I know I can just text, but it’s so exciting to write a robust little letter. I’m writing because the postcard you told me you’d sent hasn’t reached. I’m doubtful of its safe arrival in these times and I hope you didn’t use up one of those pretty Almond Blossom writing sheets you bought at the Van Gogh museum last year. How have you been? This time, last year, we were together! The botanical garden, Japan day and the very international dinner with the party from Aachen…oh, it’s all so fresh in my head, especially the fireworks by the altstadt, and your superb refusal to shoot them on the phone— “I want my reality unmediated”!
I was glad when we last spoke and you told me you can now go climbing. I understand how invigorating climbing must be amidst all the sitting around for work. Since we’re talking about hobbies, there’s some disappointing news from my side. I won’t be having violin lessons anymore. Although paid to come at least once a week, my tutor has not been home since October last year and the pandemic only compounded the situation. But the final straw came when he went back on his promise to have online sessions and I figured I could no longer afford his lessons. Not because they are expensive, but because trusting him is hard, and time and faith are both as valuable as money I find.
I’ve been loving all your core-strength building videos on Instagram. So impressive! Me, I barely get any physical activity these days aside from household chores. I am always lying on the bed checking my phone for updates, of god knows what. I must confess, all the Oxford chats are stressful; several offer-holders are freakishly anxious over how the year will pan out, and these chatrooms have turned into venting grounds. The happy bit is that we’re also bonding a lot over worry and I’m certain of having some friends when I arrive in September.
I am still not able to sleep. It’s not as bad as how it was when we last chatted, but I guess it’s impossible to reconcile a perpetually fatigued body and an overstimulated mind. The quiet of the night is an invitation for my brain to begin its forbidden bedtime celebration of micro-realisations, anxieties, distant griefs, detailed replays of past events, regrets, expectations and anticipations. I sometimes miss my job; not just my students, but the things that preceded the work itself…the waking up for it. The dressing well. The quick makeup before class. It’s funny, I’ve worn exactly three t-shirts over and over again in these two months! My mother’s threshold for the sight of the olive oversized one has been reached and one of these days, I suspect it’s silently going to become a mop in the kitchen when I’m asleep in the mornings.
I wish I could actually post this letter to you. But I’m unaware if there are restrictions on international post at the moment. I’m unaware of most things actually; the details of the Kolkata cyclone, the migrants, the damned numbers and graphs in the papers…and now the locusts. I’m trying to keep myself as unaware as possible. Helps me cope, and to organise and prioritise my anxieties. Often, I’m hooked to online clothing stores. There are genuine discounts and it would be nice if I could buy some outfits—you see, Oxford has several black-tie events and a cocktail dress or two would really come in handy. But I’ve gained so much weight and anticipate I’ll be chubbier by the time I’m actually there, so I’m deferring the buys. Also, because, I need to start saving, what with scholarships getting cancelled here due to all the uncertainty.
I have all my European postcards stored in a brown parcel which I haven’t opened for months now. I remember I’d been fascinated and pleased over my purchases. The ones from the Van Gogh museum are precious, for I’m sure you’ll agree, when it comes to colour, his genius is unparalleled—mango suns on pistachio skies, vibrant blues and crimsons, bold orange-yellow flowers that look like flames… I’m also proud of some beautiful botanical ones by Utagawa Hiroshige, which interestingly, I’d found in Switzerland. I’d greedily declared that none of these would ever be sent; they were all mine, and would adorn the wall in my Oxford room. But nowadays I feel like sending one of them to you. I wonder when that will be possible.
Amrita Shenoy is an incoming student of World Literatures at the University of Oxford. Delighting in the small and ordinary things of everyday, she loves to write, travel, and engage with people, cultures and cuisines.