Our friendship has brought me such great joy, but sadly it must come to an end. You see, I am not really Aditya, the 13-year-old boy who, like you, joined the pen-pal program to build bridges one teenager at a time between Pakistan and India. Rather, I—sorry, we—are Division 36 of the Indian Armed Forces.
Your friendship has given us so much, Abdul: companionship, warmth, the exact coordinates of Pakistani weaponry stashes. When we met you, we were just a bunch of desk jockeys mindlessly sending missiles into unidentified villages. But now, we know the names of all the villages, thanks to your Mandalas of Pain art project. We learned things from you every day, kid. Important things. Maybe, in another life, we could’ve been real pals, and heck, maybe in that life you would still have parents.
But sometimes, not getting what you want is a good thing—the Dalai Lama said that, son. Would you have made your touching sand animation project on life and death, if mommy and daddy hadn’t been incinerated in the bombing that destroyed half of your village? No. And that melted Crayola piece, if your brother Dhruv hadn’t been shot in the raid that destroyed the second half? Perhaps, but it would have been less authentic. Art can get you through anything, kid: yours is what got us through all our long hours of bombing here at the base.
We hope you don’t feel used, given how hard we tried to give back to you, like that time we guerrilla-raided your school and specifically targeted the mean older kids you complained about in your letters. Sure, they were your sisters. But that sonnet you wrote afterwards really was your best work yet. Private Patel found it so moving that he actually suggested sparing your street from the final stage of our military operation. But we didn’t, Abdul. We didn’t because we know how much you hate your neighbor Ahmed for always leaving his frisbee in your yard but never asking you to play.
As for us, we will miss you dearly. But we need you to walk away. That is, run. Westward. An R-12 missile is headed straight towards your house.
Aditya, aka D-36