Letter to the Fireflies

Letter to the Fireflies

May 3, 2021

Dear fireflies,

Let me begin by narrating a story that I have repeated often. The more often I tell it, the more often I am asked to say it again. It is the story of how you came to be my fireflies

The story of Fireflies

I saw a thousand fireflies. or many thousands. I saw them on a dark moonless night. They have stayed with me. Sometimes, they still peep through my hair, say a quick hello during a walk on the footpath in the wee hours of the night. It is as if they are living every moment with me. Making me think. Write. And at times feel. Through my good days and the bad days. Bad days because I just have to close my eyes and I see them again. Almost real. And I am joyous again! Good days because at my happiest hour, I invariably go back to that night in the small lanes of Jinkhata village in Dhubri district of Assam when while coming back from the Satra (local Vaishnavite temple about 2 kms away from where i stayed), I was transported to an almost fairy tale like reality. Through those kachcha (mud) roads, between the thick foliage of trees, sitting on that rickshaw, through the sound of slow churning of the wheels, and occasional whispers from the crickets, I saw those fireflies. From as close as kissing my hair, to as far as my eyes could feel their horizon. Darkness and nothing else, but only those fireflies. Everywhere! Behind the bushes, close to the flooded paddy fields, on the trees, road, everywhere. It was like a million stars were at play, hide and seek was their game! I was a silent spectator, watching in awe these little stars carrying me forward to my destination for a more than few half hours. Was I taken to experience some unique reality? Was i navigating through a dream? I remember feeling my tears roll down the cheeks. A slight overwhelmed quiver of my lips. A slight stiffness in my body. My head gently swaying from one end to another trying to absorb as much. That is the only moment in my life when I received without any resistance. With no obstruction, absorbed the gift of nature. 

'This couldn't be for real! But it was.. and it was serendipity!'

Meeting you all is also that serendipity. You shine through the darkness and reveal yourself with your little hide and seek. Today one comes, then the other and then another. Just like this twelve years have passed and you still continue to charm me. You all are still guiding the flow of where my eyes should look. And you are all still encouraging that a dream once bounced off intuitively could find home in all your hearts. And that, you all have allowed to sow its seeds in you. All of you have watched it being nurtured. You have seen it being watered. You have seen nature give it its roots and giving it the branches. Now it is solid in earth. It is as visible to the eyes as it is only envisioned in the roots. This is now our tree, Mora. 

What a spectacle it is! When you come dancing around this tree on the moonless nights. And you flood the skies of its universe with your little glowing lights. And you mesmerise my being with how you make love to this tree. I wait in anticipation for the days when you all show up, till then i work diligently day after day, month after month, year after year, looking at this tree, pruning the branches, intertwining the roots. Do you know it is like a rubber fig tree? Of course you do. Do you also know with its roots I am making a bridge to cross over and reach the unknown lands? Do you know by weaving the roots of this bridge, this living roots bridge will only keep growing stronger with time? Soon it will take our weight and carry us back and forth from the wonders of another world and back. I know you never need to hesitate to come here. You drop in when the tree beckons! The love affair you have shared, the love affair I stand witness to. You come, you touch, you kiss, you own the moment and you make a promise to come back. And this is what i have witnessed all these years.

You fireflies, you make this tree dance. You make this tree send out rejuvenation to each cell of its growing roots. You make it want to grow longer branches, so you can reach it more easily. And looking at you both together in your gentle loving, I dance too! Believe me every bit of me dances when you come visiting the Mora tree!

The setting before the story of the fireflies

Before I met the fireflies that moonless night in Dhubri, I first encountered fear. Deep fear.

