Somewhere amongst the stuff stored in our attic, there is a box full of letters. In it are all the letters my parents wrote to each other while they were ‘courting’, as my mum likes calling it. Also postcards, faded blue inlands, yellowing telegraphs, and some lovely handmade papers filled with lines inked eons ago. They speak of emotions as faintly intense as the aroma of crumpled flowers pressed between pages…
My mother always promises me that we’ll sit together and read them, on a rainy afternoon when there’s nothing else to do. Unfortunately, although many rainy afternoons have come and gone, we have never found one suitable for opening this particular box. There’s always something else to do.
I am waiting for the perfect afternoon to read them. Some day, it’ll arrive. Till then, I have begun making my own little box filled with some interesting paraphernalia. A couple of pages torn out of a school note-book, written in pencil in my own wriggly squiggles. It is a letter to my parents, admonishing them for always being late to pick me up from my grandmother’s, but I’ve also added a story (an original creation, I believe) about a ‘theaf’ and a girl he kidnaps. It is especially written for them, as a token of my love. As I read it, I can feel the pang of nostalgia, remembering the evenings I sat staring at the clock, waiting for the minutes to pass until I heard the sounds of my dad’s scooter coming down the lane, to take me home.
Underneath is a pile of letters my mum has written to me, one for every night she was away from home. I remember the excitement of finding one each night, and her friendly handwriting feeling as if she were in the room, talking to me… I nodded at her questions, mentally answering them and hoping they’d reach her, wherever she was. In those days, when Windows was still 98, and the World Wide Web and mobile chatting were unknown entities, these letters would be the closest thing to connection. For me, they still remain so, even after my life has become an open Facebook and my cell-phone an extension of my hand.
I love writing and receiving letters. The romance of it all! The feel and crackle of paper as it is unfolded… the excitement of opening a thick, long-awaited envelope… the satisfaction of writing till the very end of the page… the nervous thrill of dropping a sealed envelope in a red letter-box… “Will it or won’t it reach?”
Writing a letter is like putting a part of yourself on ink and paper, folded neatly and sealed shut. It is a part that will remain encased in those words, on that paper, no matter how much you change or life changes. I wonder how many such parts of me lie in their various-sized envelopes and with whom.
Letters have been the defining points of two of my closest friendships. Recently, a small number of my friends and I have decided to keep in touch mainly by letters and the postal system. So I wrote a letter to one of these friends and dropped it off at the post office. Two weeks and my friend still hadn’t received it. I cursed the lethargic pace of the Indian Postal System and wondered what would’ve happened had I just sent him an email. It would have taken less than a second to reach, and we might have exchanged 50 such emails in the span of 15 days. And here I was, still waiting for my first letter to reach. But then, as another friend reminded me, how would I have experienced this bittersweet pain of waiting and the jubilation of finally hearing it was delivered?
I have an uncle who hates keeping any kind of paper junk in his house. My mom jokes that if you give him a card on his birthday, you’ll find it in the dustbin the next day. My mother, on the other hand, loves collecting every card, note or letter that anyone has ever sent her, and so do I. It will end up in the bin somewhere down the road anyway, my uncle says teasingly, and why leave raddi for someone else long after you’re gone? But perhaps that’s the very reason my mother, I and all the other hoarders stash away our letters! That one day, it’ll be all that’s left of us. A few lines written on crumpled yellow sheets of paper, a signature at the end. But those who read between the lines will find us hidden amidst those words, and for that moment, we’ll be alive again.
I invite all those who think life goes by too fast to post a letter once, and experience the days of waiting for it to reach.
There are some things you can’t type out in a SMS. Try a letter instead!
And do write to me at:
Old Gangapur Naka,