There’s something wrong about the date in this here letter. The year can’t be 1934 as it so says, for the simple reason that my father was born in 1935, hence probably not even a twinkle in my grandfather’s eye yet. 🙂 Therefore, it must be 1944. Whatever the case, it was written by a most elusive figure in Little AJ’s life. Here it is, in all its yellowed, fragile, historical glory…
I asked my father to read it aloud to me so I could transcribe it into a form that is understandable by those who cannot decipher the quaint Gujarati script, and this is what it says:
”Waala dikra Mahmibhai,
Tamaro kaghaj malyo chhe. Waanchi khushi thayo chhoon. Tamaro aanglo saaro thai gayo hashey. Tamari Ma lakhave te parmaanay saara akshar thi kaagal lakhta rehjo.
Aam lakhwaani aadat paarsho tou akshar shudhri jashey. Roj time sar madrassa maa parhva jaajo, anay ghar maa Master paasey dhyaan thi sheekhjo.
Mota Bawaji ne roj salaam karva jaajo. Moti Ma batavey tey kaam kaaj baraabar karjo. Lucha chhokrao ni shohbat maa farta nai.
Kapra bau saachvi ney perhva joiyye. Kapra mela kari faari naakhta tou badhha chhokrao ney aavre chhe, parantu sambhaal thi dar waqte nava lagay tem saachavta bahuj ochha chhokrao ney aavre chhe.
Tey tame jaano chho?
Sughrabai temaj Zaitunbai saathey hali mili ne rehjo.
Dua go, Tayyabbhai Mulla Abdullahbhai.”
There. I think that should be understood by my family and all the Bohris and Parsis out there…perhaps even some of the Khojas and Memons. I do realise the unintelligibility of both these versions to everyone who does not understand Gujarati, so I shall proceed to translate it into a language that is, I trust, pretty much universal…
”My dear son Mahmibhai,
I have received your letter and was very happy to read it. Your finger must be better now. You must keep writing letters in good handwriting as your mother dictates to you.
If you keep writing this way your handwriting will surely improve. Do go to madrassa on time every day, and pay attention and learn from your Master at home.
Go to Mota Bawaji for salaam every day. Do everything Moti Ma tells you.
Do not hang about in the company of naughty idle children, and do not spoil your clothes in games and play.
Clothes should be worn with care. All children know how to dirty their clothes and tear them. But very few children will know how to be careful and to keep their clothes looking new every time they wear them. Did you know that?
Stay close to and behave well with Sugrabai and Zaitunbai.
Best wishes, Tayyabbhai Mulla Abdullahbhai.
My father’s name is Mohammadi, so Mahmi was a nickname. What amazes him is the formality with which he has been addressed by his father when he was so very young….. Also the way he ends his letter…with his full name. That typically Sidhpuri, Gujarati formality is quite lost in translation.
The ‘Sughrabai’ referred to in the letter is my father’s aunt, his masi, who is actually just five years elder to him, and Zaitunbai is his father’s step sister. Sughrabai and Zaitunbai were the same age, and were more like playmates than aunts to my father.
Isn’t it simply beautiful?