- Letter to Jaipur, 1989
for Asha Anand the shallows smell like closets full of last summer’s clothes . . .
I wanted to tell, Rekha, about those years I sat with the children in the kitchen teaching them to eat; I wanted to phone you
at home in Jaipur with your own Ranjit and Ambika, named after our friends; wanted to see you during those years when our houses filled up beyond belief—
the closets with the children’s things, the pantry and the cabinets— emptying and filling, emptying and filling. I wanted to tell you Rekha, how I had changed.
When I made mistakes I let them go. I didn’t fret as we fretted when we were young, striving and striving. I went on with the spot on the wall, sink half-full,
unanswered letters, the short stories I didn’t write. Everyday there were other emergencies. I’ll say there was joy but it was never what we had in mind,
you and I in our room in nineteen forty-eight looking into the carved hand-mirror, me telling you, you telling me, you’re a beauty, the large glass-encased drawing room we claimed [End Page 82]
as Our Place. Outside, the mountain flowers and the steep slope down, the thin heady air of winter in Mussoorie where we stickered our passports for
Switzerland and Russia. We were czarinas, all day perfumed in the snow, scarves on our necks—you and I cousins-sisters, friends! I wanted to tell you
before I send you my daughters this summer— next time send yours (Rekha, teach them what we knew)— the distance between us
is tiny countries—you see them when light pours into a room you thought dusted before the sun rose; that’s all it is, lint slanting in the sun’s column.
How simple geography is, raw silk with its roughness, a jute rope, dirt roads taking me to years at the Woodstock School in Mussoorie,
hills of the Himalayas, nineteen forty-four to fifty-five.
Reetika Vazirani, who has taught creative writing at the University of Oregon and the University of Virginia, is author of White Elephants, which won her the Barnard New Women Poets’ Prize. She is an advisory editor of Shenandoah.