Bhumi11 mins 624 11 mins 624
The old postman who had only two years left for retirement laboriously pedals his old cycle. The letter he has to deliver is to a new address. He knew the whole village inside out. But was perplexed that somehow, this address seemed to have come out of blue.
Postman stopped his cycle and put the stands on and holding his hand over his eyes to shield from direct sunlight, searched the few houses opposite. The houses were, in that village, far and few. He located the number appearing on the envelope and slowly made his way.
He knocked on the door and waited for a response. A few minutes later, a young woman clad in a saree opened and looked at the postman who handed the letter to her bearing her name, Bhumi. The girl’s face brightened and she took the letter and asked the old man whether he would like to have water and perhaps tea?
The old postman looked at the young Bhumi and smiled and politely refused.
As soon as postman left, Bhumi locked her house and literally ran to the pond in the outskirts of the village, sat on the stone bench and tore open the envelope and unfolded the letter and started reading.
My dear Bhumi
How are you? Can you believe that in my service of nearly 5 years in the military, this is the first time I am writing a letter? Whom could I have written anyway, there was nobody till you came in my life!
Honestly, I don’t know how to write letters leave alone writing a letter to wife to whom I am married only for 15 days!
I have been called in a hurry to be posted at a very important time; we can’t use mobile phones here and have to be very careful. So, I am writing this letter; how I wish I could talk to you and listen to your voice, Bhumi.
People write in newspapers and TV and social media to heap praises on us soldiers all the time. Of course, we deserve it as we do sacrifice a lot. But, what about sacrifices made by the people who are left behind? Mothers, wives, fathers’, children?
On my way to the place of my posting, I had to wait for a day in a small village. I observed that a woman was standing in front of her hut perhaps waiting for her daughter/son to return from school which I was told is very far. She waited and waited and even as I watched, I could sense the anxiety building up from the expression on her face. When finally, she saw her son coming, she virtually ran towards him to hug.
That scene reminded me, what about that mother who has sent her son to the border? Or a wife who has sent her husband, like you Bhumi? For months, sometime, we will not be able to communicate; what will they be thinking all the while? The sacrifice mother makes when her son/daughter who leaves for the service of the country or wife who has sent her husband, is hardly mentioned in newspapers or television.
I am very proud of you Bhumi. You got married to me and within 15 days, I had to leave and god knows when I will meet you again. The thought of leaving the newly married wife all alone has been causing lots of pain; but what can I do? My duty comes first.
Every time some of my friends ran to get the letters from their parents or wife they rejoiced; but when they finished reading letters, I could detect pain and sufferings in their eyes! Perhaps, remembering the plight of their loved ones.
I told you I don’t know how to write letters. See where I have drifted?
Tell me Bhumi, how do you spend your day? What time do you get up? I hardly had time to look at you and learn anything about you. Are your mummy and daddy keep coming to meet you? Oh, I have so many questions to ask you, god knows when will I find the time.
But I promise you Bhumi. I will keep writing letters and will not wait for your reply. So, if I repeat some questions which you have already answered in any of your letter, please don’t feel annoyed.
You know, even as I write this letter in my free time, I can hear the sound of gun nearby. We are not supposed to write more about our activity due to security reasons.
You are a very brave girl Bhumi. On the day of marriage, I remember you telling your mom and dad how important for you to get married to a soldier; that it was your dream to marry one. How lucky I must be, Bhumi to get a wife who understands and want to be part of her husbands’ dream.
Ok, Bhumi. I am not a very romantic writer. So, when you write, feel free to write your feelings and all.
Love you a lot and miss you a lot
Bhumi’s eyes were wet when she finished reading the letter. She folded the letter put it back in the envelope and sat there for some more time just looking at the still water and remembering her husband’s face in uniform; she felt proud.
It was not until another ten days later that she received Sukhdev’s second letter. The postman called out her name and when she came out, gave the letter with a big smile on his face and touched her head as if to bless her.
As usual, Bhumi finished her work, took the envelope and went near the pond to read the letter.
This time, the letter comprised of a single page.
Wow, Bhumi. What a letter you have written! Fortunately, I had not posted my letter before receiving your letter.
How clever of you to use your free time to teach the children! You are making use of all the talent you have in drawing. I am disappointed that you didn’t draw any picture in your letter to me; please write next time, ok?
You have a wonderful handwriting. I enjoyed reading about the story of Rani, one of your students. Children have an in-born gift and who better than a good teacher like you to bring it out? I feel so proud of you Bhumi.
Sorry about your father’s illness. I am sure he will be alright within no time. Did you learn to play the flute that you said you will start?
Once I am able to get to use the mobile, I would like to listen to your flute.
Love you and miss you Bhumi
Bhumi, as usual, folded the letter and put it back in the cover. She took out pen and paper and a clipboard to write her reply. But she had to get back to her class scheduled in the afternoon as her students would be waiting. She decided to postpone writing the reply.
Bhumi had to wait nearly another 10 days before the next letter was delivered by the old postman. This time, the postman stood and looked at Bhumi and spoke. “The letters are from your soldier husband, I guess?” Bhumi’s face brightened. “Yes, Chacha. Will you have some tea today at least? Every time, you deliver and run away.”
