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. Crumbling postcards, faded blue inlands, 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 their 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 gone by, we’ve never found one suitable for opening this
box. There’s always something else to do.
Someday, 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 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) 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 spent 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 mother has written to me, one for every night she was away from home. I remember the excitement of finding one each night, her friendly handwriting feeling as if she were in the room, talking to me… In those days when Windows was still 98, and the Internet and cell-phones were unknown entities, these letters would be the closest things to connection. For me, they still remain so, even after my life has become an open Facebook and the cell-phone an extension of my hand.
I love writing and receiving letters. The romance of it all! 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 in 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.
Recently, a small number of us friends decided to keep in touch mainly through letters and the postal communication. 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 fifty such emails in the span of fifteen days. And here I was, waiting for my first letter to reach. But then, as another friend reminded me, how else couId I have experienced this bittersweet pain of waiting and the jubilation of finally hearing it was delivered?
We talk about how everything has become fast-paced today. Food, communication, business, even love. And yet, our 24/7 plugged-in society is experiencing a void. First of all, there is a lack – nothing is enough. From not enough sleep to not enough time to the bane of our existences, not enough money. And increasingly, not enough connection. We boast of 1000+ friends on Facebook and Twitter, and yet we feel lonely.
I’m not saying that all electronic ‘lightning-fast’ communication is bad. It has immense potential. But in my life, for my relationships to be more meaningful, I felt the need to start conversations beyond computers, the Internet and SMSes. Conversations which are heart-toheart, bilateral, and REAL. Communication that is slow, thoughtful, creative, personalized, requiring patience, and ultimately, everlasting.
The Prem-Patra Project (http://prempatraproject.wordpress.com) is a small effort to encourage people of all ages to experience the joy of letter-writing and receiving. What began as an individual project of writing at least one letter a day to someone is now a tiny movement that makes use of public spaces to generate awareness about ‘slow’ communication and create open spaces for collective letter writing. I’ve organized such ‘letter-writing parties’ in two cities and wish to do many more! I have an uncle who hates keeping any kind of paper junk in his house. My mother jokes that if you give him a card on his birthday, you’ll find it in the dustbin the next day. She, on the other hand, loves collecting every card, note or letter that anyone has ever sent her, and so do I. Somewhere down the road, it will end up in the bin 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, they’ll be all that’s left of us. A few lines written on crumpled 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 you to write and post a letter, and experience the wait for it to reach.
And do write to me at:
Old Gangapur Naka,
Nashik- 422013, Maharashtra