I performed this letter last night at a Slam Poetry event in Mumbai. I had a few moments where I got overwhelmed and forgot the lines; so I feel pretty incomplete because this memory deserved better. I hope to perform this again, very soon.
This letter I write to you, I believe it is rare to find.
Maybe because you’ll read and understand it only about ten years down the line,
but that is fine; because life has been kind enough to give me memories that have left the deepest impression on the realms of my mind.
To begin Tsubaki-chan, I would like to tell you a little tale of me, as a young man.
At the centre of this story, are the game of football and all its glory,
something I’ve come to call my one and true love.
I say this, because all the women I love,
are imaginary, committed, lesbian or all of the above.
Jokes apart, this game is immensely close to my heart,
and when you love something this fiercely, it harbors every tendency of tearing you apart.
That is just what happened,
when I was a 19 year old boy sprinting down the field during a football match.
I dribbled past two players for whom I was too fast to catch.
As I kept running, I felt a heavy tackle with the force of a little boulder;
I lost my balance and fell horribly, the entire brunt taken by my right shoulder.
It was as if the world was growing colder,
on that dry, uncomfortable ground.
I could see my team mates run towards me as they slowly gathered around.
I was drenched in sweat and it felt like I’d drowned;
I couldn’t breathe but I could hear quiet murmurs and these faint whispering sounds.
This was the first serious injury I’d sustained in all the time that I had played,
and it resulted in my shoulder moving two and a half inches away from the shoulder blade.
The doctors told me they couldn’t really help with the dislocated bone,
and that I could either go for surgery or leave it alone.
I chose the latter, despite knowing its implications,
also considering that surgery came with its own set of complications, and I didn’t want that.
Since that day of that horrific knock,
I have lived with a shoulder that is permanently crocked.
Sometimes I can’t wear my tee shirts, because it hurts
when my bone gets stuck in its joint.
That isn’t the only point;
I can’t do pull ups, or throw things or do other stuff you’d include in athletic hustle,
all because of a shattered bone and fragile muscles.
Since then, I have never been able to do a full sprint when I play,
because every time I try, my mind replays that one day,
when I broke my shoulder beyond repair.
That incident has held me back a countless times to save me the pain;
and inevitably I have never been the athlete I was ever again.
Three years after that, last December, I was part of this unexpected plan.
I was invited by the government of Tokyo to explore the country of Japan.
And I will always thank God for this, because that is where I met you, Tsubaki-chan.
I remember how graciously your family let me into your home,
how you and your six sisters treated me like a brother and just wouldn’t leave me alone.
I loved how you’d take selfies with my phone,
hard to imagine a three year old girl doing that all by her own.
Those two days are the happiest I’ve been in recent time,
even though I couldn’t speak the Japanese language, and you couldn’t speak mine.
But I loved how you’d mumble random Japanese lines,
and expect me to understand what was on your mind.
Like sometimes you’d point to my phone and say “Sore wa miniukides”
and I’d take a wild guess or return a confused smile at best.
I loved how these haphazard conversations made perfect sense.
Although some gestures you made, were easier to understand.
For instance you’d walk up to me and you would hold my hand.
Then you’d extend both your arms to the skies,
and give me the warmest of smiles;
a sign that you wanted me to pick you up.
I’d hold you by your arms and throw you up into the air,
and I was astonished by how much faith you put in stranger’s care.
I loved how the entire experience made me feel,
your childish laugh and your innocent squeals, as you flew though the cold winter air.
You loved it so much, that for the next two days it became a routine.
I didn’t mind, this was the happiest that we both had been.
I kept throwing you up over and over, until suddenly, my shoulder bone slipped, again.
I immediately put you down, grimacing in horrifying pain.
The rest of the Japan trip was so painstaking, it drove me, insane.
But you know, Tsubaki-chan, I didn’t mind this pain at all.
Mostly because it erased the memories of a terrifying fall.
Every throb of pain no longer reminds me of a 19 year old boy screaming in despair;
it reminds me of a fair, three year old Japanese girl smiling and flying through the air.
Even though I’m back to India now and the injury will never heal,
those memories with you have changed the way I feel about this injury.
I’ll never forget this and your crazy antics whenever I’m alone,
and the thousand times you pointed at my phone
and said “Sore wa miniukides.”
I just couldn’t guess what that meant.
Anyway, I know you won’t read this for a few more years yet.
Maybe by then you’ll remember me, maybe you’ll forget.
But I hope you read this and remember those moments we spent,
because to me they meant so much that I’ve turned them into a permanent, emotional vent.
For those two days I felt like something between a proud father and an elder brother,
I wish I could tell you this in person, but we just couldn’t understand each other.
I know for a fact that you’ll grow up into an absolutely beautiful girl,
I think you already are. I hope I can tell you this in the future face to face, and not from afar.
I apologize for those clueless expressions when you spoke in Japanese.
But hey I finally figured what “Sore wa miniukides” means.
Apparently it means “your phone is ugly.”
Anyway, I have given this letter to Daddy Okuma San,
and I hope he’ll give it to you the day you learn English as fluently as you can.
I miss our time together in your beautiful country, Tsubaki chan.
I miss you and love you, I hope I return soon to Japan.
PS- I know you love my beard, so I’ll try and keep it for as long;
if not always, I promise to keep it on whenever I perform.