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’!

Any takers?

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18 thoughts on “The lost art of letter-writing

  1. just curious. since there is a large rural area in oman, how are addresses fixed there? still po boxes?

    a couple of friends and i still write proper letters to each other. and my daughter writes letters to their daughters. it’s all quite exciting for them.

    also check out what this blogger has done:

    http://broombox.com/2010/02/22/postcards-from-the-glass-closet/ – a postcard a day to her blogger pals.

    quite innovative huh?

    also something from years ago: http://archives.chennaionline.com/columns/behind/behind28.asp

    1. will check out on that one… as far as i know, there are only PO boxes. wonderful that you still write letters. plan to do that too 🙂 thanks for the links… will check them out!

  2. rekha, dont u wish u could get all those letters back – the ones u wrote, i mean, to get a feel of your mood then? i remmber writing something on these lines years ago when some miscreants opened my carton of saved letters kept near the terrace landing… gosh, i can get all goosepimply with nostalgia… waiting for the postman’s bicycle trrinngg, the unbridled joy of holding a letter with my name on top… can we start a campaign? a write-a-letter-a-week/month campaign…?
    what say?

  3. maybe you shud begin by snail-mailing this blog to all your friends… heheheh .. but on the serious note… receiving a letter sure has a thrill of its own!

  4. Rekha, do you remember the letter writing competitions we used to have in schools? I don’t know if they still continue this in the syllabus! I honestly do miss the letter writing days and do wish I got more handwritten letters. The closest I get to this are the cards that come. But my best friend and I still write each other letters.
    And I do hope I can pass on the joys of letter writing to Aviva too!
    Thanks for this lovely trip-down-memory-lane blog!

    1. thanks anne… yup, i remember the letter-writing competitions. they don’t have them any more… we should start a campaign… atleast by sending each other hand-written letters… good that you and your friend atleast do that… and keep the art alive 🙂

  5. Sad to know that the Mattancherry post-office is now cllosed. It’s long since I stopped getting letters from anyone save the monthly credit card bills. Even that is been sent as e-bills. Now post-office is more used for transferring money to workers under the NREGS scheme. That was quite a re-invention of the postal services.

  6. Oh ya ! i do remember the exchange of mails we had …i was doing my ICWAI final and you were in Nagpur .. used to eagerly wait for the postman and if i remember correctly i used to reply the same day,rather night after studying and the letters even bore testimony to this fact as i used to put the date and time 🙂

    sometimes do miss those days of snail mail !!!!

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