This is a series I started a very long time back for a challenge Savio had tagged me on.

As the name suggests, these are letters to myself a year later, talking about what past me wouldn’t want to forget.

I liked the concept a lot and it honestly feels like a time capsule to me. When I was a kid, there was a show on the TV which asked kids to write messages to themselves and then bury the bottles in their yards.

I remember being so upset because we live in flats and don’t have yards. Now this series is my message in a bottle. To myself.

Here’s the link to the rest of them, if you want to have a read.

Hi Sonali,

God, this letter is going to be a long one so better brace yourself.

I’m really really thankful 2019 me was already in battle mode, because it was a hell of a battle.

Long story short babe, the world went to hell.

One minute we were in France with mom, the next moment the coronavirus had hit.

These aren’t all happy memories, these are scared ones, but I think it’s just as important to recount these, because you must never forget.

Never forget how scary it was to sit bug eyed in front of the television set Marie-Jose owned and watch Italy collapse under the strain of this virus.

Never forget the fear filled conversations with Mom and Dad as they scrambled as best they could to get you back. We owe so much to Dad for managing it, I’ve no idea what we would’ve done otherwise.

I need you to remember how harrowing it was to watch Emmanuel Macron shut the borders the day the flight was supposed to take off. How bone-chilling it was that the Indian government had also ordered the shut down of all airports as well.

Those 48 hours before the actual flight were the scariest, full of uncertainty but Air India pulled through, getting special permission to operate.

The charged atmosphere at Charles de Gaulle airport, where all the doors were shuttered down like a scene from the apocalypse, the only way in through one of the parking lots.

Always be grateful to Marie-Jose, she drove you to the airport in this sort of a scenario. Good people do exist.

Never forget how Prathiba helped you pack, how Ashna gave you the contacts should you be stuck in Delhi.

And never ever forget the pain of having to leave things behind, because that one is important.

Materials incite memories, but the memories lie within you. You won’t always be able to carry physical objects of every single thing and someday even sentimental items may have to be left behind. You’ll always carry the memories in your heart.

The next 30 hours were scarier and I’m not sure I’ve ever been on this high alert.

Not a single person dared to cough or sneeze and everyone prayed their temperature would come out normal.

The entire flight back was filled with both anticipation and worry.

Even though there are people who criticized the government for their handling, I’ll forever say the opposite.

Neat rows were maintained until unruly passengers fought their way into crowding the booths for immigration.

A soldier for each group of 14 passengers led us through a very orderly process. He didn’t rush us, didn’t push us. In fact, the major was sympathetic, even waiting a little longer if it meant we could find trolleys for our bags rather than lugging them around ourselves.

The other 13 people also pitched in when they could, offering to help lift the bags onto conveyor belts and off, breaking the sombre air with lighthearted jokes.

Random strangers we may never see again, but remember them. I’ll say it again, people can be good too.

I’ll also make a note that the government prepared a food pack for every one of us – a packaged sandwich, a sealed bottle of water, a tetra pack of frooti, a sweet I can’t remember. I remember the Major telling us to hold on to the packet in case we have a long journey home. He also reminded us not to litter and to throw the packet in the dustbin provided.

Then there was the crushing relief of being allowed to board the flight back home, it brought tears to your eyes when the plane finally landed in Mumbai.

The next 15 days were in isolation, unable to hug the family that had fought tooth and nail to get you back. At least we were together, I shudder to think otherwise.

The world changed completely, India went into lockdown and even as I write these, we’re still mostly in lockdown. I’ll spare you the details, there are too many to put in here.

Always be thankful for IVP, they took you back in a heartbeat, familiar faces and stone new ones integrating you solidly into the team.

Having a job in this hopeless scenario is a boon, never take it for granted again.

I held off writing this letter until things were settled and I think they’re relatively stable, I’m not sure how the world will look after this, I’m sure you know more than me.

I have no wise words for you, I don’t know if they’ll still apply in your situation, all I have to say is that I’ll be proud of you anyway.

You managed to stay somewhat stable in a world which is crumbling. Be proud of it, but also thankful for it.

And always remember that there are people who love you, people to check up on you, people that have been constants in your life and that’s the important part of life anyway.

As Dhwani has specifically reminded you, your graduation was important. With mom and Ashna standing next to you, dad, Sneha, Dhwani watching the YouTube live, it was a big deal.

Remember how happy you were to take mom around Paris and Nantes, showing her through your own eyes how life had been in the past few years.

I’m not in France when I write this, but maybe you will be, maybe you won’t. I want you to know that I’m perfectly alright with both. As long as you’re happy.

Cheers baby,

2020 You