Friday, February 25, 2011

Dearest Uncle Pai,

Dearest Uncle Pai,

There were days when I used to open up my window to see the world like never before. Those were the days when I was ten, and fairytales were as real to me as the sun, moon, and school.  Those were the days when I used to dream up silly stories, or scribble to myself. And even if the world wouldn’t listen to those little stories, there was always this reassurance that you would, someday. Because you see, the folks at Tinkle listened. Shikari Shambu listened when I told him about that purple tiger that I had hunted down on an android in space. Tantri the Mantri listened when I talked to him about an exotic flower in Cambodia whose fragrance was super deadly. And I knew that you would listen. You always did.

I felt heroic when I was backseated on Amma’s rickety Luna on the way to a cousin’s house where I would get to read my tinkles--- when she visited that Tailor shop, I would snoop away next door to the paperwaala to haggle some older copies with my piggy- bank money. I used to sneak them into school, and read them below the benches when Nalini Ma’m taught Romeo and Juliet. The tinkle book labels you sent me were all over my Science and English books. The Fun Time with Uncle Pai’s and the Say it yourself competitions—I solved them with fervor. I felt proud to be recognized as a tinkle kid—to tell them that you were my inspiration. I told that to anyone who listened. And I truly meant those words. You were my HERO.

You know, when people laughed at my stories, I’d go cry and recite them to you in my head all the way home. And somehow, I always felt that you were listening.  It made me feel so much better. It was such comfort to somebody who didn’t really believe in herself back then. 

As if talking to you within my head wasn't enough, I one day I mustered enough courage to walk up to the post office to mail you that first letter with my story. I remember the wait. And I also remember that hand-written letter that came back, asking me to “never give up.” And so, I listened. I retold you my stories all over again---and you made my dreams come true, like a beautiful, beautiful miracle. That exotic flower in Cambodia that was super deadly became “The fatal fragrance” in May 2008 issue, and my first fight with a best friend became the “The Rivals” in 2006. You shaped the writer in me, gave her that much confidence to believe in her dreams. And yes, I never gave up—and it was only because my favorite person had asked me to.

And I hope you’ll believe me if I say that no pay-check I got was more beautiful than that one handwritten letter that I’ve been meaning to frame, or every memorized word of that message you sent me wishing me all the best for Bangalore Amar Tinkle Club. Its unbelievable how much you’ve changed my life for the better, how to instilled confidence in me, how you became much more than a role-model, how you truly impacted my life... I wish I could write all that down and just mail it all to heaven. That’s still possible, right? 

And oh, if you do meet Mr. Ram Weerkar up there, could you mind telling him that I’m still his hugest fan ever? I used to skunk my way into the school library just to read his Pyarelal series when I was fourteen and everybody else was already reading the Sidney Sheldon’s. It was to show them that in my heart, I'd never outgrow tinkle even if I become as ancient as the oldest banyan tree in all of India. Those were the little things I always wanted to tell you. You kept that little ten year old in me alive. You still do.

And yes, as you said, I’ll never give up. You know this little starry-eyed fan will always listen to you, right?

And yeah, I’m asking Janoo for a little help with a magic potion. It’s called the potion of immortality. She promised to give it to you. Or else I’m riding Wooly Woo all across the seven seas and the open sky to battle the rakshasas and fire-spitting rascally demons  to bring you back. Such an adventure that will be!!!

I’ll miss you so much, really. I’m still waiting for that last letter that never came home. Please come back. I need to tell you about how I started a storytelling page called Tellmeyourstories and how you are an eternal inspiration to the storyteller in me. I need to tell you how you will always be, and how dearly I'm missing you with every single second. I'm waiting for the letter that never came home. And the wait, dear uncle, is with a fervent sincerity.

Affectionately yours,