The old postman smiled and said, “I wish to stay. But what to do? I am the only postman for all the three villages nearby.”
Postman slowly drank the tea offered by Bhumi and spoke. “Do you have a reply to be posted? I can take it for you and you need not walk all way to the post office to post.”
Bhumi smiled and said, “Just now you have delivered. I will read and prepare my reply by tomorrow. Don’t worry, Chacha I will post it myself. But thanks for asking.”
As per practice, Bhumi went and sat near the pond and opened the letter.
I virtually danced by seeing your letter. God, how I wish I was there to listen to the letter written by you from your mouth only! You have amazing writing skill and wonderful words you chose to explain everything that’s happening there. How I wish I too could explain what’s happening here!
A piece of sad news. One of my batchmates, Sundaram died of shell attack from the enemies. We had no words to talk to his wife and children when our Saab called them in front of us and spoke. He was the seventh person from our batch who sacrificed his life this year.
I am being told to be ready. No details will be discussed with us. Today and tomorrow I have free time.
I volunteered to do the cooking today as extra work and tried the recipe you sent of making and believe me, everyone loved it! There is a clamoring that I will be posted to the kitchen permanently!
You know the postman who comes and delivers the letter here is from our village only. What is more surprising is, his elder brother is also postman in our village. I am sure you have seen him as he will be delivering all my letters to you.
I did something which I have never done in all my life. I drew a picture!! I am scared to send to you as you are too good an artist. But accept me as your student and please write your views. Ok?
I love you very much…. I remember you every second…..
Bhumi wiped her tears. She got up but suddenly her mind blanked out and she almost fell to the ground. Fortunately, the tree branch was strong and she steadied herself. This was the first time that she ever experienced something like this. She reminded herself to speak to her mother about it after the class.
Bhumi completed her housework, checked the homework of her students and decided to her reply to Sukhdev. She took the writing pad, put the backside of the pen her mouth thinking what to write?
When she finished, the letter was of nearly three pages long. She put it in a cover, sealed and went to the post office for posting.
She saw the old postman sorting the letters; there were only two persons working at the post office. The old man saw Bhumi and came out smiling.
“So, Bhumi, you have your reply ready?”
Bhumi smiled and said, “Yes Chacha. I wanted to ask you something.”
The old Postman looked at Bhumi questioningly. “Do you have a brother who is also a postman?” My husband, Sukhdev says the postman who delivers my letters is your brother.”
The old postman laughed out loudly. “Yes. I do have a brother who is postman but not sure where is he right now. He got transferred about a month ago. If Sukhdev says he is my brother, he sure knows him as we all belong to this village, right?”
Bhumi walked back thoughtfully, the postman did not have any letters for her; he sure would have given to me if there was one, she thought.
Bhumi waited for two more days. When she saw the postman cycling near her house, she called out to him. He came near and indicated that he does not have any post to deliver.
A dejected Bhumi could not conduct her class properly as her mind was thinking of Sukhdev.
The letter came the next day. But it was so brief, Bhumi was annoyed first; on second thought she attributed the brief letter to the busy schedule that Sukhdev mentioned in his last letter.
It was not until next weekend that the next letter came; this time it was very brief, hardly few sentences from Sukhdev that Bhumi finished it with a couple of seconds.
Bhumi walked to the pond and sat on the stone bench thoughtfully. Why the letters are so brief? Poor Sukhdev must be really going through a lot of hardship, she thought.
There were no more letters for the entire week.
On Saturday, when Bhumi saw the old postman, she ran towards him. The old postman cycled fast and disappeared in the next lane, without looking at Bhumi.
Bhumi started worrying when the letter didn’t come the following week also. She contemplated going to the military office, which is near to her village and trying to get some information.
She decided to wait for another day or two.
It was almost 25 days since the last letter. A worried Bhumi was sitting near the pond thoughtfully when her mobile phone rang.
No one knew her number other than Sukhdev and her parents. So, who could it be?
She looked at the number and answered the call; the voice was not that of Sukhdev!
“Bhabiji? My name is Parminder. I am batchmate and roommate of Sukhdev. We joined the army together and are serving in the same battalion.”
“Bhabiji, ….” The voice trailed off. “I don’t know how to say this. Bhabiji, Sukhdev game me your number.” There was a long pause and Bhumi’s heartbeat increased with a hundred questions bombarding her.
“Parminderji…. why you are calling? Where is my Sukhdev? Is he all right?...... Please tell me frankly what’s happening?”
Parminder’s voice trembled as he spoke. “Bhabiji, Sukhdev has been taken as….” Parminder paused, “a prisoner by the enemies along with five others. This happened about a month ago….and “Parminder’s voice trembled and was barely audible.
Bhumi could not control her tears and speak in her crying voice.
“One month? But about 20 days back, I got a letter from Sukhdev?”
Parminder’s trembling voice replied, “Bhabiji, those letters were written by Sukhdev ……but…. posted by me. He gave me 4 letters for posting and I kept posting them. Now, I don’t have any more letters.”
Bhumi stood up, wiped her tears and spoke; her voice steady.
“Parminderji, if and when you see or speak to my husband, just tell him one thing.”
Bhumi slowly caressed her stomach when she spoke. “His son or daughter is growing in my stomach, and when they grow up, will join the military, just like their father!”