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Romancing The Letters

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Letters, not long ago, use to change our worlds.

But things have changed a bit since emails, Facebook and Orkut.
Letters may have been romantic but Facebook is faster and tighter. You know who is doing what and how in real time. It takes seven seconds instead of seven days for a ‘Kodak Moment’ to reach you.
Still, I long for letters. Not so long ago, we got real birthday cards through real post. What joy to know that your long lost friend remembers your birthday! She could send you a virtual card as well. But will never be the same. It appears all so plastic when you receive a virtual card.

In the yesteryears a whole network spawned with penpals, a hobby grew with stamp taken off from the letters received from penpals. We called it philately then. It is still called philately but the romance has gone. Mails were central to some of our lives’ idioms. We felt the pain of someone who never got a letter. These days, my eyes cloud whenever I hear the song, ‘Please, Mr Postman’. It was a song which pleaded with the postman to get a letter; sooner the better. I do know that those heady days of hundreds of letters on New Years have gone forever. We only get bills and bank statements in our letter boxes these days.
We had a limerick that told us what would happen if we sighted the bird Mynah in ones, twos, threes or fours. It went like this:
One for sorrow, two for joy

Three for letter, four for toy.

Probably due to eco degradation, it has been a while since I saw three Mynahs together To wish that folks would romance about letters is to be caught in a time warp. The days of real letters are over. Your eyes may cloud remembering all the letters that you had received, but you are not going to get letters anymore. I learnt as a teacher what gen next knows about letters.
I was teaching a short story by RK Narayan titled ‘The Missing Mail’. The story revolves around a postcard that was wittingly not delivered to the recipient by the postman.
First a little bit of that story:
The story is set in the sixties or seventies in Malgudi, a fictitious small town of Southern India. A marriage has been arranged for a girl after a lot of trials and tribulations. The marriage must be solemnized before a certain date else the marriage will have to be postponed for three years as the boy has to go away for some training. In comes a card for the would-be bride’s father with the tidings of a death in their family. This, before the marriage has been solemnized. One couldn’t go ahead with the marriage in those days if there was a death in the family. The postman knew that. He also knew the amount of trouble the family had gone through to get the marriage to happen. Any delay now and the marriage may well never take place. In his wisdom, he decided not to deliver the postcard. The marriage was solemnized with the father and others oblivious about the news of the death in the family.
My students kept asking me as to how did the postman came to know what was written in the letter. I told them that the letter was written on a postcard.
“So?” they asked in a chorus. The children apparently hadn’t seen a postcard ever and had no conception of open letters. I went to the post office bought a postcard and then showed it to the class.
Students hadn’t seen a postcard. I am betting that they hadn’t seen an inland letter either. Envelope was something that one received through FedEx or Blue Dart. And these carried official documents or bills. So what is the future of letters? Very bleak, I would say.
Letters are slowly withering on the vine Let us start the magic of real letters all over again. Write a real letter to your best friend. See the joy on her face.

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