I had my mother’s handwriting. At least I thought so. I realized the similarities when I was 14 years of age. For some reason, I guarded it like a big secret. Clung to it. Became obsessed with it. Why you ask? To sign test papers silly! What else did you think would be the priority of a 14-year-old girl?

Let me introduce myself properly. I am Monica Das. I live in Kolkata with my parents. An only child, I am the sole holder of their attention and affection, which is sometimes overwhelming and annoying. However, I have never wanted a sibling. The thought of sharing my parents’ love and attention is horrifying.

I noticed the resemblance between my handwriting and that of my Maa when I handed her a test sheet to sign. She signed her name and gave it back to me without a second glance. I had scored well enough in the language paper. Besides, it was Baba who supervised my studies. Maa was merely the signatory in Baba’s absence.

Maa can give you a crash course in ‘how-to-be-a-good-housewife’. She excelled in everything homey. Cooking, sewing, maintain the house, grocery shopping, budgeting, making lists…lots and lots of lists. Whenever I came back from school or Baba from office, we would always be served fresh food. She would always serve snacks fresh-from-the-kadhai-hot. Her name was Mamta. Roughly translates to maternal love. Apt…isn’t it?

When I realized that she loops her m’s and a’s in such a way that the m seems like a heart and a like a circle; same as mine, I became obsessed with perfecting her signature. The last pages of my notebooks, where I usually doodled mindless things, became my practice ground. My best friend Rinki once looked at it in school and said:

“Mon…you need help.”

We burst out laughing. We have not been friends since 1st grade. On the contrary, we became friends only two years back. Now we are as close as Siamese twins. The best part is that we don’t live far from each other. Just a few blocks. Most evenings, we spend our time together. Either completing our homework or discussing the latest school gossips. One such evening, she told me of her Bua (paternal aunt), who had shifted from Bangalore to be near to her family after her husband’s death. She had no children and so was left alone. Her name was Sumita. Sumita Bua had plans to open a small art center for kids and teenagers. Rinki had decided to join. So naturally, I did too, even though I wasn’t quite inclined towards any form of art.

Convincing my parents didn’t even prove to be a decent challenge. Maa had always wanted me to pursue and polish some art form as she had, which I had stubbornly refused up until that point. She practically jumped up at this opportunity and dragged me to get enrolled. Maa was instantly taken up by Sumita ma’am as much as I was.

Tall and slender, the blue cotton sari she wore seemed to be made just for her. The long hair tied in a neat bun at the nape seemed as much an adornment as her empty wrists and neck. Trust me…without even a shade of makeup, she looked ethereal. I had always made fun of my fellow classmates who were enchanted by one teacher or the other. Now I knew why and how.

She was more talented than she advertised. Soon, I found myself pushing to excel in her classes just so I could gain favor in her eyes. Maa found a good friend in her. Soon, to my delight, Maa and Sumita ma’am started hanging out more together.

My Maa was unique. While I heard other women talking ill about Sumita ma’am, Maa had nothing but praises for her. Baba kept aloof. Completely aloof. Whenever Maa would begin talking about her, visible lines of annoyance would start appearing on Baba’s face. Sometimes he would sigh and just let Maa be done with her praises while he snacked on chai and samosa. Other times, he would say to her, “Monu…can we talk about something or someone else?”

Yes! Baba nicknamed Maa as Monu. Adorable isn’t it? He called me Mona, for your information.

My Maa and Baba were adorable. Those time, I was as annoyed as any single-child teenager would be, by her parents. Now, I can safely say that I loved them to bits. And they loved each other deeply. It was evident in the way they did small, unnoticeable things for each other.

Like Maa always hand pick Baba’s attire for the day. She would never let the housemaid touch Baba’s things. Or me. Or anyone else. It had to be just her. Or like when Baba brought her flowers to put in her hair. It was all quite normal and taken for granted for me. Until I realized that love need not always be lovey-dovey. It could be sturdy. Silent. Strong. Yet unfaltering.

That is why Baba was so shaken up by Maa’s demise.

What happened?

We don’t know. Neither of us do.

The night before she went to sleep after making sure I had all I needed, while I studied in my room.

In the morning, commotion woke me up.

Baba’s voice was hysterical. The neighborhood family were there, trying to hold him back. When I arrived, aunty embraced me and tried to take me away. I managed to catch a glimpse of her calm, soothing face as they covered her with a sheet.

Everyone was shocked, bewildered. How could a healthy, happy woman die? Just like that?

Baba was inconsolable. He kept saying that he must have missed something. Something she said. Or some symptom she had. We all knew it wasn’t the case. Simply put, her time had come.

