Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dead Letters

This was written as a guest blog post for a friend's blog.

And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden

An aluminium letterbox hanging inconspicuously near the electricity meters…an address book in my shelf…my writing pad and my favourite Parker…the post office opposite my school…the 5-rupee Indian postage stamp with a picture of a Leopard Cat on it…my Camlin glue stick which I wouldn’t go to school without…bits of paper…memories…Dearest Anu…

At a time when teenage turmoil had thrown me into consuming confusion, these letters were paper boats that stood the roughest storms and delivered me to the shore. At a time when the flock around me was alienating me, a few birds chose to take me under their wings and helped me fly higher than ever before. At a time when most were becoming frogs in the well, I found bits of paper that fluttered in with perspectives of different worlds…each a Hitchhiker’s Galaxy…each a small universe on its own…together they formed my universe, a world where I thrived and grew from a tender bud into a sunflower…a sunflower that found sunlight streaming in through the white pages…

Over a course of 5 years I received plethora of letters in envelopes of all shapes and sizes – small blue ones, long white business envelopes, khaki envelopes, pretty Hallmark and Archies envelopes…over time I learnt to recognize the hand-writing on the envelopes and know who had written to me just by looking at my name through the dirty glass window of the letterbox…over time I realized who had enough time to sit and write a letter to miles-away-me and sign it off ‘Affectionately’…over time I found true affection through that dirty glass window…

I learnt more through my letters than through all of my textbooks…I debated about the existence of Neutrinos, heard the latest buzz from colleges in Chandigarh, learnt how to recognize embassy cars and about life in Saudi and Japan, learnt how to write my name in Arabic, had a peep into the cultures of Lakshadweep, Manipur, Goa, Pondicherry, the Andamans and many such states in India, poured out teenage angst in my letters and learnt how to deal with those crises, I grew up with some of these friends – through school, through junior college and college - without meeting them more than twice in about 7 years yet relating better to them than to anyone else around…I found true friends through the India Post seal…

I was 16 and just out of school dealing with the novelty of college when my father suffered kidney failure and was in the hospital for days together. For the first time in my life I was afraid that I might lose him, I was lost having to pretend to be brave being the elder child and yet longing for someone to hold me and let me cry. When the friends around me heard the news, I do not remember anyone even keeping a hand on my shoulder just to say that they were there…and then I remember two of my far-away friends sending letters by express mail offering comfort, relating similar experiences when one of their parents was in a bad state of health and how they dealt with it…they called frequently to check how I was doing and I was able to stand tall in that period of my life only because I had my friends backing me irrespective of where they were on the map. I owe them more than they know and their letters have been the pillars of my life…it was a time when I found strength in fragile papers…

Today, with the intrusion of e-mail and instant chat, I keep in constant touch with these friends…yet, in the flurry of HRUs and BRBs, I miss those days when I used to be up till 3 in the morning writing letters, drafting and redrafting my replies, sending and receiving pictures and Christmas gifts, saving money to buy the best paper cards to send to my beloved friends and preserving the ones that they had sent…I miss being down with cold and fever and fishing out old letters to read as pastime and feel warm…I miss craning out of the balcony at 3 PM to see if the Postman had come and running down to my aluminium letterbox as soon as he left to see if someone had written to me…and I miss the words…Dearest Anu…

8 Thinkers Pondered:

Sowmya said...

When I was 18 and left to Mysore for degree I used to write regularly to all my friends in Bangalore. I still have them ..a good hundred letters...

I havent thrown a single card anyone ever gave me... Yes. Those days were different ..... I would use scented pens, and colourful letter pads.. I would even make a few drawings, designs and post these to my friends along with the letters..... those days were different :)

lakshmi said...

Your post has brought back a lot of memories :).
Now all the posts that I receive are business mails and I do not even bother to open the mail box for those, thinking they can wait.

Sur said...

Beautiful post Anu! Lovely details in this one that recreate the past effortlessly! Sad though it is, I never wrote and received letters much. But I can imagine how great it would've felt! When a simple email from someone fills me with joy, the feeling of getting a long letter from someone would be nothing less tha ecstacy!

Ted B said...

Oh how I wish that I could write in such a way. Wonderful stuff.

Ted

Aareet Krsna said...

Now you've got me all nostalgic...however young I may be...

Lovely post - makes me want to actually write home

deepocean said...

Dearest Anu,

Remember how when the sheet of paper is just not sufficient to fill in all the details and few things getting scribbled on the folds... Miss doing all those teeny-weeny creative stuff in emails.

Liked this one a lot. Keep it going.

Nitu said...

How many times I have wished, the good old ways of remaining in contact..looking eagerly to the postman..The click and push buttons have take away all :(
Wonderfully articulated..keep going.

Lark said...

Great work.