Tiny Conversations… “Come here. I’m going to Touch you!”

This happened some 6-7 years ago. I lived in Chile then. I had to consult a physician about a mole that was growing on my leg, and it was also indicating inward growth – a kind of plantlike feeling where I felt it had a root.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

At the clinic:

Doc– Buenos Dias, señora!

“Buenos Dias, señor!”

Doc– Cual es el problema? (what is the problem?)

“No sé mucho español. ¿Puedo hablar en inglés? (I don’t know much Spanish. Can I speak in English?)

Doc– Si, Si. No problema. I know leetle, leetle Englich.

“That’s a relief. Thank you so much!”

So, I tell him what my concerns are about the mole on my thigh. He asks me some pertinent questions. Nods his head thoughtfully.

Doc– Ok, I will see it first.

Then he gets up and walks away from the his desk towards a curtained area in one corner of the room.

Doc– Come with me here, señora. You will remove your trouser and I am going to touch you here, in this place.

I almost burst out laughing. The immediate thought that ran through my head was…‘what if I were silly enough not to understand what he meant!’ I’d have gathered my handbag and vamoosed out of the room!

“Ok, señor,” I said instead and followed him into the curtained area.

Examination done. He agreed that there was a downward, rootlike growth. Diagnosis would depend on removing the mole surgically and sending it for biopsy. We walked out and sat at his desk. He had to decide on a date for the surgery. That done, I stood up and thanked him from the depths of my heart.

Doc– So señora, how you like my Englich?

“Awesome, señor doctor!” I said genuinely appreciative. “I am so happy to have found a doctor with whom I could communicate in English.”

Tiny Conversations – Jumping to conclusions

It was one of those gatherings – the ones where the local Indian origin diaspora collect to celebrate some Indian festival or someone’s b’day etc. So, it was one which I had to attend as the ‘family’ was invited. I had come up here to visit from Chile. It is taken for granted and understood by all and sundry that any visiting relation is also included in an invitation for the whole family. Not attending could be misconstrued to mean anything, definitely not in a good light, if the person was not laid down with an ailment or had a very good reason not to attend. This would be the second or third one I was attending so I was familiar with some faces and names that I could remember.

“Hello aunty!” said a young woman smiling brightly. (Indians call any known elderly person aunty or uncle, as the case may be, even though there’re no family ties.) I recognized her and thankfully remembered her name too. She was a motormouth and one that poked her nose into everyone’s business and gossiped too.

“Hello! How are you?”

“Good, good. Nice to see you again.”

“Nice to see you too. I guess one gets to meet more often at these gettogethers.”

“Didn’t you have these in Chile?”

“Well, not for the entire Indian community. We’d have one at Diwali and some other festivals too. But I’d go only if it was hosted by the employees of my son’s company for their families and some close friends. So, only the group of friends who visited each other, and the office crowd would attend, not the entire Indian crowd living there. Even then, I only attended a couple or so of these parties, not all.”

“Oh! Ok. Didn’t the parents of the others come?”

“No. There weren’t any parents around most of the time.”

“Then it must have been very boring. Ours here is nice. Everyone has company. So many seniors are here to keep you company.

“I think you got me wrong,” I laughed. “I didn’t skip these events because they were “boring” due the absence of “seniors” presence. In fact, I enjoyed them. I find it always more interesting to interact with the young ones. And my age group would be great if we had common interests. I don’t like domestic chatter when we should actually be having a ball!”

She looked at me a bit aghast. I could see the mills in her head churning – her eyes and expression couldn’t disguise it. She decided to change the topic.

“So, what do you do the whole day? You must be very, very busy looking after three grandkids the whole day. Especially baby-sitting the little ones! All our mothers are occupied doing that. They look after the kids and stay busy the whole day taking care of all their needs.”

“Oh no. I have quite a lot to occupy me. And that doesn’t include “looking after and taking care of all their needs.” I do things for them but it’s not a nanny kind of baby-sitting schedule that frees up time for the parents,” I laughed, “I let the parents do their share!”

“No? You don’t!” she exclaimed shocked.

