, a comrade and a confidante. Nina was a girl who never fit standard sized shoes or expectations; norms or societal measurements of clothes; way of living or behaving. She was a nomad at heart and was bitten by the wanderlust bug as soon as she learnt how to walk. She was carefree and never cared much about judgements, questions or the stares often thrown at her.

In a society that belittles you for the prefix you add to your name; draws a box around you to determine a pattern considered sacred to follow, or mutes your expression if ever you deviate and digress from the habitual music we are so conditioned to hear; Nina, always stood up against all.

I have never met a happier person in my yet so limited life.

Nina inspired the person who I am today. A person who has now learned to not let her emotions or belongings hold her back. A person who today can let go of her inhibitions, expectations, heartbreaks and mistakes. A person who now understands the difference between being alone and being lonely, and a person who now understands what travelling is - a physical and spiritual experience.

Nina, in our daily interactions, shenanigans and our uncommon errors, imbibed in me her spirit to be crazy and to own it.

She was a wrecker. She always made a mess. She was hardly organised or punctual but was least bothered. Her insanity reflected in her passion to explore and paint; something she pursued for her whole life. Nina loved life and life loved her back.

Don’t be deceived for she was still your average girl next door. She had the same dreams. She had seen heartbreaks and had broken a few. She too had taken some wrong turns but had always bounced back, shrugged off the dust and laughed in the face of hardship. Nina always lived life, while others around her merely existed.

I often used to ask her how she did it all. Be so distant yet so connected; so happy while so insecure, so contemporary while still so futuristic in her approach to everything in life. She always answered the same, ‘ I am too happy to care.’ Such a simple yet effective philosophy. I on the other hand always thought a lot, cared more than it was needed or mattered and wondered more than I wandered.

My emotional vulnerability, while making me a kind and thoughtful person, often betrayed me when I needed to be strong and unattached. In those times I reminded myself of how Nina wouldn’t have bothered or let it hold her back and how she would have inspired me to strive to do the same.

I miss our candid conversations the most now that we are continents apart, but her childlike curiosity and her uninhibited insanity still remind me of how beautiful the ordinary can be, if only one was to tilt their head a little and change the perspective. Now as I embark on my own journey of a writer, with all its speculations and uncertainties, I remind myself of how exciting this energy and oblivion is and how wonderful it is to be scared, for it creates a possibility of overcoming that fear.

Nina taught me to savour and devour a moment completely and to count the life in moments than the moments in life.

She is an inspiration worth remembering again and again, an inspiration that taught me to inspire and to be inspired, always.

I know the letter might never reach you. But the reason I read it out loud to my daughter was because I knew you would have heard it too. You never left my side. You were always present. When my daughter took her first steps; when I took my first with my husband down the aisle; and when I took the first ones without you as we boarded different trains.

Nina, you were a godmother to us all and still are. I wish I could meet you or rewind the clock to bid a goodbye and say thank-you – for giving me this life and teaching me how to live.

I know you are listening, for I often hear the leaves rustle on a hot and humid, still summer day and the rain patter on our roof, at the onset of winters. Odd occurrences always reminded me of you, for you were the most beautiful of odds amongst us all.

And I would till date, always bet on those odds.

Hope you are paragliding in the heaven’s sky. Save a seat for me, will you? I will see you up there one day, hopefully. For If I did something to deserve a seat up there, it would have to be that I earned the right to your friendship. I earned heaven, for twenty years ago you called me your friend.

My daughter calls out to me know, she seems to have found our picture from our prom night. Nobody knows till date, that it was us that added salt in the punch.

Some secrets and some stories will always remain safe. You will always have my back.

I miss you each day, I am because of you everyday.

See you one day, paragliding against the golden skies of heaven.



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