On my last visit to my home-town, I was appalled to see the resident post-office shut down. When I asked someone why, the reply was obvious, “Who sends letters these days. Everything is through the Internet.”
I fondly remember this post office because I spent a lot of time there. I was a prolific letter-writer during my college days and spent most of the money I earned on postage stamps. No post-cards or ‘inland’ letters for me… my writing merited a bulky envelope that could hold atleast 10 pages. And the most eagerly awaited person was the postman and later the postwoman Surabhi… who became close enough to even attend my wedding.
Who did I write to? Well, since a large part of my family lived in the Hindi heartland, the only way to communicate (yes, we had no telephone then) was through letters. And I was perhaps the most enthusiastic to keep in touch. I wrote letters to every person who had a link with me, a cousin at engineering college, a second cousin in medical college, my maternal grandfather (another wonderful letter-writer himself), a friend in the Indian Air Force (who often wrote of his adventurous ‘flying’ experiences), pen friends sourced from YES (the youth supplement of The Indian Express) and many more. During vacations, I used to even write to my friends who barely stayed a few kilometres away. The hilarious part was if we happened to bump into each other during the week, the obvious question would be, ‘Did you get my letter?” Ha! Ha!
My letters were no ordinary ones… They were full of what my life was in the moment, dotted with cute little stickers or doodles and often enclosed with a card I designed and drew all by myself. I would like to think they were cheerful, full of little anecdotes, stories and jokes! And when I was away at university, I used to wait for missives from friends… stuff about what was happening back home… lots of rain, sunshine, gossip or even power cuts. Their sense of humour (Rajesh, do you remember this?) travelled from Cochin all the way to Nagpur bringing a smile each time…
When I got engaged, the husband (a man of few words when it came to putting words on paper) was deluged with letters, cards and poems for six months… Once in Muscat and with the advent of the Internet, my letter-writing abilities were nipped in the bud. I only wrote twice a month to Appa who replied in his tiny, neat, print-like handwriting… until 2007 and that too was stopped by what I call the quirk of fate.
Don’t think that I’ve anything against modern communication… the response is instant… but I do miss the creativity that goes into actually ‘writing’ letters… and the joy of receiving one written by hand…
I’ve never been inside a post-office in Muscat… here our address is only a post-box number. How impersonal! I often wish I would write a letter, the old fashioned way… by hand… and send it by what people deridingly term as ‘snail mail’!