“Well, I do engage with the kids as in play or if need be keep an eye on them when a parent is not around. I spend time with them singing, playing games, telling stories, and if it’s just us at home, I supervise meal time. I take the elder two for walks. I can’t give all my time to them on a daily basis. I need time for myself and the things I do.”

“Our mother’s love looking after the kids. They enjoy seeing to their every need. It gives us mothers a rest.” she said rather defensively.

“I’m sure they do. I do enjoy my time with mine, it’s just that I can’t be on call all the time. Most grandmoms, I guess, don’t mind looking after the grandkids 24×7, my own mom included! I applaud them.

“I have my own schedule and to-do list, you see,” I continued, “I just can’t fit in that kind of duty. In any case, I know I’d be awful in such a granny schedule. There are some things I’m loathe to do,” I explained my side of the situation. “Luckily, in Chile, we had a nanny 24×7 for the twins!”

“But, I can look after them, for short spells, and be a pretty interesting, funny granny who teaches as she plays,” I added.

She had a glassy stare and a fixed half smile.

“Oh, nice talking to you. Enjoy.” And she left in a hurry.

I did wonder about that. She seemed put off. Then I shifted my attention to doing what I like best when I’m in a room full of people – people-watching!

The next day, I got my answer to why the lady had hurried off all of a sudden. She had something very important to do… dispense information. I learned, from my son, that she had told all the ladies that I had called their mothers “NANNIES” because they looked after their grandkids- seeing to everything- feeding, eating, bathing, diaper changes, putting them to sleep, entertaining etc., etc.

“Did I?” I laughed. “That’s ridiculous! I never even remotely referred to anybody’s mother. I specifically pointed to myself. I just said I could not fit in the schedule of the nanny we had in Chile, in my daily agenda, because I had my own to-do list and if I did, I’d be an awful granny then, anyway. But I could be an awesome Granny, in short spells, which I am!”

I further explained to him, “There was no inference either because we were discussing ME and “baby-sitting. And I was addressing her assumption that I must be “very, very, busy looking after three grandkids the whole day.” In fact, I applauded their moms, including my own mother, in the group of grannies who liked to look after their grandkids’ “every” need.

Well, the lady sure had some inference, assumption issues or was it just a ‘sporting’ one of – JUMPING to conclusions?

Tiny Conversations – no colors for a widow

When I was widowed, we lived in a very conservative and restrictive society in a rather backward province at the time. So things were pretty bad for me with my sort of disregard for their stifling conventions that made no sense to me.

It was a society that took away the colors from a widow’s life, literally and figuratively too. Any kind of fun and enjoyment was banned for her. Dressing up was absolutely forbidden – no jewelry either. As if that weren’t enough, society had decreed that these unfortunate women could only wear certain colors – specifically, a dull, dark maroon and a dull greenish-blue. This identified them as widows. It horrified me that such rules were imposed on them. Imagine wearing clothes that put a tag on you WIDOW for everyone’s information! As if they hadn’t suffered enough. And for what purpose? It wasn’t their fault that fate had dealt them such a blow!

I recall a social acquaintance of mine, one who is a non-practicing, lawyer, telling me why the women of their society “willingly” accepted these social norms. She tried to explain it to me by quoting her widowed mother:

“My mother accepted it because she believed, ‘Once a husband dies, there is no color left in life. Life becomes totally colorless.‘ This is why it is okay for them to wear these colors and not wear jewelry nor participate in festivals and entertainment of any kind.”

“Oh, really?” I interrupted her with undisguised sarcasm. “What about the men, the widowers?”

“What about them,” she countered. “They are men. These things don’t apply to them They can carry on their lives.”

“Exactly my point – Why doesn’t it apply to them? Why does everyone start looking out for a wife for the widower, but push the widow into deeper misery? Why do they strip her of her dignity and self-respect? Why do they want to kill her spirit? Why make them like living corpses that way?”

“That’s how it’s been for years and that’s how it will remain. Who can stop it? At least it is better than Sati.”

“If the practice of Sati (burning the wife alive on the funeral pyre of the husband) can be stopped and declared a crime, this can be too. All it takes is the decision to fight against it. All it needs is one strong person to stand against it.”

“That’s what you think. We women don’t think so.”

