Dear Shutu,

It’s been ages since I last saw you. How’s the afterlife treating you? I’ve been meaning to revisit you for a long time, but I suppose I’m still reeling from the last time we met.

I’ve wanted to write this letter for over a year now. There’s just so much I need to say to you, and yet I have no words. You see, there’s not a lot of characters who managed to stay on my mind long after the film had ended, but somehow you eased your way in. Somehow, you made me feel way more than any real person did. Somehow, you impacted me in such a profound way that I’ve never been the same since. If only I could tell you how much you mattered to me, how much of a difference you made in my life. If only.

If I was ever asked to pinpoint the exact moment I fell for you, I don’t think I’d be able to say for sure. Maybe it was that time when you reached for that photo of your mother, your gaze lingering and melancholic, and everything else moved out of focus. Or maybe it was when you didn’t want to take part in a séance because you thought it’d cause the spirits pain. Or maybe it was when you refused to eat the sponge cake Mrs. Curney kept on Elizabeth’s grave. Or maybe it wasn’t a single moment at all. Maybe, it was just the very essence of your soul that made my heart seek comfort in you, one scene at a time.

You’re still grieving your father’s death, aren’t you? There’s a scene in which you stumble across your father’s old sweater and feel it in your hands for a second, before burying your face into it. Right then, something moved inside me. While everyone else attached themselves to the people around them, you sought solace in framed photographs and old sweaters. How did it feel, to have it rub against your skin? I imagine it felt like stepping into a home you never knew where to find.

In a world which constantly urges men to ‘toughen up’ and creates heroes out of Kabir Singhs and Arjun Reddys, you stuck out as a beautiful flower, soft and delicate. You read literature and drew frogs in your journal. You collected moths and listened to your eight year-old cousin’s poems. You reminded me of bright sunny days, of sunflowers and daisies, of old library books – warm, comforting, homely.

I wish your family saw you the way I did: like a gentle breeze that caresses one’s cheeks, almost as if it weren’t there, careful not to cause any trouble. Like the soft crackling of fire, warm and melancholic. Like silent nights, meditative and poetic. Like cool autumn evenings, almost nearly perfect. I wish they understood you, comforted you, made your life worthwhile. Oh Shutu, what all you could’ve been, but look what the world reduced you to.

Only if I could’ve helped you. Calmed you down as a hot-tempered Nandu tried to teach you how to drive a car, your hands visibly shaking out of fear. Rubbed your back as you whimpered, banging your head against the wall in your sleep, helpless like a wounded animal. Comforted you as Mimi ended everything between you two with a single sentence. Wrapped my arms around you when you returned back home after being rescued from the ditch, only to see the rest of the family giggling and gossiping, blissfully unaware of your absence.

I know what it does to someone – the pain, the rejection, the heartbreak as you slowly but painfully realize that there’s just so much space you can occupy in someone’s life. How it feels to never belong, hoping you’d just disappear, to be a passive spectator to your own family, perpetually relegated to the sidelines. I’m sorry that things didn’t work out. I’m sorry for all those nightmares that haunted you in your sleep. For everything that happened with you and Tani. For the slow and painful death your soul died. For the way you bled all over the family tree. For everything.

I wish I could’ve met you once. Maybe listen to you ramble about a book you’re currently reading, or just watch you silently sketch in your journal, a peaceful pallor upon your face. Maybe even pull you in a gentle embrace, and tell you that everything’s going to be alright. But I fear I wouldn’t have the courage to. You see, even though it was easier for my heart to seek validation in you, to revel in your state of despair, I couldn’t help but feel conscious of my own fortuitous cruelties. That maybe I might’ve caused just as much pain to someone, unmindful of all the silent battles they fought. That unknowingly, I might’ve been the Vikram in someone’s life too. And that no matter how much I want to tell myself otherwise, the truth will always remain the same – this world would’ve never done right by you.

-Anwesha Samanta, Amity International School, Noida


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