A life was lost some weeks ago; and so did her alphabets. A little girl called Yasmin who found someone to get someone to call someone in India to re-locate me. She was my student. I taught her English in a little room. Her hands were little, always stained with bright orange henna. When she wrote her english alphabets, she wrote with such precision, they used to pop into other pages. Her alphabets was an art piece uncared for in a flimsy notebook. I would always caress her writing like a blind woman read braille. Gratitude for words. Words she could never write. She never got them right. Her “b’s” and “p’s” were always vertically inverted.
Sometimes I would smell the pages. Pencil stains, crumpled paper, the depth of lines, they reminded me of her orange fingers. I don’t know if I did that because she meant something. I have her book buried under the rubble of storage material in an old warehouse some place in England. A treasure I kept, took around the world with me, then lost.
She asked me to visit her. She had cancer, I later found out. She died before I got to see her. I didn’t visit her family. I was ashamed. I was ashamed for weekends promised and lost. I was ashamed for the promises of life-long friendship. Karte Se was a different world. And I sat here with my many regrets.
We began classes revising pro-nouns. I wrote “mim nun” = man, meaning “I”. We always started with “I”. She had endless giggles, “how can you write Dari in English!!!!!!” She would turn to her friend, “how can she write Dari in English….???!!!!”
Dari and English with many an instrument to show love. But sometimes she would not know what to say. So to get my attention, she would tug on my pants until I had to pull them up again. Whenever I said “Yes”, she would look up hoping I was calling her, “Yas”. Sometimes I pretended for her, to please her. “Yes……Yas, did you understand.” She was a keen student even if not very bright. She always wanted to be the best. Sometimes before I could ask a question, she would raise her hand to give an answer. “What answer are you giving Yasmin!!! To what question!?” Then she would look at her friends and laugh.
She taught me “Yaadom raft” for “I forgot” with her signature hand gesture over her shoulder. I used to say “You wrote it so hard in your notebook, how could you forget? Did it fall out of the pages, over your shoulders…..and run away….?” I would walk my fingers down her back as she squirmed to tear away from my tickling.
“No, no, no, I wrote it here. I wrote it here…” flipping through the pages of her notebook. In exasperation she would always sigh and tell me as a matter-of-fact “Teacher (in english), (then in Dari) you just don’t understand my life situation.” She would look up to me, waiting for my condolences…for having lost her alphabets.
She is dead now.
And I have lost her alphabets. I have lost her forgetfulness. Forgetting homework. Not forgetting morning hugs. Not forgetting me.
There is a word “Yasmin” she always spells correctly. And inverted “p’s” and “b’s” in thick pencil lining. She is sleeping now in the curve of the ‘o’ which she writes as a ‘u’, facing an open sky where alphabets need not come to a close. They needn’t stand still, or sit horizontally on a line. They are her alphabets after all, pressed so hard into writing that they fall off pages and escape over her shoulder into a forgetful-ness.
That’s where she is – wrestling the tail of a “g” and arguing with the “w” for looking like a “z”.
They are her alphabets after all.