As a child of the 60s I was lucky to grow up in a world without technology at my finger tips. I was doubly lucky to grow up in a joint family with my Grandma ruling the roost, with loving uncles and aunts and of course, Mom.
Our family was scattered all over the country and we kept in touch via letters, or snailmail as it is called today. We sent birthday cards, usually handmade by the kids in the house. And what an outlet for creativity that was!
I remember the first letter I ever wrote – predictably, to the Almighty, fervently looking for a miracle where the nails I had sown in one of the flower pots would grow into a big tree. Yes, I was barely 5 and I wrote the letter with chalk on our red floor in the living room, which was my canvas for drawing, writing, practicing math.
To this day my uncle laughs his head off. But hey, we took green living to new heights. At the end of the day, we simply wiped the floor clean and were ready to start afresh the next day.
Our family enjoyed writing letters. Loved receiving them too. When the postman brought our mail, we would all gather to see what it was all about. Oh, no privacy whatsoever and nobody minded. Unless it was private, when the receiver would appropriately keep it for later to read when others weren’t around. But those were few and far between.
We had a kit – with inland letters, post cards, and envelopes for special occasions that warranted enclosing something. Usually it was the post card or the inland letter. I still have a stack in my bookshelf.
I remember we would dread receiving post cards from a particular member of the family as that would mean they’re coming over to stay for a few weeks – and they would usually arrive with the letter. The younger folks in the family would suggest pretending we never received the card – but that clever thought would go down the drain when the guest was present to receive his own letter.
We dreamed of pen pals in far off lands – who knew that in just a few decades we would be chatting, emailing and talking in real time with people all over the world!
I fondly recall standing in queue at the post office trying to hold my breath as I used the stinky gum from the little tub that must have been placed there when the post office was built and topped up faithfully. My nose wrinkles just to think of it! My Grandma would scold me for licking the postage stamps before fixing them on the envelope!
The postman was my best friend as I grew up. I’d desperately wait, swinging on the gate only to be disappointed that all I got was a smile and no letters! The days I did receive one, I’d never be around and my Grandma would smartly use it as a bribe to make me do things. What fun those days were!
Our family loved to receive letters from me – they found them amusing and they also enjoyed my handwriting – such as it was. I also tended to write long letters and they looked forward to them. Why, my aunt would store my letters under her clothes on her shelf and read them often.
Letter writing is fun – mostly when there is interaction. Very rarely will we come across someone who keeps on writing regardless of whether the recipient writes back or not.
I’ve been very lucky to have received lots of letters in my lifetime – I continue to receive them from friends, friends’ kids, people we’ve met. I love the greeting cards during festival time and enjoy sending them myself.
I have a big box of letters I love to sit with and read at random, just like I enjoy looking through my photo albums. Even though we lived together, my Mom enjoyed writing notes to me. Briefly after I moved to Mumbai when I got married, during the couple of months before she joined us there, we exchanged a lot of letters. I’d jokingly tell her we’d better finish off all the stationery we’ve collected between us.
Here are some snippets of letters I treasure.
This one’s from a family friend – we met in 1987. Her son was 8 months old at the time and we adored him. He’s a sports superstar now and we continue to be close. She sent me this when I was pregnant with Vidur.
She calls me every week, still!
Sury loves to send post cards when he is traveling. This one was for Vidur when he was 6 months old. Of course he could read!
This one’s from my Mom.
Yes, family of long letters!
I loved how she included little papers with funny stuff with her letters!
This ones’ from my aunt – she usually sent a large birthday card that gave her enough space to write in.
From a favorite kid!
Incidentally, I receive electronic mail from the child I sponsor at ChildFund.org. I opted for electronic as physical letters are expensive for them.
A lovely family friend’s parents:
And then, I would wait eagerly for my cousin’s massive birthday cards – like large posters!
Handwritten letters are so precious. I love to see the handwriting and imagine the writer, her thoughts and frame of mind and feel a wonderful connection. Some of my friends added a dab of their latest fragrance. Some of us love pretty stationery and keep on accumulating them as if there was no tomorrow. Pens? Don’t ask! I have more than I need. We love to decorate our letters with stickers – real ones. We still do!
I love technology for its efficiency. But technology can never replace people. Especially those who’re gone forever. I hold their handwritten letters close to my heart and feel the love. ♥
Have you written a letter to someone recently?
How did it feel?