Thanks to friend of Flea Market Love Letters and creator of The Write Up Project, Pranav Darshan, for sharing the story of his grandfather's letters with the blog. Darshan is a world traveller, writer, and as you'll read here a man always investigating his identity. In today's blog Darshan looks at that identity this time through the lens of his maternal Grandfather's letters. Enjoy!
Pran is an Abbey Theatre accredited writer. Photograph by: Mark Stedman.
I never met my grandfather (Maternal).
He passed away before my mum got married and for the longest time, anything I’d come to know of him was through recollections from my aunt, my nan, or my mother. By all accounts, he was a decent man, a good man, committed to a life in academia and a man who took simple pleasures in life be that through his gardening or through his intellectual discussions with friends and colleagues over a glass of scotch.
In many ways, I had come to paint my grandfather in the image of a stoic man, gifted in his work and with a keen devotion to his family.
Granted a second-hand account can only go so far, but then again, it’s not like I had much of a choice in the matter.
For the longest time his story, the journey of his life, wasn’t really a focus for me. As cold as this may sound, it’s hard to miss someone you’ve never met. I could appreciate the person he was and the warmth with which my mother talked about him made me wish I could have had an opportunity to meet him, I was also quite content with the limited knowledge that I had of the man.
In the Fall of 2012, I had the opportunity to go on an academic exchange to a school in Stanstead, Canada. That experience was a pivotal moment in my life. It awarded me the perspective of a life beyond the world I was raised in and I was hooked. That experience set the course for where I would head, and I was clear that life beyond the subcontinent was what I wanted for myself.
I emigrated from India when I was eighteen. First to Canada and then to Ireland. As my journey brought me to new lands with their range of experiences, an internal struggle started within me.
This is what I wrote in a journal on the 28th of July, 2016.
“I am a man of two worlds.
The world I left behind and the world I see in my future. I carry my culture with me, my heritage, memories of a simpler time spent playing cricket on the street or of a quiet moment spent reading under the shade of a banyan tree. For much of my conscious life, I have struggled with the duality within me.
The identity of the man who was raised in the motherland clashing with the hopes of one that sees the promise of a future in a world beyond my own.”
My folks back home while supportive of what I might be going through, could not understand it. My peers, while supportive of my feelings did not share my experiences.
I felt isolated, alone in my struggle.
I lived with that struggle for years, until the Christmas of 2019.
My mother, on a quiet afternoon, handed me a folder with letters that my grandfather had written to his uncle over the years. They were quite close in age and had built a strong friendship across the years.
An Air Letter from 1963. Source: Pranav Darshan.
As I took the letters a curious thought hit me; perhaps my grandfather could hold the answers to my internal dilemma.
He had spent a few years in the University of Edinburgh and maybe had written a few letters to Mamaji (a fond way of addressing an uncle in Hindi). He was a man who had lived in a different time and place and yet may hold, in his own stories, the cure to my existential crisis.
Detail of above Air Letter from 1963. Source: Pranav Darshan.
At this very moment, you as the reader are probably waiting for a moment of clarity in my journey, something on the lines of, “As I read the letters, I found that there was another man that struggled with the same very experiences and these are the 7 ways he dealt with it all.”
The truth of it was, that yes, he may have held those feelings, he may have questioned his place in this new world he had found himself in, but he never put any of it in his words.
His letters (which you can see sprinkled throughout this blog post) were often recollections of his life, the journeys he had taken and the many that lay ahead of him. The excited and mundane aspects of living abroad and the many similarities that he had come to experience. Rather than focus on the lows of his circumstances, he turned towards noticing the highs.
A second Air Letter from 1963. Source: Pranav Darshan.
I was disappointed at first but I sat with those feelings. As more time has passed, I have come to appreciate what the letters have done for me.
While there might be many a take on this, I like to think that Nanaji (Maternal Grandfather in Hindi) had his own version of a clash of identities and a dilemma similar to one that I found myself in, yet rather than choosing to ponder on the matter for many an hour; he chose to observe the world for what it was there and then in the hope that both time and his journey would temper that storm within.
I believe that because he raised two wonderful daughters that, for as long as I have known them, have been so sure of who they are as individuals. More importantly, they speak about him with a fondness. They speak of a man who took pleasure tending to his rose garden, lost in the pages of his academic texts, a man who till his last day lived his life with intention. A man of two worlds, finding peace in the everyday life. A balance I hope to find in my everyday life, wherever my journey takes me.
Share Your Letter Story, Today!
Thank you again Pranav for sharing your letter story. If you have a letter story you'd like to share send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Write Up Project is a space for writers and poets to showcase their work in an easily available and readily accessible format. If you’re a reader looking for original ideas to comb over, then we hope to be a space you eagerly await updates from."