“How many young widows have you asked about how they feel and what they think about this, with the assurance of confidentiality and secrecy?”

“I don’t need to ask anyone,” she was riled and het up. “This is our ‘rivaaz’. Our culture. And our society will follow it.”

“And are women in this ‘rivaaz’ consulted? Are they even represented when rules are made and imposed on them by ‘society’?

“It is a male dominated society. The women will never be consulted.”

“Not for long. Take my word. Change is coming. The winds are changing direction. But I’m keen to know, will you accept and support the change when it comes? You yourself have broken the boundaries of your social culture, you went against all that your society deemed wrong. Didn’t you? You are living your life on your terms. Will you be brow beaten if, god forbid, diktats such as these are imposed on you?”

She preferred to let silence speak for her. And the silence spoke louder than her words.

Tiny Conversations – Imagine Wine, Jacuzzi, and…

A few months back, my son and DIL bought a house. The day they moved in, the twins were extremely excited. They called me and announced that they had “finally” moved lock, stock, and barrel, into their “new house.” Thereafter they promptly took me on a tour of the place with running commentary and expert comments. They did a great job I must say. Soon, the tour was done inside and outside the house too.

It was time to settle down and chat.

Amu: You know what, Dada, there’s a room just for you when you come here.

“Now, isn’t that simply fantastic! I will have to think about how to do it up.”

Mia: Mama’s already thought about that. She’s put up new curtains too.

“Well, then I’ll think about what should go on the walls and some other itty-bitty things.”

Amu: It’s going to be fun Dada. Aren’t you excited?

“Yes, I am. Super excited.”

Mia: But you know what Dada, just in case you’re wondering which of the two bedrooms we showed you was yours, the smaller room is yours. The bigger one is ours. You do know yours is the smaller one, right?

Two worried faces looked at me intently. They expected me to be disappointed. I decided to play along.

“Oh!” I said and pulled a long face.

Amu: (clearly moved) Dada, Dada, it’s just a wee bit smaller than ours, she said placatingly.

“Then it’s alright!” I laughed. “Anyway, it makes sense, you know. There are two of you and just one ME. You definitely have more stuff to put in. I was just teasing you. I’d be surprised if I had the bigger room”

They relaxed. And looked at each other in silent communication.

“We’re going to share the bathroom too!” they exclaimed, taking advantage of this moment. And giggles followed that revelation.

“I hope it’s big enough,” I said laughing.

Mia: Oh, Yes, Dada, the bathroom is big enough, but (she pauses) the WC is a bit low! How will you manage? Your back will hurt.

Amu: Maybe she can use mama-papa’s one.

Mia: Or the powder room… the WC there isn’t low!

As I listened and watched their expressions changing with each thought and possible solution, I realized how genuinely concerned they were about their Dada and her physical limitations in some areas.

“What would I do without you two ladoos to care for me! (Literally, ladoo is a sweetmeat). You think about everything to make me comfortable.”

Both: We love you Dada!

“Love you to smithereens too, my dolls.”

Amu: Do you know the master bedroom’s bathroom is BIG and has a jacuzzi too?

“Yes, I heard about that and saw it too on the tour you took me on around the house.”

Amu: Yes, but you don’t know something. (both the girls giggle).

“Now don’t laugh alone. Come on, tickle my funny bone too. I like a good laugh.”

Amu: Mama said she’d like to relax in the jacuzzi with a glass of wine.

“Oh boy! Now that’s a thought. I wouldn’t mind doing that myself!”

Both: But you can’t! Mama said only she and papa would be using that bathroom.

“Oh shoot! (sad face) and here I was dreaming about luxuriating in there with a glass of wine!”

Amu: Really?! But can’t you imagine it?

“Well, I already did and that’s why I thought it would be awesome.”

Amu: (thoughtfully) No Dada, just imagine a naked woman with a glass of wine in the jacuzzi! Ewww!!

Mia: It’s so silly, Dada, (she says between bouts of laughter.)

Amu: And so funny. Just imagine that Dada!

“Well, I could imagine that but I’d rather not, you know,” I manage to say as I laugh out loud. “Come on girls, ever heard of bathing suits aka swimsuits, bikinis. Imagine that kind of a woman.