In the aftermath of her death, I realized how strong I could be and how broken Baba was. He couldn’t go to work for days. Chose to sift through her clothes repeatedly. I had to step up. Take up the mantle of our house. Baba’s elder sis, my Bua came over for a few weeks. Eventually, she had to leave too. Our friends were around but it was not the same. They say, time heals all wounds. It never really healed ours, but it did cover them. Both of us still missed Maa, terribly, if I may say so. Yet, we engrossed ourselves in our life. At least I tried to.

So engrossed was I that I didn’t notice my Baba’s loneliness.

Until one evening, when he came to pick me up from arts class. Sumita ma’am met him at the door and politely asked after him. They ended up having a solid 15 minutes of civil conversation. Yet, that day, the lines on Baba’s face were considerably lighter.

I asked him while we were having our dinner.

“Do you miss Maa too much Baba?”

He stopped eating mid-way, looking at me. When I stopped eating and looked at him expectantly, he sighed in resignation and nodded his head.

“Yes Mona…I do. She was my better half. My partner. I miss talking to her. Listening to her. Asking for her opinion and advice. Miss her presence…her fragrance. Everything about her. A person can lose everything yet lose nothing if they have a supportive life partner…and lose everything when they lose them. That is just what happened to me.”

I nodded and that was the end of discussion.

Baba and I have not been awfully close on a personal level. Yes, we laughed and talked and shared generic stuff. I threw tantrums and made demands which he happily fulfilled. Yet, somehow, we never thought of sharing with each other our emotions…our feelings…

For both of us, Maa was that vessel that imbibed all our worries. Now that she was gone, we found ourselves struggling to conduct such behaviors. Seeing Baba talking to Sumita ma’am that day gave me an insight on how lonely he had become. I wasn’t being much help either. He needed someone by his side.

Over time, the thought of finding him a wife started forming in my mind. I shared it with Rinki. Initially skeptical, she still heard me out. Then pointed the obvious.

“Uncle will not agree.”

I sighed. She was right, of course. Baba’s feelings for Maa were too strong. It had been a year since she left us and still, despite my insistence, Baba hadn’t let me donate even one of Maa’s clothes. He cleaned her almirah every Sunday without fail. His behavior had started to bother me.

While I was still plotting and planning to tackle my father, I noticed something pleasant.

Baba had started to come pick me up from my arts class frequently. Every time he came, him and Sumita ma’am would have a pleasant conversation. Those evenings, Baba would appear happier. I noticed that he would be looking forward to talking to her. The joy on his face was unmistakable. I knew what was happening. He had started to like her. Maybe ma’am also had feelings for him, I wasn’t so sure about that part.

I was happy. No sweat shed and the goal accomplished.

Then out of the blue, Baba stopped picking me up.

Initially, I thought he had forgotten the schedule of my classes. But when I had to walk home for two weeks straight, I knew something was up. Bringing out my best tantrum-demeanor, I confronted him one Sunday morning even as he was starting his ritual cleaning of Maa’s almirah.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” the guilt on his face was unmistakable as he turned away from me, pretending to be busy.

“I think you do Baba. Why don’t you just admit that you have started liking Sumita ma’am?”

His face spasmed in pain. “Mona! Do you even hear what you are saying? I love your Maa…don’t you dare question my loyalty to her…”

I knew I had touched a nerve. I calmly walked up to him and took his hand in mine. “Baba…I know you loved Maa…you still do. But she is gone. Let’s face it, you do feel alone without her. I am not a good company either. Too caught up in my own world. There is nothing wrong with you seeking a companion.”

He pulled away, looking at me with horror-filled wide eyes. “I…I can’t betray her…please…let me be by myself…”

I knew better than to push him. But I never gave up. Every opportunity I got, I tried talking to him. Trying to convince him that by seeking his own happiness, he won’t be betraying Maa. That it is not deceit or cheating. God help those who try to persuade their parents! The only positive point was that he never denied his feelings for ma’am.

Desperate times call for desperate measure. In a year or so, I planned to leave my home for higher studies. So…I did what I had to…

I stole Maa’s diary from her almirah and randomly wrote an entry about how much she loved Baba and how much she wishes for his happiness. Especially if she were gone, she wished he would find someone. I wrote it in my handwriting. In her handwriting.

In all honesty, it wasn’t at all difficult. Unlike most diary writers, and contrary to her own nature, Maa was quite disorderly in her entries. None of her entries were dated. Most of them were randomly written, as if she had decided to write on the page she happened to open. True, I had to go through her entire diary to adapt her style of writing. Borrow a few phrases here and there. But the end result was more than satisfactory. The guilt I expected to come, never arrived.

The hard part was to get him to read it.

I made sure to pretend to read the diary in front of him one weekend. He seemed uncomfortable and started to say something along the lines of how I shouldn’t violate Maa’s privacy, I retaliated easily.

“I think I should get to know her as a person, don’t you think? Besides, there’s something I think you should read. I will leave it at your bedside.”

A week later, I prodded him again about Sumita ma’am. This time, I got a confession and a slow ease into the idea of remarriage. Slowly, steadily, sympathetically, I got him to agree.