The noon of that night, I reached Jinkhata village to meet a person who was going to introduce local Rajbanshi weavers to me. I was looking forward to this connect. The person came about an hour and half later than the time bus dropped me about forty kms away from the village. As soon as I saw him, I sensed that he was drowning in alcohol. We took a mini bus and reached the village together.  Through out the journey, the stench of his alcohol was breathing down my senses. Just when I thought that I will soon meet the weavers and this ordeal will be distracted, I was told to hop on a rickshaw, while he took his cycle. He said, “there are no weavers here but let me make you someone who can guide you.” For about few minutes he rode next to my rickshaw. He was swaying and I was getting more furious inside with his every sway. I kept telling myself the ordeal will soon be over. In the next instant, when I looked around, I couldn’t see him anymore. Soon, in the middle of that bright day, more than 20 men started walking next to my rickshaw, hooting and saying things that I couldn't understand. Nothing felt right about that moment. Their eyes, their closeness, their hand on my rickshaw. Why were they looking at me like that? Why were they walking so close? What do they want to do to me? What are they trying to convey? Am I in danger? The anger for the alcoholic slowly turned into fear of this expanding group. Their number was increasing. I had never before felt fear of a nature this deep. I could feel threat in each turn of the wheel. Would I say I was frozen with fear? Yes I was. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even be numb. I was just extremely alert. Fiercely alert.  

Suddenly, the alcoholic re-appeared riding merrily on his cycle. When I saw him, even though there was not much rescue that he was capable of, I felt relieved. In the next moment, I did a roar like I never did before and woke the man out of his reverie and said one time and for all others, "you wont be able to drink a drop of the poison you have been drinking if anything happens to me here today on your own land, with or without guilt!!” Immediately, he was out of his stupor. Whatever came upon him, he sneaked me out straight to a Gandhi ashram where a lady called Neelima didi managed the place. In a white sari with blue border she answered the call of this man. The moment the group saw her, they all stopped right where they were. She took me in and locked the metal gate behind her and gave a roar to them in Axomiya words. I don't know what they meant but they meant right. And were tight enough to scare them off.

I was shocked with the whole episode. Neelima didi tried to comfort me. I was exhausted inside. She asked me to go rest. It was an old run down ashram but it was like a home. I entered a room that had an old four poster bed with a mosquito net. I entered that zone. I cried there deep to comfort my hurt feminine. I cried also that I was safe now. I had lost my appetite. I don't know how many hours I slept. But I remember Didi waking me up with a plate in her hand. All she did was push the plate to me. I said, no I don't have any appetite. And all she did was push the plate further towards me. Then I took the plate and walked inside the room. And she left to attend to her daily chores. 

I finally took a look at what I was holding. 

Tears rolled down. The contents of the plate will need no further explanation.

The plate held a glass of warm milk, freshly made paneer, 2 biscuits, a banana, some sugar, and 2 hot ghee parathas. 

This was an Axomiya mother's heart put into a plate. 

I gobbled everything in few seconds. 

After few minutes, she came and said, "Another didi has come and she will take you to see the village. Go to the satra with her. Don't worry. No harm will come to you now. Those were idiots who never saw a woman from outside before."

We hopped on the rickshaw and went straight to the satra while the sun was still setting. By the time we made an offering at the temple and walked out after meeting the priest, the sun was completely down. I was still thinking about why I had to pay the priest but I did it anyways because didi said it is good to make an offering to him. I did not have the strength to fuss over this. 

Anyways, we walked out of the temple. We sat on the rickshaw. The wheels turned.

And the story of fireflies unfolded within few seconds.

The setting after I saw the fireflies 

I came back to Neelima didi’s place. There was a fuzzy feeling inside but no words outside. I saw that Neelima didi was still winding up the ashram chores. She alone had a lot to do. I tried to help her but I was quite inefficient and was blocking her way. So, I stood there and watched her a long time. She asked me what I would like to do now. I told her I want to go. She said, there are no weavers here. There is no reason for you to be here anyways. I told her, I did not find weavers, but I found something significant in your village. She continued her work. She always was a little far away. Warm but always far away. Yet here and now.

The next day, I was dropped by the other didi and her husband at Cooch Behar railway station, West Bengal that was about an hour’s journey. We went to the famous palace. We exchanged affection though we had met just a day before. It seemed like a long time. A small village with small lanes gave infinite memories in a small time. 

I met no weaves there. I worked with no artisans there. I did not even say the word mora in that village. But it is the most important story of my journey with Mora. 

Most often, in such journeys no weaves were made but a conscience was interwoven. Out of many journeys, only few resulted in weaves. Thus, in Mora weaves is part of the Path, not the whole journey.

Mora, the story keeper

Through Mora, I tell stories of the people, places and the cultures i have had the opportunity to come across. By translating them into a textile, I make them tangible in our memories. These memories tend to fade overtime, but in their tactile persona, they never really go away. The story is forever interwoven into the textile. That is why I always tell a long story. 

