When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone? Or should I ask if you ever got a chance to write letters at all? For, a lot of us in today may have rarely written or received letter, it is the occupation of the old.
If you are over thirty however, chances are you have not only seen, but also written and received letters — sky-blue inland letters, yellow post cards, off-white envelopes — little pieces of papers that traveled far and wide to reach the reader. Sometimes these readers were people who could read, but sometimes they were people who could not read. And so the letters were taken to someone who could read it aloud to you even at the cost of deepest secrets becoming public.
I am fortunate to have been born in a time when technology had yet to take over all aspects of our lives. I had the privilege of a slow life (which I desperately try to preserve even today) when hours were spent writing to and reading from the letters that came in post. The most frequent used to be my nani’s inland letters written in smallest possible letters. Scribbled on the margins, written overleaf, and sometimes even behind, these fragile blue sheets carried the love of a mother for her daughter — and her children. It carried news too, or recipes, or measurements and designs of a sweater. Then there were those from others, not so frequent, but regular nonetheless.
My earliest memories of writing are from almost 30 years ago. It started with writing New Year Cards that my father would get made in bulk to send to family and friends. We — my brother and I would get super excited because they had father’s name in print and were handed over the job of affixing stamps on them. We were also allowed to send some to our friends, and write, in our diligent cursive hand, long letters of love on them — even though the friend lived next door, or sat next to us in the class. After that it became a ritual, a part of our new year and Christmas celebration: to make a long list of people who we wanted to send the cards to — family, relatives, friends and our friends too, to look up the addresses in the dairy, write the cards, put the stamp, mark them as book post and finally post them. The entire process took almost a week, if not more.
I think that is where I learnt to write, a habit I am still to let go of. My first letters was written shortly after. I would write every week to my closest friends in other towns (we moved often) and sometimes even to the random class mates. They sometimes went on to pages, sometimes, they were as small as a note. Some contained little girly secrets, some were full of news and gossip, but all of them with written with utmost honesty and sincerity. Every city we moved from added a few names to the list of friends who I would write to regularly.
But writing a was only half the fun. The other half — and the better half — was receiving one.
The anticipation of waiting for a reply, the joy of recognizing the handwriting, the thrill of preparing for the contents within. The effort it took to undo hundreds of stapler pins that were added to ensure no one else read it; the glancing through the entire thing first and then reading it again to get the details and the happiness that it brought for days after completed the picture.
Somewhere along the line however we discovered the telephone. We could now talk to whoever we liked, so what if we had to wait until 11 PM for the pulse rates to go down? Calling a loved one, listening to his voice, and wishing him personally was far more gratifying than writing and waiting for a response. Slowly the calls got more frequent and letters less regular. Until one day, all we received were bank statements, phone bills, and credit card notices.
When the mobiles came in, the calls were replaced by SMSs: it is far more convenient to write a message – or copy someone else’s – and send to everyone at once rather than calling everyone. There was no need to peep into our letterboxes anymore; the love and wishes were now delivered directly into our inboxes. And now we have Facebook and Watsapp, Instagram Snapchat, and whatnot.
While an instant message and connection has its benefits but the good old letter’s charm is priceless. Can you imagine digging up your messages from a scented box, paper envelope, or folder and reading them all over again? Laughing some, crying more, and smiling a while lot. Can a text message warm your heart and make you long for times gone by like a letter would? Or a card from an old crush, lover, or friend who no longer finds you important?
Try writing a letter today to someone, anyone. And if you find no-one worthy of your words, write one to yourself. Trust me you will not regret it.