The light blue envelope was lying on the kitchen table when Anu got home from school. Its edges were worn from the journey. On the front were the words “Aerogramme” in English and Hindi and their name and address in neat, block, capital letters.
The aerogrammes came once a month like clockwork.
“Why doesn’t Thatha just call?” Anu had asked her mother once.
But Amma had just shaken her head and told her not to ask silly questions. Anu didn’t think it was a silly question. Gramps and Gram called from Boston once a week. Thatha and Pahtti never called. They just sent these envelopes instead. Two pages of tiny, handwriting in a language she couldn’t read. Except for the end, which was always in English and always the same:
“Love to Anu and David.”
Anu picked up the envelope and held it to her nose. One breath, two breaths. It smelled faintly of jasmine. She tried to imagine Thatha sitting at his desk with the letter, Pahtti over his shoulder telling him what to write, but she couldn’t picture them. She couldn’t remember what they looked like.
Amma came into the kitchen and saw Anu with the envelope in her hand.
“Be careful with that, she said. “I don’t want you to tear it.”
Anu put it back down on the table.
“Tell me about India,” she said.
“You’ve been there,” her mother replied. She pulled a pot out from underneath the stove, and set it on the counter.
“Moooooom,” Anu said, “I was a baby.”
“I can’t hear you Anu,” her mother said. She had put two cupfuls of Tilda in the pot, and was noisily washing the rice in the sink.
“You never listen.”
“I want to know about Thatha and Pahtti. Why don’t they call so I can talk to them”
Her mother turned the water off and set the pot down in the sink. She stood there for a minute in silence.
Her mother turned to her, and Anu saw her eyes were wet. She stopped whining. She had never seen her mother cry. This was not ok. Anu went over and wrapped her five-year old arms around her mother’s legs.
“I’m sorry Amma. Don’t cry.”
“Oh chellamma, I just miss them. I miss my home.”
Anu didn’t understand. “This is your home.”
“Yes baby, but that’s my home too. Where Thatha and Pahtti are. Wouldn’t you miss me if you moved away?”
“But I’m never going to move away. I’m always going to live here.”
Anu’s mother laughed. “That’s right, you’re always going to live here.”
“I love you Amma.”
“I love you too Anu."
Anu let go of her mother’s legs and went back to the table. She picked up the aerogramme and opened it.
“I’m going to learn to read it!” she announced.