When 10-year-old Lidwina Joseph decided to write a letter of thanks to the Supreme Court for its Covid initiative, her father was discouraging despite being a postmaster himself.
“I initially discouraged her since I thought a letter from a child won’t make any difference,” Joseph K. Francis, a former air force employee, told The Telegraph from his home in Thrissur, Kerala, on Wednesday.
He admitted being “really surprised” at the splash his daughter’s letter and the accompanying hand-drawn picture of a judge had created, with Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana writing back appreciatively to her and several newspapers covering the story.
Drawing is a hobby with Lidwina, who said: “I want to be a painter when I grow up.”
However, very much a child of the 21st century, the postmaster’s daughter had written just a single pen-and-paper letter before in her life – as a class assignment.
Still, Lidwina didn’t want her letter to the Chief Justice of India sent as an email.
“Lots of people must be sending letters via email to the Chief Justice. So I told my papa we shall send it by post,” the youngest daughter of Francis and Bincy, a schoolteacher, said.
Francis sent it by speed post in May-end.
Asked why she had thought of writing to the Chief Justice, Lidwina said: “Every day I used to read newspaper headlines and see scary pictures (of mass cremations and burials of Covid patients). I got very scared at the thought that no one was helping the people.”
The Class V student of the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Thrissur, kept asking her father why no one was pitching in to save lives. Then she read in The Hindu that the Supreme Court had intervened to ramp up oxygen supplies.
“I felt very happy. I wanted to thank the Supreme Court for saving lives,” Lidwina said.
Francis’s initial scepticism eventually yielded to Lidwina’s persistence. “I told her to draw an image of a judge in a courtroom and write a letter, which she did in two days,” he said.
Did she feel afraid to write to the Chief Justice of India? “No, where’s the need to feel scared when I was only thanking the Chief Justice?”
The idea to place the text in a scroll came from her father.
“Papa told me to draw a scroll. Then I remembered the stories in which kings and big people got their letters on scrolls. Since Justice Ramana Sir is a highly respectable person, I thought I should draw a scroll,” she said.
Lidwina added: “Drawing and craft are my principal hobbies. So I checked Google to get an idea of a courtroom before I did the sketch. My papa then corrected some mistakes I had made in the letter.”
In her seven-sentence letter to Justice Ramana, Lidwina wrote: “I am happy and feel proud your honourable court have moved orders for supply of oxygen and saved many lives.”
The Chief Justice’s office called Francis a few days
later asking for Lidwina’s home address since she had mentioned only her school address. They called again on Tuesday to confirm whether Lidwina had received the Chief Justice’s letter and gift — a signed copy of the Indian Constitution.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana
“The letter and the copy of the Indian Constitution are my treasures. I shall always keep them with me,” Lidwina said.
Justice Ramana had in his reply lauded the “beautiful letter” and “heart-warming illustration”.
“I am really impressed with the way you kept track of happenings in the country and the concern that you have displayed for the well being of people in the wake of pandemic. I am sure you will grow up into an alert, informed and responsible citizen who will contribute immensely towards the nation building,” he wrote.
Lidwina confessed to having written only one complete letter before.
“I had a Class III lesson on letter-writing, postage stamps and Inland letters. I had to write to a friend as part of my class activity on Christmas,” she said.
She added that she “used to write a few lines when my sisters wrote to my father” during the time Francis worked in the Gulf before taking up his current post office job.
Why did the sisters — Isaballe is a first-year BSc mathematics student while Catherine is enrolled in Class XII at the Sacred Hearts College in Thrissur — write letters to their father rather than email or WhatsApp messages?
Francis said he had insisted on it, having developed a fondness for letter-writing himself while corresponding with his family from his various air force postings in the 1990s and 2000s.