by Geetha Iyer
Since the collapse of one of the last dynasties of the common era and the subsequent end of the era itself, historians have searched for descendants of the Mongerji family, as well as descendants of the scribes who, under their employ, collected samplings of flora and fauna from around the world. The only evidence discovered thus far are the letters that follow. They are from Mr. Mongerji, his wife, Kavita, and two of the three Mongerji children, all addressed to a Mr. Chappalwala, thought to have been the last of the Mongerjis’ scribes. Archivists continue to seek Mr. Chappalwala’s side of the correspondence.
September 7, —18
Young Mr. Chappalwala,
This once, I wish my family’s long correspondence with yours were more of a face-to-face transaction. Your letter telling of old Mr. Chappalwala’s passing has stricken us all. The Mrs. has not spoken more than ten words, and even the children are subdued. They feel their parents’ grief. I find it hard to write even now—to acknowledge receipt of goods delivered, to speak of our continued business.
But the polar bear you stuck in the inner envelope suggests you are keen to continue in the family trade. That first explosion of teeth and air bubbles as the creature snapped at my face—what flair! I learned to swim backwards that day, you know? It took a week to bail out the living room and pour the Arctic Ocean back into the envelope.
Our three-year-old, thankfully, was in the nursery when I released your capture, and thus spared his first swim. Meanwhile, our middle child, so enthralled by what you’d done, put on a diving suit and plunged right into the water. She stayed there for hours at a time. We nearly wondered if we’d lost the girl, and it was not until the living room was almost dry that the Mrs., in an inspired frenzy, thought to search inside the granary vase in the corner. We tipped out the last of the ocean into the outstretched envelope and grabbed our daughter by the ankles as she tried to follow.
The Mrs. remains put out. After the first shock, she said to me, “I would dearly like to see that young man right now,” and I am not sure if she wanted to scold you for your exuberant capture or condole with you for your loss. She could not stop hugging our eldest boy, so perhaps it was the latter. He, you may know, will inherit the Mongerji collection and one day take over my correspondence with you. He did not like the bear—I believe it might have frightened him—but I think he will learn to appreciate your taste just as I learned to appreciate your father’s.
Yes, you may consider this letter a renewal of the contract between our families. The unrest in these parts, I assure you, is a trifle, and should not come in the way of our important work. I enclose the usual sum of money. The clutch of purple bellflowers is a token from the Mrs. I believe they are from the collection, something your father must have sent us long ago. We keep him in our thoughts, and watch how you will follow him.
(Read the rest by following the link. You won't be disappointed.) And please write to the author. (Geetha Iyer) Tell her how much you enjoyed her story. Then go, buy a current copy of Orion Magazine. You can thank me later. *grin*