A Letter

I’m not there. But my dad tells me.

In the grey, she crouches, sixty five years old, huddles about the open flame from the fire,

Lit, by the dung she collected grazing buffalos.

Atta* and massaleh* float in the air and never seem to land.

Rotis* twirl on the tuvvah* – it is midsummer.

Roosters roam the clay courtyard as cousins pop peas.

One rolls off of Hina’s shalwarkameez*.

Bibi looks at the only greenery in her house.

Jamal walks through the heavy metal door I could never open as a child.

He gives Bibi* a letter.

She tears it open, then tears, run through every pleat of her face.

“Ammi, kya kehteh heh?” (Mum, what does it say?)

She walks, out, of the grey,

Out, past the roosters,

Past the peas and the buffalos,

Past the bolted doors,

And into the breeze.

She lifts herself to the wind and thanks God with this treasure in her hands.

I can see the words now.

My dad’s, to her:

“Ammi*, I’m here and I’m okay.”


Atta: flour

Massaleh: spices

Dupatta: scarf

Roti: chappati

Tuvvah: pan used to make chappatis

Shalwarkameez: traditional form of south Asian clothing

Bibi: Grandmother

Ammi: Mother



Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is a third year English student at King’s College, London

Image: Dolls of India

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I RISE Magazine is an online platform dedicated to showcasing the stories, talents and trials of women of colour and non-binary people of colour in educational institutions. Our aim is to collectively represent, lead the way and inspire ourselves and future generations.

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