Private Letter

Somehow, I got admission into the archives turned museum in of Joanna auntie, who was a painter in the last stages of life. This auntie I had seen, once with my mother in our old country house… She was with my mom in Deolali. Though my mother did not read anything other than the newspaper and the scripture, she attained some connections with notable ladies of our time. Frankly, it was my mother who taught me to respect ladies in all possible ways, because the society we live in is still in a growing stage and the disparities of class and gender may not be wiped away in a lifetime and we should avoid its growth to a reverse orientation. And this Joanne auntie’s smile is worth reminiscing as she smiled from the heart. And whenever I thought of love in later cycles, I think of Joanna auntie’s smile. That day we did not grasp that she was destined to be a great woman, still, I assure you that one can feel greatness in whatever activity they are into, in case they are great. You may call it luck or chance, I had the good fortune to be in the company of a few people who exude greatness. And coming to Joanne auntie- Maria letters. I touched a few ones. She kept all the communications she received, almost all. I thought how brave she was to keep those letters before marriage full of privy details about herself and her friends. I immediately knew that Maria was not writing to anyone else, she was penning either to herself or to an idea she has fostered, a sort of beacon in life or perhaps to posterity. The last one could easily be ruled out since she was not much allured by fame. And the correspondence between the two women was engrossing…
‘Dear Joanna’, writes Maria-
You were there on the avenue of the garden and in the morning when the beams of early light fell upon you, I observed you, how dutiful and caring you were in those moments. Gardening in the flower beds when the ‘Mali’ [gardener] is on the other side. Then you went to the dressmaker and I saw your carriage passing. Probably for your husband’s new coat to be stitched [her husband was a military officer in the Calcutta regiment]. And the letter moves on with close details of the childhood they spend together. At that course in life, they stayed in two neighbouring lanes and could be seen if they stood on the topmost floor of each other’s house. And you may recall that Joanna and Maria were in a way connected by a woman whose breast milk on which both were fed as infants. For Maria’s mother due to complications in childbirth was unable to feed Maria and Joanna’s mother was the wet nurse. And both infants were almost of the same age, though Joanna might have been older by a few months, and their intimacy started at that early stage. Throughout life, though they had to part with each other due to work and other circumstances, they maintained that contact.
The letter goes on…Yesterday, after reading Boccaccio, I fell into an afternoon slumber and was eventually transported to a dream. There, I saw us both in Filario’s house among the guests and the men making wagers, but we were far above their conjectures. I could recognize each of our faces in the gathering, and you were so charming and hospitable to the visitors and there were the Italian author’s wart and wagers, but it has nothing to do with our annals though…The letter was full of private references to those things that only two of them knew…
And there were about thirty letters of the sort written in various stages of their lives…And I took these papers in my hand and caressed them. They were just papers, but I thought how at one time, they conducted the strong vibrations of the intimacy of two souls. Maria is no more, my friend said, but Joanna auntie could be reached by a four-hour trip by train, and he said, is with her youngest son, living as an ordinary woman, away from those momentous times…

–[Maria’s Story to continue]

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