Going through my papers, I came across a letter post marked Queens NY, Nov 3 ,2003. It was hand written – beautiful hand writing – two pages – written on both sides, no name of the letter writer- full of references and quotes from my stories. It was sent to me by my publisher. The sender had enclosed it, in a separate, sealed envelope, requesting the publisher to send it to me. No, let me say it again.
My publisher called and told me that some one had asked him for my postal address. I asked what was his name? He said he had asked the person but he said his name was not important and that I would know who it was from if the letter was sent to me. My publisher sounded amused.
What would you like me to do? he asked after a pause.
I told him that if that person called again, tell him to mail the letter to you and then you send it to me. “No matter what he says, don’t give him or anyone else … my address”
Well, what I had thought was; better attend to the matter to appease him and that, if he was some kind of a trouble maker, we would have something in our hands.
” Alright, at least that would make him stop calling me every other day”. My publisher sounded relieved.
I received the letter a few days later. He was right.. I recognized the writing.
I had been receiving letters from him – if my memory is not failing – since 1979. It started when one of the magazines, gave my name and address in their list of contributors for that month. I started getting hoards of letters, all kinds of letters like marriage proposals, immigration, requests for monetary help, help find matches – US citizens – for their sons and daughters. One even from a US jail, someone waiting to be deported. It was then that I wrote all of my publishers never to publish my address ever again. Then we moved and our address changed. No more letters … until that call from the publisher. Soon after that the magazine went under because of financial problems – story of literary magazines in Urdu language.
I kept this letter for two reasons. One – it was from a very lonely and sad person and, two, because of its lyrical prose. The combination of these two, meaning loneliness and sad lyrical prose – seemed to have a story in it just waiting for a creative mind to write … or so I thought. Or maybe I kept it because he didn’t sound mentally sound to me and – God forbid – if need be at any point in life I should have it as a proof of his madness.
Today, I discovered it in my papers and read it . Again I was struck by his loneliness and a sad, flowing river of thoughts. Writing to me was cathartic to him for his pent up emotions, his illusions, his disappointments in life. Its been quite a few years since I received this letter and I think keeping it is not important anymore.
Where ever he is, I hope he has found some peace in his life.