Amu: But that is not so funny, Dada. Another burst of laughter.

Their laughter and mine punctuated and truncated our conversation about nude women, wine glasses, and jacuzzis.

Tiny Conversations – A Bad Choice

One evening, the twins, their mum and I were sitting out in the little park behind the house. The girls decided the bench we were on would be the school bus.

Amu: This is our school bus, and you are the bus driver, Dada! (they call me Dada)

“Oh no! I can’t drive your bus. The driver’s seat is uncomfortable and you know I have a bad back.”

Mia: You just have to sit. No walking. No standing.

“No. I don’t want to be the driver.”

Both: (Disappointed) OK! (They turn to their mother) Mama, you are the driver. (She accepts).

“Thank you,” I said, relieved. I walked across to the opposite side to a comfortable chair and lowered myself, leaned back and relaxed. I closed my eyes and breathed deep. I could doze off, I thought. It was so peaceful and relaxing. But, enroute to the school, the bus broke down.

Amu: Let’s get the mechanic!

She makes a dash…

… and stands in front of me. I keep my eyes shut.

Amu: Dada, come quick. The bus broke down.

“Why do you need me?”

Amu: You are the mechanic!

“What?!”

Amu: You didn’t want to be the driver so you are the mechanic.

“You never asked me if I wanted to be the mechanic,” I said haughtily.

Amu: But we did ask you to be the driver. You didn’t want to. So now, you are the mechanic.

“(Groan!) I didn’t know it was a choice between two jobs.”

Amu: But it was. We gave you the first choice! Now quick Dada. We’ll be late for school.

I haul myself off the chair. Walk reluctantly to the bus, dragging my feet as she goads me to move faster. I repair the bus, bending awkwardly, by changing an invisible punctured tire. I overdo the grumbling and groaning!

Mia: See, if you had chosen to become the bus driver you wouldn’t have to bend and push and pull. You would just have to sit. in. your. seat. We told you.

“Ok, Ok! Don’t rub it in. There, it’s all done. Now off you go.”

Amu checks to see if everything is alright. They get on the bus. I heave a sigh of relief. As they roll away, Mia shouts:

Dada, what does ‘rub it in’ mean? And she laughs heartily as their driver picks up speed and zooms off to school.

Tiny Conversations – Trollers Vs Tongs

There’s always something happening at mealtime it seems.

Myra: Can I have the trollers please?

“What’s that?”

Myra: That’s something that goes like…. (she moves her thumb and fingers together and apart).

I get it but pretend not to.

“What do you want to do with a troller?”

Myra: (impatiently) Pick up the hot dog and put it in the bun, Dadi!

“Oh, I couldn’t understand what it was. You mean tongs, right?

Myra: (Rolling her eyes) What’s that?

I hand her the tongs. “The smaller one is in the dish washer. You can use these kitchen tongs. I think it will do the job for you.”

Myra: Yes! That’s it… trollers, (she stressed the word with relief and a certain amount of triumph). She had imparted some knowledge to me.

She gave me a look that said… ‘hope you learn the right word.’

I had a good laugh behind her back!

Tiny Conversations – Does he miss me?

Some years ago, when Aly, the eldest of my grandkids was about two and a half years old, on a video call she asked me about her grandpa.

Aly – Dadi, do I have a grandpa?

“Yes, you do?”

Aly – Where is he then?

“He’s not here now,” I said, wondering if she had already learned that he had died long ago.

Aly – I know, she said, with wisdom beyond her years shining from her eyes.

“So you know he isn’t here with us, and you know why, yes?”

Aly – Yes, he is in heaven.

“Yes, sweetie. Your grandpa is in heaven.” I was relieved.

Aly – Does he know about me?

“I’m sure he does.”

Aly – Can he see me?

“I believe he can whenever he peeks through the clouds.”

Aly – (Beaming a bright smile) Does he love me?

“Oh, my dear, you cannot imagine how much he loves you. He adores you.”

Aly – (She’s glowing by now) Dadi, does he miss me?

I choked on my words as tears threatened to spill out and said, “Trust me sweetie, he misses you very, very much.”