I do not know the inside of you, so I tell a long story, that is actually nothing else but a series of stories. I do not know what will you hold on to, in this sea of words as your story, as your own unique memory. Which of those many words that I string together will you choose and make them yours, while re-telling the story of the textile that you now hold close. In the end, what is this textile, but a series of words that bind the story of a unique experience, lived by you, or me or someone else. We develop a relationship with a piece of matter by putting life into it, and it comes alive.

And this relationship does matter. This “nothing to something” matters. Doesn’t it, to you?

The process reveals a human. In the product, the human skill is revealed.

When I decide to make a textile, does a story leads the textile, or the textile leads the story. How can one know it? Is it even necessary? Perhaps it is. It is important to know how each textile's story begins to know where it will land up. Where does it come from? What is its string of circumstances, conscience and creation? What led to the product? Without the process, is there even a product? Isn’t it that process is the real product? 

It perhaps is foundational to know the process.

The process reveals a human. In the product, the human skill is revealed. What I present to you carries both. In the crevices of each story, lies an intimate knowing of the process of another human being. The process of “becoming” of the product. The process of decision-making and choices. That reveals what is its inside and what is its outside. In this knowing, is an Empowerment. Empowerment to another human being- “Now you know, now you decide. You choose. What you decide reveals something of you to you.”

Through a textile, I enter your many minds. Through your many minds, I enter my many minds. Sometimes, I visualise you thinking about what I am thinking about what you must be thinking about. Sometimes, I also visualise me thinking about what you must be thinking about what I may be thinking about. Does it even matter? If this doesn’t matter then what really does matter. And if it does matter then should it really matter?

The third person narration of questions

How does she think? How does she put two colours together? How many times she cancels her own design? How many papers she crushes before she makes the final design? Do those people that she works with, approve of her? Do they like her untidy drawings? Do they like her design? Do they like her design more before they are complete, or do they like her design more after its finished and ready? Does she like her own design? Does she wear her own design? Which of her designs came out like she imagined? Which one of them made her feel bummed as it wasn't even close to her imagination? Does she like it when her design is better than her imagination? Or does she like it better when her imagination is better than the design? Does it ever happen that she makes something that was not matching her imagination, or does her imagination always hit the bull's eye? 

Does she self reflect? Does she take criticism? Does she improvise? Does she think business when she designs? Does she overwhelm herself? does she underwhelm herself? Does she have self doubt? Does she have over confidence? Who does she study? Who should she study? Does she cook? How nervous is she when she cooks? Has she ever spilled a curry on her own design? Does she give herself feverish adrenaline?

Does she like teams? Does she like to be alone? Does she like meeting people? What does she talk about? When she meets people, does she only talk about the weaves, cultures and the people she meets with? How much does she really reveal? How much does she let you reveal? Does she make you think she likes you? Does she make you think you excite her? Or does she always like the people of the mountains better? What is about the people of the mountains that she likes? What is about the weaves they do that she likes? 

Does she like religion? Does she like politics? Does she think about environment, climate, the oceans and the rivers? How does she incorporate her thinking about these into the feeling of her design? What is waste to her? How much waste does she generate? What does she do with the waste? What does she call waste? How often does she feel creative? How often does she feel productive? What is her efficiency? What is her work routine? Does she wash her own clothes? Does she make her own bed? Does she clean the dishes? Does she sleep well? Or does she day dream more than she sleeps?

How often does she spend her time with family? What does she tell them? Do they find her stories fascinating or do they find them boring because their context is so different? What validation does she need? What motivation does she need? What makes her heart thrive? What does she survive on? What does money mean to her? What does she do with the money? Where is her home? Where is her heart? Where are her dreams? Where are her fears? Does she reveal them? Does she hide them? 

Why she writes letters to me?  How does she know what to write to me? How does she decide the choice of words and emotions without even knowing me? What is it that those letters bring to me? What is it that those letters bring to her? Does she write those letters to herself and sends them to me? Or does she write those letters as intuitively as she designs every piece, and then lets intuition do the talking? Who does she have in mind? Why does she call me by my first name? What does it do to me when a stranger shares an intimacy of a hand written letter sent across borders and rivers?What do they carry? What does this textile become for me? What does she become for me? Does the textile become "mine?" Does she become "mine"? Do I become hers? 

