A Fading Art

Going through my books the other day I found a postcard written by hubby dearest from Dubai to me in Bangalore. The picture on the postcard was of Burj Al Arab and the letter, well it was about how he had gone apartment hunting and maybe had found the one which suited. As letters go, pretty mundane, day-to-day life and routine, no sweet nothings, no words of love. However within his words was hidden his loneliness in a new city, his waiting for me to start a new life together. The postcard became precious as it was something tangible to hold on to, to re-read as I waited to join him. Well, that was the last letter I received , technology then took over as we called, texted, chatted to stay in touch. Re-discovering that postcard however made me nostalgic about the good old days when letters were the main means of communication.

I used to take letter writing very seriously. It was the only means I could get across my point of view to the other person, plus I actually thought that the receiver was genuinely interested in what was happening in my routine life. May be they were, maybe they weren’t but my letters never decreased in frequency and length. Since everything had to be perfect I remember spending lots of time in the newly opened Archie’s Gallery (Ah! Good old ‘90s in a small town) to pick out the letter pads for writing voluminous letters to my sister in far off  Kerala, postal department’s inland letters just weren’t big enough to fit what all I wanted to tell her. Receiving a letter pad as a birthday gift used to be my version of heaven and I was proper Scrooge when I had to use paper from it. My letter writing frequency increased with my family’s  move to Chennai and my subsequent move to college. The only time my letter writing capabilities failed me was when I had to write a letter to my then would be mother-in-law…and in that incident I am blaming the language (I was terrible in written Hindi!).

I always thought letter writing was an art; a well worded letter could be a treasure forever.  Letters could transport you to the place which your friend was describing. A piece of advice written by an elder could inspire you. A funny incident written by your cousin could have you howling with laughter. A few soft words written by a special one could bring a soft smile on your face.

Nothing made me happier than receiving a letter. I used to wait for the postman to deliver the letters and would be disappointed when he left the mailbox empty. Eventually however the empty mail box became the norm rather than an aberration. People became too busy to write and post letters or they used the newly introduced email. Slowly that too faded as fruit named smartphones burst on the scene. Now you have options galore to communicate with people.

Somehow, even though communication has become easier I think the quality and frequency of communication has decreased. If you now ask someone how they are doing you will usually get an “OK” as the answer. Now that “OK” can have a myriad emotions and meanings behind it. It doesn’t tell me what you are thinking, what your plans are, what you are doing (well we do have Facebook to check in when we do something exciting). And the most important thing, you cannot hold on to that OK!

I miss writing and receiving letters. I still have a few letters saved which I take out from time to time to re-read. They remind me of simpler times, when expressing oneself was easier though time-consuming. The eager wait for the postman to bring the much-anticipated letter, to try to identify the sender by their handwriting. Reading the letter, re-reading it. Trying to understand the emotion behind the words, taking time to admire someone’s penmanship (another dying art, alas!).The plain and simple fact that someone took the time and patience to write.

Or maybe I am just a sentimental fool who longs for the postman to bring me letters from my loved ones again, so that I can cherish the words they wrote.


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