The Letter | Papia Ghosh
Let’s sit by the seashore where the noisy waves will hide my secret from the world. Come Hiya, I want to unburden my soul today. No, no…. don’t say anything, just let me say…
Two months ago, I went to Raipur to sell off our ancestral home, a mansion which had housed five generations of our family tree. No one lives there now, and my cousins said, they didn’t want to be a part of this. So, the entire burden of disposing off the old mansion fell upon me.
Firstly, no one wanted to buy it since the locals believed that the house was haunted, but then, a childhood friend who had a real estate company came forward.
So, Ranbir and I decided to visit the house before I sold it off. The keys to the main door had been handed over to me by my father before he passed away a decade ago.
The locks creaked as we tried to open them. There was a patina of dust everywhere chocking our breath. As we moved from one room to another, I became emotional walking through the familiar rooms where I ran and played with my cousins, ages ago. Lots of old furniture made of Burmese teak and mahogany lay here and there and I knew that they cost a fortune.
We wandered into my parents’ bedroom where the huge four poster bed lay waiting for us to lie down. There were several cupboards, drawers, almirahs and dressing tables scattered throughout the mansion and I knew they had to be sold off.
Ranbir advised me to check the cupboards and the drawers to see if anything valuable was not being left behind. In my parents’ bedroom, there stood a dark mahogany cupboard where my mother kept her sarees and some of my clothes. I opened it after ages and the familiar smell of my mother froze me to the spot. I lost her when I was ten years of age, but she lives in me even today. The cupboard lay empty except for an old saree laid on the shelf.
As I traced my fingers through my mother’s old saree trying to touch her, my fingers touched a ring. As I removed the saree carefully, it revealed a hidden drawer. When I pulled open the jammed lid with some difficulty hoping to uncover some hidden treasure, to my surprise I found that it was empty except for an envelope, mellowed with age. Tracing my fingers over the envelope, I could feel something hard. The envelope was sealed, and my curious fingers tore it open, impatient to unveil its secret.
Slowly I unfolded a paper, yellow and fragile with age. It was a letter my mother had written to someone. It read,
Forgive your unfortunate mother. She failed to protect you both. I had no choice.
Your unfortunate Ma.
Something rattled in the envelope, and a huge key fell off as I tried to empty the aging envelope. The key was big enough to open a padlock. I stood there puzzled. Just then I heard Ranbir’s footsteps. Quietly I slipped the key into my pocket for I didn’t want to say anything to my friend.
We continued from room to room, searching, rummaging, and discarding old useless things which once might have been useful to their owners.
Our search led us to the terrace where we found a room that was locked. I told Ranbir that this room was never opened, and no one ever questioned the existence of the padlock.
Suddenly I remembered the rusted key which remained uncomfortable in my pocket and with a lot of hesitation, I took it out and tried to open the lock. To my surprise, the lock opened after a few attempts, but I was unprepared for what lay behind those doors. How I wish I had never been so inquisitive!
The door creaked with age and inside the small room we found a huge aluminum trunk. A strong stench of rotten flesh made breathing difficult. Ranbir and I opened the trunk and, O my God Hiya! its contents, changed my life. There were skeletons of two babies swathed in white cloth!
Huh!…. I ran out of the room. I vomited and fell on the mossy floor of our terrace and wept. My friend was too dazed to react. He stood rooted to the spot as time stood still.
In a moment, my mother’s letter made sense. They were my twin sisters who were denied the right to live. I remember my mother’s silent tears when she thought no one was watching her. I understood her strained relationship with my father. She barely spoke to him, and I never saw her smile. She lived in a pallor of sorrow. And my father! I didn’t know that I was the caregiver of a murderer!