Does this even matter? Do i need to remember her? Do i need to remember her stories? Do i even like her stories? If yes, what do I like about her stories? Why do I like her stories? If no, why do I not like her stories? What do they evoke in me? What is it that I want to feel through them? What is the whole fuss about the story? 

What if I have nothing to like about the story but I just love the design? What if I like only her aesthetics but her stories are too long and too boring? What if i like only the colours and how she merges them together? What if i like only the geometry of her placements? What if i like how she uses the textiles that I have always seen around but she does something different with them? What if I just want to have a closer look at her stitching? What if i just want to see the back of the textiles and see if she takes care of that too? What if I want to observe the corners, seams, the joints and the edges? What if nothing of her stories touch my heart but all of her design and the technique make me want to see her work more and more?

What if I just don't like her stories and I just don't like her design, but I like her? And what if I like her letters and through those letters I feel good? What if all this does not matter and all I wanted to do was get something that everyone else was trying to get too? What if I like the competition of winning the race more than the sport? 

What if these textiles and she are my trigger to know myself better? Why I choose what she made and not others? Why I chose this and not the others? Why I would like to get that one but it is too expensive for me? Why does she even have to charge that much? Is she even paying the artisans that much? Why should I have to criticise how she pays them when the point remains that I cant buy it and it makes me feel terrible? Should I work out a way with her where I can pay in parts? I have waited for years and now I cant afford it and it makes me feel terrible, should I ask her? Is money everything? What if she does agree for an arrangement? 

What if she is a snob? What if she just escapes to the mountains because she cant deal with all my intelligent questions? What if she is scared? What if she is nice? what if she is chill? What if she is not as mysterious as I visualised her life to be? What if she wants settlement while i want adventure? What is her missing? What is her misgiving? 

Why is she not making dresses? Why does she only choose saris, shawls and mostly unstitched canvasses? Will I get to ask her this? Will she answer? 

Is she culturally appropriating certain indigenous communities? Do they like what she does with their textiles? Do they even care? Does she care? If she cares, what does she do to keep that sensitivity? How does she tell a story of the culture while telling it "as it is" and also not exotify-ing it? Does she make it sound rarer than it is? Or does she make it sound nearer than it is? Are these weaves really at the verge of discontinuation? If yes, what can be done? If not, what is the fuss about? If these weaves don't continue how does it change her life? Their life? My life? Does it change something at all? Does the world miss something? Do they, the makers, miss something about themselves? 

Why do I like these remote rare weaves? Why do I like these remote rare communities? What is it that they have that I want to emulate, imitate? What is missing in me that I cherish in them? Or is it that nothing is missing in me but I just like how they are because they are different? What is it that makes us different? 

Why do I buy these weaves? Why I buy mora? Why do I support her work? Why do I spend my time looking at these weaves? Why I choose certain stories, and why I leave certain others? What opens me, what closes me? What excites me, what makes me cringe? 

The act of choosing, is the act of knowing yourself. 

So many complex permutations and combinations life throws with each question that one is compelled to answer in a moment, and each time when we string a few words together whether in our mind or through our mouth, a decision is made. A decision made for something is always a decision made against something else. That is the nature of choice. We pick one, we leave another. What did you leave out? In this negation, as Aldous Huxley points out, that in this choosing perhaps is the cue to who you are not. And in figuring who you are not, you may perhaps land up closer to  knowing who you are. 

I think like this. I design like this. I feel in this complexity. I express in these many words. I don’t do that. I do that. I choose this. And I leave that. Making mora makes me know myself. Choosing to be with communities that are far from my original context helps me drop my conditioning to arrive at who I am not. Making every day decisions in strange lands, based not only on intuition but the accumulating experience, helps me see my growth. And in the matrix of all these no's and yes', I weave a story, first in my mind which becomes my memory. And then in the recitation of this memory when I write to you all. Little by little, I give you cues of who I am and who I am not.

Stories are a give-away. They can’t hide. 