Her little heart found a lot of comfort in that assurance. She flashed her angelic smile and settled into the couch more comfortably, content in the knowledge that her grandpa knew about her; loved her; missed her.

Sometimes it’s so much better to sugarcoat a bitter pill.

PS: Down the road, in the present time, she’s eleven and asked me about him and wanted me to tell her how he died, how I felt, and how her father and his brother took it.

This time, I didn’t sugarcoat the pill. She was ready to hear about pain and loss.

Tiny Conversations – Whodunnit?

Photo by Laura Garcia from Pexels

My twin granddaughters joined playschool when they moved to Canada, and their teacher was expecting. For a couple of months, they were unaware about this. But then, a few more enlightened girls were discussing their teacher’s “big tummy”. Our little ones soon learned that she was going to have a baby.

They were super excited! At that young age of innocence they were uninhibited and wanted to confirm the news… hear it from the horse’s mouth and they also had some other questions to ask. They didn’t only want to confirm what they had heard, they wanted to know who put the baby in and how it would come out of her tummy. Yes! I bet you are laughing now imagining how the conversation went.

Amu – Is there a baby inside there? (she points to the tummy).

Teacher – Yes, there is. (highly amused by their frank curiosity)

Mia – When will the baby come out?

Teacher – There are a couple of months more.

Twins together – OHHH! (Their brows were furrowed. There was a HOW knocking around).

Mia – How does it come out?

Stumped on how to answer this without going into unnecessary details, which they wouldn’t know nor understand, she said:

“Oh, you know, I’ll go to the hospital and the doctor will help the baby out.”

Amu – Will the doctor cut your tummy?

Teacher – (In order to avoid another “how” question if she replied in the negative, she opted to go with…) I don’t know. He might have to cut it.

Both – But that is horrible!

Amu – It’s going to hurt a lot and there will be a lot of blood!

Both the little girls seemed quite disturbed by this.

Teacher – Oh no! You need not worry about that. They will give me a medicine and I won’t feel a thing. No pain.

Both were relieved by this information and turned to leave. Just when the teacher thought the conversation was over, one of the twins had another question.

“Who put the baby in your tummy?

Should she answer that with, “the stork”? Indians didn’t use the stork story because it isn’t a bird everyone knew about. What everyone knew was GOD! And being who he was, he was bigger and stronger and more powerful than superman, especially in a kid’s mind. He could do anything, even the impossible. Scripture stories, in any religion, speak of these amazing feats. So it was the easiest way to explain it to very young kids.

Now the teacher was an Indo-Canadian and like all, or almost all, Indians answer this question she said:

God put it there!”

“Oh!” they said and off they ran to play with the other girls. I’m sure she was glad they didn’t think of another HOW question! How did God put it there?! That would need a lot more imagination to explain in a satisfactory way!!

I remember being told that God had dropped off my younger brother at the Army Hospital and my mother was there to pick him up! I swallowed that story hook, line, and sinker! Just in case you are wondering — even at the age of ten, I hadn’t noticed that my mom’s tummy had grown enormously! I was pretty naive or too tomboyish to have noticed such things. Besides, that was 1965 India. And that was the story all kids were told until they learned the truth… mostly from their friends, older kids, or when they were old enough to study it in their Science class.

Tiny Conversations – Psst! Guess what!

Conversation over the phone…. Finding Love!

“Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.”

~Walter Winchell

“Hi, Joycee!”

“Long time no see, no talk! What’s up?”

“Not much.”

“I know. This pandemic has really made life boring.”

“Umm… well mine bordered on boring even before the pandemic. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. I find things to keep me sane. Could be better, you know, anyway, how’s it going with you?”

“Oh, before this virus thing it was great. Never knew I’d have so much fun in my sixties! I have such a lot of time to indulge in all the activities I had no time for earlier.”

“True that. Though I can’t match your “free” time, I still have more than I used to.”

“I hope I’m not keeping you from something. I should have asked before I called. I forget that you’re a WFH girl.”

“Well, actually, you are. I’m looking for ‘love’ but just can’t find it on the grid.”

“Wow! Seriously?!”

“Yes. But why are you so shocked?”

