Letters, now in Fetters?

Did you know that today, December 7, is Letter Writing Day? I did not and a tweet informed me about this day of the year!

As a child though I don’t remember about posts and letters while at Valparai, I do clearly remember them when we moved to a tiny scenic village in Kerala called Pallavur. Though Pallavur had a Post Office, our home was quite away from it. Therefore the letters that came by post used to be brought by a “runner” who carried a mail bag to the next village (Koodalur)  which did not have a Post Office. He would ring the bicycle bell continuously to alert us – one of us would run to the gate to collect the letter. Those days, letters meant a world to all of us for Dad used to be in different locations of Tamil Nadu being a government employee. It was a pleasure to read Dad’s letters. Though the letters were all addressed to Mom, we had no qualms of reading them – in fact it was like it was our right to read them! Looking back, I don’t think we ever gave Dad and Mom their privacy!

Another vivid memory is that of my grandfather writing letters to his sons and daughters in Blue Inland letters. Sometimes when we received inland letters, we would open the wrong end and the letter would actually be in pieces, by the time the tearing was done! Yellow post cards were very commonly used. It had no cover and whatever was written on it could be read by anyone! Today’s privacy freaks would die a hundred deaths if they received one of that kind.

As I grew up, I remember writing letters to my siblings, Dad & Mom and to the extended family. Some how I came to believe that I must do full justice to the postage I am spending for the letter; therefore I wrote in a smaller hand and never ever ‘wasted’ any available space in inland letters. Opening my inland letter was truly an art for I would spare only that stretch where I should use the gum to stick it!

After a while, I graduated from inland letters to envelopes – those ivory coloured ones. Now our  letters ran into pages – this was true of my siblings too. In an era when there was no mobile phones or even telephones, we felt that we could lay bare our day-to-day experiences through these epistles notwithstanding the fact that the reply might come only in a month or so. Life was never in the fast lane, those days! It is this constant flow of information via letters that also drew me into embracing stamp collection as my hobby.

When I moved to the UAE in 2003, I missed my family very much. Though emails were already eating into the share of hand written letters, I still clung to my habit. I remember writing long letters, running to even 8 -10 full scape pages and sending them via airmail. My family too wrote long letters back and it was such a joy reading them. I kept all of them safely and in chronological order. On days, when I felt really low, I would keep reading them, one by one. They really had the power to lift me up!

Gradually life became fast paced; hand written letters and snail mail paved way to the lightning swift yet impersonal email. And nowadays, even email is a rarity. Phones are a  dime a dozen and if we need to exchange views it is at the click of a button or the swipe of a touch screen. Pins, tweets, posts, status updates and the like rule the roost. Many a time there is a word limit like of 140 characters for a Tweet or of 420 characters for a status update in Facebook. We write lesser and lesser. No wonder we need a Letter Writing Day!

When did I last write a hand written letter? I take solace in the fact that it was not far away into the past – in October 2012. For many, it would have been years before? This peep into the past, into the art and science of letter writing is almost creating an urge in me to write hand written letters. Why not make it a New Year Resolution? Find time and energy to write letters to my near and dear ones. I am sure I will never regret it! Nor will my recipients!!  😀

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4 thoughts on “Letters, now in Fetters?

  1. I’m so glad to read your fond memories of letter writing. It’s a shame more people don’t do it – I’ve been writing letters since I was little and will continue to do so, even if they do close our post office in January. Sad times for the written word but we must do what we can to keep the tradition alive.

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    • Thank you jenniesister…Totally, totally agree with you – it’s a shame people don’t write letters any more. I wonder if generation X even knows what they are missing. Everything they do tweet style – their communication, their span of attention and why, even relationships! 😦

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