…which in these dark times is so life-affirming:
I can spot a Khushwant Singh, a Khalil Gibran and a Chetan Bhagat in the pile of books. “Most of these books have been gifted to me by my lover,” she says. This is the first I’ve heard of a man in her life. I hesitate, but Sharmila is clearly keen to talk about him. A Britisher based in Kerala, he got to know about Sharmila after he read Burning Bright, a 2009 book on the Manipuri struggle written by Deepti Priya Mehrotra and published by Penguin. “He wrote me a letter after he read the book. We have been exchanging letters since then,” she says shyly.
They have not met. He is waiting for permission from the government to see her. She asks me to call him from my mobile phone and to tell him that she loves him. I do so, and he echoes her words. She won’t speak on the phone, and hides her face behind a book. Suddenly Sharmila looks like a teenager in love.
I hang up, and now Sharmila looks pale. She has covered her face with the book once again, but this time she is crying. “I miss him. I want them to grant him permission soon,” she says.