16 Sep


“Letter for Manisha Jain”, the postman calls out. The little girl runs to the door, tripping over herself in her haste to get to him first. She eagerly looks up at the old postman with the ever smiling face and stretches her hand out. He hands her the envelope, and there it is, her name at the top. She feels important, like she is almost a grown up person. Beaming, she scampers back inside and tears the envelope open. Inside it was a letter from her brother. She reads it over and over again, till she almost has it memorized. Her sister writes to her too, always telling her little sister how they would not fight and play a lot of games when she comes back home this time. The little girl felt overjoyed every time the letters extended to more than a page. She immediately sits down to write a reply, beginning, ‘Dear Bhaiya, how is your fever?’, never agreeing when her mother corrected and told her it was not an equivalent for the Hindi, ‘tabiyat kaisi hai?‘.


This is one of the happiest memories that I remember from my childhood. Obsessing over picking out the prettiest letter pad, laboriously arranging my limited vocabulary of the English language into sentences, fretting over the writing not being cursive enough. And the the wait for a reply. There was a sort of nervous excitement about never knowing when the postman would come bearing a letter. It was magical.


And then there were the Diwali greeting cards. The little girl would watch awestruck, as her sister drew beautiful diyas on the cards, with the flame being a perfect blend of yellow and orange. She would proudly hand her the crayons, and run and fetch the scissors and glue, almost in a frenzy. There was something about sending out letters and greeting cards that thrilled the little girl.


But then, something happened. technology took great leaps and bounds and brought to us the comforts of instant messaging. Why go through the trouble of writing on paper, when you can just speak to your phone and it does the writing for you? Why wait for weeks for a reply, when you can get one within seconds, even when you are continents apart?

It does make life simpler. But does it really? Agonizing over someone not replying even after reading the message was not there when we waited for weeks for a letter or postcard. There was no compulsion to reply to the letter the moment we read it, worried that we might offend the other person. No one needed to appear invisible just to avoid talking to certain people. We were invisible, thousands of miles away.


The new year greeting cards have been replaced by a broadcast message on WhatsApp. Handmade birthday cards are now status updates on Facebook. Fingertips on fancy mobile phone screens are now what fountain pens on letter pads used to be.


Technology made everything faster, easier, better. However, it lost out on one thing.


The magic.


One Response to “Letters”

  1. Nicholas November 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    too true … the personal touch is left out of it now … replying and receiving have become more of an obligation and formality rather than a want or need …
    but, then again … it’s also for the better … it is up to each person to create the magic in their own way here and there … 😉

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