“Did you go to the post office yet, Jaya? Has any letter come from your Appa?”
Jayakrishnan looks at his mother sadly.
“No Amma. I forgot. I just came back from my match now.”
“Hurry then. You know today is Saturday, and they close at noon. It is your responsibility to check for his letters.”
Cursing himself for not checking the calendar, he starts for the post office. Just as he latches the door and steps outside, Perumal brakes to a halt beside him. The postman, who usually is always smiling, looks a little worried.
“What happened Perumal anna? Why the long face?” he asks the postman.
“I didn’t know it was your appa’s letter, Jaya. It fell into a puddle. But I took it to Ramanujam at the printing press and got it put through the calender, to get it a little clearer and drier for you.”
Perumal hands over a glazed postcard to him, and Jaya silently takes it. Pressing a few coins into Perumal’s hands, he thanks the postman for his help and goes back inside.
“Are you back so soon, kanna? Has a letter come?”
His mother’s voice welcomes him back eagerly.
“Yes amma. Perumal anna got it, so I didn’t have to go all the way,” he replies, reading the letter.
“Well, read it to me.”
“One minute amma, let me drink some water.”
But his mother can’t wait for a second longer and doesn’t let him. Jaya sits down, and begins to read.
“To the two dearest to my heart. I hope you are well. I miss you both very much, far more than any words can say, and hope to be back soon. Winter has already set in over here, and it is very cold. But in the battlefield, there is no time to enjoy or suffer from the weather, so I’m always alert. I can’t wait for spring. Last time it was so beautiful, with the colors of wild plants and flowers under the blue sky and white mountains. I will send you picture postcards then, so you can also see. My commander says I might get promoted soon, so might get a tidy sum soon. Hope to hear back about news from home. Do write.”
She sighs as he finishes reading, and gets up gingerly from her chair. Jaya knows better than to go to her aid, and get her scolding as to if he thought her to be incapable. It was the same old story.
“So he won’t come back before the spring,” she says, tears in her eyes, as she walks to her room.
“I will be in my room, Amma, if you need me.”
Jaya lies back on his bed and looks at the slowly rotating fan on the ceiling. He thanks God that his mother didn’t notice his shaky voice when read the letter. He looks at the glazed postcard in his hand, and reads it again.
“Dear Jaya. I know this postcard will find its way to you, and I trust you to do what is right. It is with much sadness and regret that I have to let you know that your appa passed away yesterday. He stepped on a landmine near the enemy territory. He wished me to let you know first, and tells you to keep your amma happy, to study hard, get a good job and see if some day, she can get back the sight she doesn’t have. I write this on a postcard of last spring, which he wanted to send to you both. If I come to your village, I shall come visit you. Your appa’s friend, and commander, Jayesh.”
He reads the words over and over again, till it sinks in, and the tears that he knew would come, begin to flow freely. He knows once they stop, he must try not to cry again. For it will break his mother’s heart more than his will.
He looks at the sky, and darkness has shrouded his world.
“Appa, I will not fail you. I promise.”
(July 8th, 2013)