A young Seema discovers a cache of letters and papers in a locker belonging to her deceased mother. Besides chronicling her far-roving life across Canada, USA, Mexico, and India, these offer a glimpse into her private history—her feelings for M, a major leader of the Communist movement in British India and abroad; her commitment to, not only him, but also his cause; and her struggle to keep alive her feelings for him after his disenchantment with Communism.
Even as Seema’s mother grows increasingly cynical about the Communist cause, Seema blossoms into a rebel, voicing her dissent during the Emergency. If her insurgent spirit is curtailed, it is on account of a marriage that cramps her style. All at once, Seema’s story crisscrosses with her mother’s—as both women try making sense of lackluster alliances; as both find comfort in letters.
A deftly woven tale spanning India’s pre- and post-Independence history, Letters to Mamma is, above all, a celebration of words. These are words staining missives; words connecting the contradictory worlds of idealism and reality; and words that remind readers why Keki N. Daruwalla remains one of India’s greatest writers.
Keki N. Daruwalla is a highly-regarded Indian poet, short story writer and novelist in English. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984 for his poetry collection, The Keeper of the Dead; the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia in 1987; and the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2014. He lives in New Delhi.