“Gosh! I never knew you had this daring streak. I mean, you know, society, your society, and family… you know you’re not considered a young woman any more by them… with us, it’s a different story.”

“Hmm… young! That depends on which part of me you are referring to. Well, above the belt, I’m still a kid!! So yes, I am young. hehe. As for society, the so-called friends, and family, what do I say? They’ve said, done, thought of enough things to spice up their sad lives by making up saucy stories in many of which, I am the Shero!! Their minds. Their concoctions… Let them be happy, hehe. I didn’t bother about it then and I did not even try to clarify anything. I let people be happy. Whatever they think, whatever they say, tells me a little bit more about who they really are behind their social masks. Haha!”

“Hehehe… you haven’t changed a bit. Love that. Ok, you carry on with your search. Hope you are lucky. But be careful. No offence, but its a dicey world out there and I know you aren’t that savvy about it as you think you are.”

“Thanks for the advice and no offence taken. But could you enlighten me about the dangers of finding ‘LOVE’ on a grid in Word Search.”

“WHAT!”

“What were you thinking?”

“Exactly like those mongers of gossip and outrageous fiction we were alluding to earlier. Those who “spice up” their lives by conjuring up images and weaving stories around them without solid facts. Hehe, guilty as charged! Imagine, if I were one of those, how this would go round the gossip mill?! I get why you care a hoot for what people THINK. You go HUNT for love… wherever. Just let me know when you find it… couldn’t resist saying that haha! Even this short conversation with you has been so refreshing. Stay the way you are girl.”

“I love hearing a sane voice in the cacophony of judgmental, criticizing, condemning, voices. Stay in touch. You know how I am! Not much of a phone person… as the caller… Muah!”

I Got Mail – Jacqueline Kennedy Replies

During my big moves from one country to another, thrice, I gave away, sold quite a lot of my personal belongings, and also lost quite a bit. No, not because of lost baggage, that’s not happened yet, thankfully. It was through leaving behind, in safekeeping, some of the stuff that I cherished and valued. All that just disappeared. When I asked for it, they said they didn’t know where it was! Without going into too many details, let’s just say I resigned myself to the loss, and after a few more queries off and on, I accepted the fact that I had lost my precious things. The most precious among those were all my photographs! Heaps of loose ones and many in the albums. 

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s not a pity party, I just wanted to show how thrilled I was to discover two very old envelops among some of my original documents. They happened to be two replies from Jacqueline Kennedy (on behalf of Mrs. Kennedy!) to two of my letters sent to her. Why did I write to her?

Honestly, it was only because I was moved by the assassination of JFK and the pictures I saw of a bereaved Jackie and the two little children. I couldn’t care less that he was the President or what the implication and situation of this unforeseen incident would be. I was just 8 years old when I wrote that first letter of condolence!

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This was the first reply that arrived almost 4 months later. 

The memory of that morning, when the news flashed across the world, is tinged with humor because of my reaction. I can clearly recall how Daddy read the headlines and exclaimed, “Oh no! They shot him!”

I dashed to the room in consternation and dread not knowing who had been shot. The memory of my uncle getting shot in a hunting accident popped into my mind.

“Who? Who Daddy? Who got shot?” 

“Kennedy. John Kennedy. They assassinated him,” he said crestfallen and obviously emotional. That was something we never saw. He wasn’t a man who showed his softer emotions. 

I thought John Kennedy was a fellow officer in the Navy, or then one of our neighbors in the Defence Officers residences.

“How do you know? Did you see it?”

“Everyone’s shocked,” said Mummy, “you can see people outside talking about it.”

“Did you see him, Mummy?”

“Yes,” she said and went off to see to whatever it was she was doing. 

I dashed to the balcony behind and leaned over to see… but I saw nothing that I thought I would see. I had expected to see a body and… well, you see, I was an over-imaginative little girl, all excited about a shooting, and I had these pictures in my mind of one of those cowboy movie scenes. I guess I expected to see Kennedy sprawled on the street with a bullet hole in his head, dead center!

“Where’s Kennedy? There’s no one outside except Major K and Squadron Leader G and some others I don’t know,” I was disappointed. “You said you saw Kennedy, Mummy, you said you did.”

