21st March 1999
I read in Balloons magazine that you are looking for a pen friend. Would you like to be my pen friend?
My name is M and I am ten years old. I live with my parents, brothers, grandparents, uncle and aunt in Calcutta. I study in the fifth standard of a girls’ school. One of my brothers is in the second standard, and the youngest one does not go to school yet.
Tell me something about yourself. I know you live in Karachi. My father tells me I can not go there and you can not come here. That means we should always be pen friends, isn’t it?!
30th March 1999
Yes, I want to be your pen friend!
It is nice to know you have such a big family. I don’t have brothers or sisters, and live with my parents. But I have many friends in my colony. We play catch, and hopscotch, and hide and seek. Some of my friends also play cricket with the boys but I don’t.
What are your brothers’ names? Do they fight with you? I have a small cousin brother. He always fights when he comes to my house. I hide my toys when he comes because I know he will break them!
I read in school that Calcutta was the capital city when India and Pakistan were one country many years ago. I want to go there one day to see the Howrah Bridge!
Your new pen friend,
21st April 1999
I was so happy when I got your letter! But I had exams and I could not write a reply for many days. Now the exams are over, and my father says I can write to you.
My brothers’ names are Z and D. Z fights with me sometimes, but D is very small. I love them both. They call me Apu!
Yes you should come to Calcutta some day. It is a nice city! We can play and have a good time. My father says that our Prime Minister has become a friend of your Prime Minister. So you can come here now! Isn’t that nice?
14th May 1999
My dear M,
I laughed when I read that your brothers call you Apu. Do you know why? It is because my cousin brother calls me Apa. Apu and Apa sound so similar!
I read in the newspaper that Pakistan and India are fighting each other. Now how will I go to Calcutta? Ammi even told me not to send you letters now, but I will send this to you anyway. I will buy the stamps with my pocket money and post the letter on my way back from school. Do you know I have started collecting Indian stamps from your letters? Next time you send me a letter, buy a new kind of stamp. This way I will have a bigger collection!