Friday, February 10, 2012

Pen & paper are indeed special to me!

If there is one item that stands out from my childhood, it is the old inland letter/postcard. I was one of the most active users of these instruments offered by the Indian postal department, when I used to regularly write long letters to some of the dearest people in my life. These include the greatest friends I had the fortune of growing up with, as also a bunch of cousins who for me had (still do) iconic statures in my life, given their sheer outlook and attitude towards life.

One of the things that I distinctly remember was the excitement I had on Fridays or Saturdays, when I took the time out to write long letters to my cousins – especially 3 of them in Chennai; and 2 of them in Delhi. I used to write to them about sports (cricket in particular, given the common family interest in the game), friendships, hardships, events, exams, holiday plans, interesting girls and many other things that were at that time routine in my life. My letters were potentially never short, unless I was restricted by the space available in the inland letter or the postcard! And restricted space meant more number of letters! More often than not, I used to write on white pages (with lines, not blank sheets!), and they used to run into several pages (10-15-20 pages, at times).

Many of these letters were freewheeling conversations with all of these dear people and I never thought for a second about what the reactions would be, or how they would feel et al. I guess, being the youngest around also helped, in that I got away with anything that was even remotely controversial!

These letters reflected different moods– at times sombre, at other times supremely hyperactive (usually!). I generally ended up saying things the way I felt or the way I saw it – people refer to this as ‘calling a spade a spade’, these days!

I believe that the biggest trigger for me to write on pen & paper was the need to connect with these people, like no other – that’s how special they were to me. There was no internet, no cellphone, no Skype or web camera and no satellite communication technology whatsoever. It was the sheer desire to write long letters that drove me to write the way I did.  

One of the all-time favourite moments of my childhood was my walk to the post office. I distinctly remember the excitement I felt when I used to walk to my neighbourhood post office to deposit the envelope in the right mailbox. At that time, the post office had separate post boxes for the metropolitan cities and for non-metropolitan cities. Every time I placed my hand inside the mail box to send my letter to my cousins in Chennai or Delhi, I almost felt that I had reached the moon or some such zenith! Such was the thrill that the charm of letter writing gave me, all those years back.

My letter writing spree was not restricted to cousins alone. Like I said, I had the fortune of growing up with some immensely wonderful friends in both my school and my college and I was fortunate in that, they seemed to adore the letters I wrote to them. Interestingly, there are three girls and 1 boy that I used to write very long letters to – the boy and 2 girls were from my class and the third girl was from my neighbourhood. There were times, when I used to write 15 page letters to these people, right after coming home from school/college and giving them a long letter the next morning. Wow, that was one kick in life and a supremely happy bunch of moments!

In hindsight, I doubt if there are any other people in the world, apart from my parents, who potentially know me the way these friends do. I used to write essays to them, not letters – 15-20-30 pages at most times. And I still used to have the same excitement when I used to give it to them in person (and not by mail) and used to yearn for their expression/reaction. I was lucky, in that, a couple of them used to write back to me with letters too. That was one big kick in life i.e. not just sending long letters, but potentially receiving a few handwritten letters back. It was an inexplicable feeling!

I recently spoke to this 3rd girl that I refer to above (from my neighbourhood) and we were just reliving the bygone era – we have known each other for 20 years now! And when she casually mentioned that she has stored all of my letters & indeed all the letters that she ever received from her friends, I reached the same high that I did, 20 years back i.e. the same feeling that I used to have when I mailed a letter at the post office, or gave it to her/other friends in person. Felt good to relive that experience again, after so long!

Folks who know me may be wondering why I am writing about letter writing in a blog! Well, that’s the whole point. From that era of taking a pen and paper and writing what my heart used to really feel, to this day of e-mail communication, I am convinced that the art of reaching out to some of my nearest & dearest continues to be in my desire to write. These are indeed old-world charms that I truly have treasured over the years. But, the internet age and this era of instant gratification is something that has taken away my very old hobby/habit, (indeed, life support on a few occasions that I was not in Bangalore), of connecting with such old & dear people. There are times that I have been grossly misunderstood and it is only the pen & paper that have helped me explain my position.

I think I need to get back to my letter writing ways. It gives me peace, and makes a few of my dearest people very happy. It’s worth it!