She burst out laughing. “I was talking about the pictures in the newspaper. Kennedy is the president of America.”

“I want to see them too.”

I walked away and saw the newspaper photos. I was disappointed! Nothing as dramatic to see as I had imagined.

Later, Daddy called me and sat me down. I heard how he was shot and that his wife was sitting beside him when it happened. He explained who a President of a country is; and how important the President of America is, and he showed me the pics of the children and spoke about how small they were and how sad it was that they should lose their Daddy so early. Then he showed me Jacqueline’s photograph. JFK’s pics. I fell in love with both of them.

“She’s so pretty. And he’s so handsome.”

And automatically, the drama was created. From cowboys to fairy tales my mind conjured up a tragedy… I felt really sad. I was heartbroken for her and her lovely kids.

I opened my heart and spoke about my feelings and Daddy listened quietly. I have no recollection of what my 8-year-old mind was thinking and expressing, but I do still recall how my heart was aching for them.

Finally, when I was spent, it took a day or two, Daddy asked me if I would like to write Mrs. Kennedy a letter, “Let her know how sorry you are for her and her children’s loss,” he said.

And that’s how I wrote a two-page (notebook pages) letter to her. I introduced myself first and then went on to say how sorry I was to hear about her loss. I showed it to my father, who read it, said it was very nicely written and then, without any editing or corrections, he sent it off. The letter had a long way to travel and in those days, it took anything between 3-4 months to reach an overseas destination.

Expressing my grief in writing was cathartic. I guess that is why my father had suggested I do it. I soon forgot about the letter until one day, they handed me an envelope with Mrs. Kennedy’s name on it. I was ecstatic. Not even in my wildest dreams did I expect anyone from there to respond to an 8-year-old’s scribbled condolences. But, they did. I held the black-rimmed card in my hand unbelieving that it was actually a letter addressed to me on her behalf.

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It didn’t matter to me that it was one of the hundreds that must have been sent out all over the world. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t written it or that she wouldn’t have even read my letter. Yes, Daddy explained that to me. I understood that she couldn’t have done it herself. Besides, “she must be so sad,” I thought.

That letter addressed to ME was satisfying. And that it came in response to mine, was even more gratifying. After all, I was just a little girl who didn’t even know what the president of a country meant. It was just the horror of the assassination and the genuine sadness that I felt and in some way understood. I felt a deep sympathy for them.

The incident was soon forgotten as many other things occupied and hogged the attention of this 8-year-old. We changed residence and I had to make new friends, get used to using the school bus, and also the new class in the new session. Time went by and soon it was nearing Christmas. As I made a list for Santa Claus, I thought about the Kennedy kids. Would they be making lists for Santa? Would they be celebrating Christmas?

In our society, usually, festivals aren’t celebrated if a death occurs in the family during that year. I was sad once again for the Kennedy family! So, I wrote another letter and handed it to Daddy. He read it and nodded his head in approval. “Is it ok to write a letter now? Will they read it?” I wasn’t sure if it was the thing to do. I just wanted to share their sorrow. Anyway, my father thought it was the right thing to do and sent this one too on its way.

I forgot about it. The months passed. And once again, I was surprised by a familiar envelope. This time around, I didn’t even harbor a sliver of hope for a response. My letter had been just a letter of love, hope, and caring. Something one would write to a friend or family. Who was I? Just a 9-yr-old girl from faraway India. But, they did reply on behalf of Mrs. Kennedy.

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This time receiving a reply taught me something. Courtesy, formal etiquette, and consideration. My letter could have been ignored or worse not considered worthy of a reply. Another thing I noticed was that each envelope was addressed by hand and the thought of the sheer numbers of envelopes that had to have addresses written on them zapped me. Some effort! This time around, it wasn’t a black-rimmed (mourning) letter paper.  

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I’ve carried these around with me for 55+ years! Every time I look at them, I wonder at the little girl who felt so deeply for the tragic loss of this family and expressed it of her own accord. It surprises me more because I was a shy girl. I wasn’t outgoing nor so open with my emotions with strangers or extended family. I could be open and free only with my immediate family. So, yes, it was a hidden part of me that released itself much, much later in life… some decades later! #oldletters #memorabilia