Highly Commended Story - The Letter from Heaven
“The Letter from Heaven” by Anchita Kharbanda, Global Indian International School, Pg-Smart Campus, Singapore, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Anchita is a grade 7 student of Global Indian International School, Punggol Smart Campus Singapore. She has been learning Bharatanatyam (Indian Classical dance) for the past 6 years and had given various performances. She loves reading, painting and practices yoga regularly. Math and science are her favorite subjects. Anchita believes in forgiveness and wants to make this world a better place to live in.
The Letter from Heaven
‘Finally, holidays here I come!!’ I thought, as I fell plump into the comfort of my bed after the last day of school. Millions of plans galloped through my head, calculating what all I could do in my December holidays. Then my father, filled with excitement enters the room to announce – “Pack your bags, we are off to India for a month to visit your grandparents!!” I was stumped. I wasn’t too fond of visiting India. I love my grandparents a lot, they do play with my brother and me, but we could do that here also, why did I have to go to India? There weren’t many cousins, and most of them had school during the time we would go. ‘Boredom’ constantly kept zooming through my mind, barring any other thoughts from even developing. Time flew, and before I knew it, I was whisking away to the airport to catch our flight. While my dad spelled the long line of relatives and friends we would meet, all I could think was how my parents would be busy, my brother entirely occupied by his phone, leaving me by myself.
We didn’t do much for the first few days; my grandparents and I spent lots of time playing board games and watching TV. I occasionally got my brother to play in as well, because I managed to hide his phone – that’s why they call me cunning. As we began visiting relatives, apathy began to creep in. I spent a lot of time watching movies and playing video games, and constantly worried of having to strain my eyes too much. Little did I know that the upcoming events would change me for the better.
We were on our way to visit my great grandmother, the oldest member of our family. She was an incredibly inspiring individual, who had gone through so much in her lifetime, and many of her stories etched into my head. We spent majority of the time together, and soon became best friends. She was mesmerized by the comics that came in the daily newspaper. The comics always came in Hindi language, but she was unable to read and write this language. She was not illiterate, but was born a century ago, when the local district languages were the only means of communication. She was extremely fluent in Punjabi, a language very different from the modern-day language of Hindi.
Watching her unable to read the comic melted my heart. I used to read the comics out to her, when I finally decided to help her learn Hindi and bring back that smile on her face. Gradually I began teaching her and her interest and willingness to learn at 101 taught me that the journey of learning is lifelong.
Everybody would go about their chores, while great grandma and I would sit on a small patch of the lush green grass, basking in the warmth of the winter sun and read through the Hindi alphabets. She was a quick learner and was soon able to read and write basic Hindi. As time for our return to Singapore loomed closer, I began feeling sad about how I would miss all of this. With the promise of continuing her Hindi lessons during my next visit to India, I returned to Singapore. I thought I’d be busy with all the holiday homework and meeting my friends, but her thought never left my mind. Her 102nd birthday was coming closer, so I decided to write her a surprise letter. School had begun and I was starting to get busy, yet every day I ran to the mailbox, hoping there would be a reply to my letter, but I always returned empty handed. A week whisked by, then the terrible news struck – great grandma was no more.
Sadness had gripped me throughout, as I tried to control myself through the day. We had become so close, and now suddenly it was all over. I knew great grandma would be very happy where she is, but I still wondered if great grandma had the chance to read my letter. Numerous thoughts rushed through my head, with more and more daunting possibilities each time. What if she hadn’t even received my letter? School was starting to get busy, and each passing day took me further away from the ‘memory land’ of great grandma and closer to reality.
Suddenly one evening my father enters my room and hands me an envelope with my name on it. It was from India, and I was perplexed about who it could be, but once I opened the letter, tears rolled down my face. My best friend had replied to my letter. I learnt that great grandma had written the letter the day before her passing, and insisted it be posted the same day and be kept a secret. I silently read the letter and tucked it back into the envelope as my emotions swallowed me. She could finally read and write Hindi on her own, and I was so proud of her. Receiving the letter, a week after her passing felt as if she had written the letter from Heaven.
Next day, my best friend’s birthday was here, and I insisted we buy a cake and celebrate her 102nd birthday. As I blew the candles on her behalf, she was in my heart as I cherished her Letter from Heaven.