Open Letter To Ila (The Lunchbox)
I think I understand…I do understand.
For some reason I had always imagined epistolary romance as the ideal platonic romance whereby you love the unknown and exchange secrets as deep as oceans. When I first watched The Lunchbox, I was able to relate with you. I am not married, neither is I a house woman but I do carry this urgency to register things as they are felt.
As the youngest child at home, I used to put letters protected by rupee-postcard envelopes into my neighbors’ postboxes. These letters written in sweet handwritten font discussed serious business ranging from the new flavor of Prince Biscuit to the strange man who had just shifted right beside my school-building. At home, no one shared my child-like fancies and I depended on a stranger’s kindness to validate what I thought and what I felt. The letters went unanswered and I stopped putting them after I was caught pushing something with my hairpin into Naseem Aunty’s box who lived next door to me.
Your love for Saajan subtly yet sensitively responds to the curse of loneliness modern times has brought. Your gentle craft reminds us who we are. With the explosion of communication mediums, it has become harder to speak your heart out. Our daily conversations are almost scripted. When someone asks me at office, ‘How are you doing?’, I am not allowed to say I am not okay when I am not. I ‘have’ to keep smiling pictures on social media all the time although I feel dry tears three days in week. I can relate to the terribly bustling city, the claustrophobic flat, the swift trains and the white-washed offices.
You prepare the lunchbox with love and those flavors heal Saajan who has no family. With his tales, his perspective, your life freshens up and you do not bother to ask for his age or appearance; just the idea of a person listening to you is enough. I can relate to the thin line of morality you struggle with; being a housewife you seek some semblance of magic in your life. I think that reminds us the need to love and be loved that gets suppressed in the gush of routine.
Ila, your character is a gentle reminder to me that I need to stop and slow down at some point in time of my day and enquire my loved ones if they are okay, if they would like to talk, if they need a hug or if they want me to just be by them. Your love story is a strong metaphor for urban settings where people are silently craving to be acknowledged for just being human and nothing else.