As the narrator of a story, I am sometimes the creator and most often the observer. Stories reveal themselves to me in their silences, pauses and sighs just like life. Subtly some stories live and subtly they are told in their authenticity. Each emotion fighting its way through to make its presence felt, while I make my acquaintance with each of them and choose the most suitable carrier of the story. Of course I tell the stories with emotion. I live them as I tell them. And what I live, I tell as a story too. Sometimes living as the narrator of a story is a lot of clarity and has the potential to blur all potential realities. As a narrator, we also construct reality as what will be most suitable to share. In that way, we make clarity out of blur. Of course we are unique chosen complex beings... living stories in reality and living reality in stories. This is sometimes not a choice. This is as inherent as animal instinct. We are and forever remain narrators of the stories, if incidentally we were born as one. 

 We also coexist. Sometimes stories tell through me and sometimes I am told through those stories.

I become an interesting narrator upholding a reliable story when I can gently move between spaces of concealment and revelation. Gently holding the beginning, middle and the end. In being given a receptive, encouraging space to be as authentic as any teller of the story can be to story-telling, I find my stories flowing effortlessly and that is where I find my unique essence of life. My gift. 

The essence of today’s stories

The impact of the fireflies stands brighter in contrast to the darkness of the hours before. The mundane nature of events the next day do not diminish the glow of the fireflies. Neelima didi was the first firefly who ignited all other fireflies in the night for me. She is so vivid that even after a decade, she is alive in my memory. From anticipation, to frustration, to fear, to relief, to pain, to comfort, to home and to fireflies, all in a day. In that chronology. Perfectly orchestrated. To give me a small memory as a big lesson. Don’t you fret, the fireflies will be around soon. Just have some food and take a walk. The fireflies will be out soon. And they have been. All dark days have ended with a thousand fireflies. If not outside, in my heart they have come. Without this chronology of events, the fireflies are just a pretty sight. With the chronology, they are set in my memory with a beginning, middle and end. Now, they are in a composition with the rest of the context. 

The setting before the firefly story is the process. The firefly moment is the product. The journey ahead is the beginning of another cycle. Each intertwined inseparably. Can you tell this process apart from this product? Though one is mesmerised by the story of the fireflies, one grows empathy through the story of the setting before and after it. Both held together reveal the journey and where the road is leading to. 

In the midst of process and the product, I am revealed to you.


This is my offering of immersion. An intimate offering of revelation. My vulnerable and mighty authenticity. With this I offer to you empowerments. I will offer to you through the pages of Mora 2021 knowledge, information, insight and parameters of judgement. This is not a training to decide. This is an aid to see. I have only just begun to see now, after 12 years of dedication to this. I have been seeking nothing else but this. 

I want to tell you to hold the power to your decision. No more naivety. An offering from one human to another, “Do not celebrate naivety”. 

Own your knowledge. Own your decision. Own your pondering and wanderings. Own your thought process. Own your wishes. Own the management of your wishes. Own yourself. Own your story. Own with responsibility. Own with all your heart. Own yourself with all your mind. Own your questions. Own how you arrived at their answer. 

You know. And what you don’t know you know how to ask. And what you cannot know, you acknowledge. 

Empowerment is this.

May you always continue to look, while you see the fireflies!

Yours sincerely,


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20 comments on “Letter to the Fireflies”

    1. Thank you Divya, the fact that we have the questions is already suggesting presence of fireflies, as sparks of thoughts. You are most welcome to share! 🙂

  1. I am so drowned in despair at this moment ....it took me few days to finish reading your letter .Wwooow this gave a jolt to me .....ki bhalo je laghlo .....yesss I will continue to look ,while I see the fireflies.....yeaaahhhh ....Thank youuuuuuuu


    1. Dear Momai,

      These times are so difficult. How to continue going on? I am talking of mora and textiles when people are burning and dying. But if we don't do what we have been doing then more people will suffer for reasons beyond Covid. So, I have decided to not lose focus. Thank you for your message full of empathy.

  2. Good to hear from you dear Ritika, glad you are doing well. Take care and wish you the best, much love, Anitha 🥰

  3. Love this “ You know. And what you don’t know you know how to ask. And what you cannot know, you acknowledge.” :)))

  4. Thanks Ritika for sharing your experiences, you have a power to motivate others.. wishing you the best in all your projects.
    Love & hugs to you.

  5. You do not know the inside of me? I beg to differ. We beg to differ. I am you are me are this, that, nothing at all. All stories, all weaves, knotted inside within without each other. You write like the air. How I breathe you in!

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