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Epistolary Conversations between Michael Coutinho and Ellena Gomes: An excerpt from "Bombay Balchão"

Epistolary Conversations between Michael Coutinho and Ellena Gomes: An excerpt from "Bombay Balchão"

Michael Coutinho,

193-A, Bosco Mansion, Flat No 1,

Dr D’Lima Street, Chira Bazaar,

Mumbai 400002

18 June 2007

Dear Michael,

I met Patrick and Joana Misquitta from Pius House at church this morning. They are down for a short vacation in Goa; we later caught up for lunch at my home. It’s been months since I met someone from Cavel. Living where I do, I am practically isolated from the rest of the world.

It’s from them that I learnt about Merlyn. I am sorry, but I wasn’t aware. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. Pat told me everything, and I am yet to come to terms with it myself. My loss is not as huge as yours, but it pains me to know that she is not around anymore. She was the life and soul of Bosco Mansion, and I can’t even imagine that place without her. A deep sadness fills me, but I want to speak little of it as it comes at the cost of compounding your own grief.

I know this letter of mine may take you by surprise since we haven’t spoken in four years. But this tragedy is too huge for us to hold grudges. Let’s just forget and forgive. What happened, happened in the past, and I’d appreciate a fresh start. Give my regards to Ryan and Sarah when you speak with them next. Tell them I miss their mother too.

Warm regards,

Ellena G.


Ellena Gomes,

Casa Gomes, Socoillo Waddo,

Pernem, Goa

29 June 2007

Dear Ellena G.,

Your last letter was very vague. Do you mean that we are back to being friends again? If so, then there is so much to tell you. And since I don’t want to waste time waiting for your response, I am going with my gut and writing to you as only an old friend would.

To begin with, thank you for your letter. It’s very kind of you to have written. I really do miss Merlyn every single second of the minute of the hour of the day. She was my life and soul as much as she was Bosco’s. But it has been two months, and I know I cannot continue like the living dead.

Sarah and Ryan suggested that I join them in Montreal. But I absolutely hate the winters there. People get so excited about white Christmases. I used to be that way too. But nobody tells you how lonely it can get. Also, to be honest, I would rather die alone in the home that Merlyn and I built together than on foreign soil. The kids eventually gave up and left last month, though I must mention that they didn’t try too hard.

They always had Merlyn to take their side. I doubt they’d find a good replacement in me. The idea of kids moving too far away from parents has always discomfited me. I know that’s life and all, but still. Imagine if I had abandoned them when they were younger.

You do remember that time when I had a chance to take up an offer at a newspaper in London? It’s another thing that the role was of a junior staff reporter when I had fifteen years of experience on my side. I should have gone anyway. It was London. But I didn’t because of mama. Dad died too soon. How could I leave her alone with Annette and her drunk better half?

Do children think that way anymore? I tell you all this knowing very well how much you loved and adored your own mother. You stayed with aunty Giselle right till the end, when your six and counting family escaped to the States and Canada. Need I say, I respected you for that. Sorry, I am whining. I will end this letter right here, right now.



P.S. Amused at how you insist on keeping the first letter of your surname even now. Old habits die hard. Don’t they?


5 July 2007

Dear Michael,

I wasn’t vague. We have always been friends, but of course, there have been rough days. I think they have finally passed. It was so nice hearing from you. I was drying clothes on the lawn when our postman, Roy D’Costa, came around with your letter. He said, ‘Do people still write letters?’ I gave him an encouraging smile.

Then I left everything I was doing and read your letter. Nobody writes to me, especially none of my ‘six  and counting’ family. So you can imagine my excitement on hearing from you.

My mother always told me that having a family around was important. She believed that they were the only ones who stuck with you through thick and thin. I wasn’t lucky in that department. When mother died, my brothers said that they were too old to even manage a walk in their own lawns, let alone fly down for the funeral. I knew it was too much for them to spend on flight tickets, so I kept quiet. How would I have even managed without you and Merlyn? But I am sure your children are trying. At least they come and visit you once in a while. Consider yourself in a better place.

How do you spend your time now? I can proudly say that I am improving. I now find kids tolerable. I teach my maid Lorna’s young girls for two hours in the afternoon. Yesterday, we read Jane Austen. But I think they prefer Ruskin Bond. So I am reading Bond these days, but he writes a lot about ghosts. The maid doesn’t charge me for her work, and I don’t charge her for mine. It works well for both of us.



P.S. Note: The G has vanished.

Epistolary Conversations between Michael Coutinho and Ellena Gomes: An excerpt from "Bombay Balchão"
Excerpted with permission from the story “Dearest Butterfly, With Love”, from Bombay Balchão, Jane Borges, Tranquebar. Read more about the book and buy it here.
Also Read: An Author Interview with Jane Borges, the author of ‘Bombay Balchão’.


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Epistolary Conversations between Michael Coutinho and Ellena Gomes: An excerpt from "Bombay Balchão"