Baba and I went to meet Rinki’s parents with the proposal. Baba was as nervous as a first-time groom. With them, it went as smooth as a butter. They were elated. Ma’am took some time, but eventually she agreed.

Neither of us spoke of Maa’s diary again.

They got married in a simple ceremony at the registrar’s office and then again at the temple. Her first day as my stepmom, Sumita told me:

“Mona…I am not your mother. You had a mother, and she was amazing. In a short time, she had become a dear friend. I will neither take her place, nor have any ambition to do the same. Just see me as someone who genuinely loves you and has your back. I want to be your safe space…will you allow me to be…?”

I hugged her in response. My Baba was truly lucky in terms of his life partners. A year down the line, I left my city for higher studies. Sumita (Yes, I call her by her name) has effortlessly become my confidant. The patient, practical one.

“I never had any children”, she confessed to me once, “both of us were incapable of reproducing. But now that I have you…I constantly fear that I would not be up to mark. Do I bother you too much?”

I laughed and hugged her. Maa is at peace, I could feel it.

Baba and Sumita love me to death. Whenever I go home, I am spoiled rotten by them. I love us.

I now keep two pictures with me. One, of me, Baba and Maa. The last one we took before she passed away. The other, of Baba, Sumita and me. In the second picture, while Sumita and I were busy smiling at the camera, Baba’s gaze was fixed on me. The gratitude and pride in his eyes are unmistakable.

I owe it to Maa. The handwriting she passed on to me. I still passionately guard the secret that I have my Maa’s handwriting…


It wasn’t easy. To achieve what I had achieved. Marry the woman of my dreams.

The moment I laid eyes on her; it became clear that she was the one. The one for me. Sumita.

Being a married man did not help either.

No…don’t get me wrong. I did love my family. Monu…Mona…both. I loved them. Especially Mona. She was my child. My beautiful, innocent child. The one whom I could never consciously hurt. Otherwise I could have taken the straight route. Left Mamta and married. That was what I had initially thought.

But as time progressed, I realized that if I did seek separation, Sumita would pass even further away from my reach. She was a strong woman of principles. She would never accept me if I left my family for her. Realizing all the aspects of my life, I had decided to keep my feelings a secret. Better to suffer alone than to make others suffer.

It was harder than I thought. My wife did not make it any easier for me. Unsurprisingly, she was besotted with Sumita. Whenever she would start talking about her, it was as if flames of passion had consumed me, burning me to ashes. It was unbearable!

So agonizing had it become, that I had even thought of relocating. Remove myself from the vicinity of the woman I passionately craved for. Before I could act upon it, a sudden inspiration came out of the least expected of places. My daughter’s phone. Internet precisely. A chance look into her world and the remark from her innocent lips got me thinking.

“You can get everything from the internet Baba. Google any question you have, and it would provide you the answer.”

It was as if God had given me the precious key to a puzzle.

Truly, Google gave me all the answers. Which one did I choose? Well…wouldn’t you like to know….

The one least suspicious, easiest to administer and hardest to detect. I could tell you but then what is a man without a few secrets?

The toughest part was not to act as the grieving husband, no. For I was truly grieving having to kill her. She was an excellent mother and wife. I did love her; it would be unfair to say that I did not. Just not as much or as passionately as I loved Sumita. For me to attain my love, Mamta had to go. Besides, if I had left her for another woman, much less her friend, it would have killed her anyway. I was a killer, but not a cold-blooded one. No…the hardest part was watching Mamta die as I sat beside her, holding her down so as to not cause a commotion. I had started crying before she had stopped struggling. The rest was easy.

Easier, if I may say.

Initially, I had thought of ways and means to manipulate Mona into letting me marry Sumita. She surprised me by being upfront about it. While I was jubilant internally, externally, I had to play the reluctant and guilt-ridden husband. It was cute when she forced me to read Mamta’s diary. I must admit that I almost had a heart attack when I saw that entry. Until I realized it was not her handwriting. It was difficult to not recognize such things when you have spent almost two decades together. I smiled when I saw it. A scheming father’s scheming daughter!

The pride and gratitude I have for Mona is beautifully captured in a photograph she keeps of us. Me with my true family. Mona, Sumita and I. Thank you darling child…for making everything so easy for your Baba. I could not have done this without you.

Finally…I have all I wanted.

The wife I wanted. The daughter I wanted. The respect and the life I already had.

And for that…undoubtedly…I have to thank Mamta and her handwriting…

27 thoughts on “Handwriting

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  1. What an unexpected ending!! Great twist to the story!! Scheming indeed!! Felt like watching a short movie👍👍👍👍keep it up,Azra!!👏👏👏👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought this was a real story until I read the comments. Although this story did leave me with a weird feeling after reading the father’s letter at the end, applause to you for the engaging storyline!

    Liked by 2 people

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