Saturday, 8 March 2008

Dear Letter,

Where art thou. I miss thy warmth.

Gone are those days of snail-mail. Make way for Gmail, Yahoo!, Zapak, yada yada. I still remember the days when I regularly wrote to my uncle and aunt in Mangalore as a little 10yr old, pondering over how to fill the whole of the 3 pages of the blue inland letter (which I called was 'England letter' for a long long time) that the erstwhile T&P dept was generous enough to grant. Starting with a neat little 'Aum' at the top, scrawny tiny letters filling up the letter, punctuated appropriately with a number of illustrations depecting things from my first wrist watch (that was when I was in 4th std) or the high-jump equipment that I had fashioned myself using nothing more than coconut fronds! They were all there. Unlike today, a call to Mangalore was expensive at that time and hence they were reserved for 'adult talk'(pun unintended). So my dear uncle and aunt always waited for my letter and the same was the case at my end. Over the course of years, the letters grew less and less frequent and were increasingly replaced by longer and longer calls.

Things that a letter can do, an email can never do. The effort that goes into getting an inland letter/envelope from the post office, to the amount of time spent on carefully penning down every single line, to finally licking it close... Its all been replaced by a couple of quick taps and a final click on the 'Send' button! The thrill of waiting for the postman everyday awaiting a letter, followed by the rush of carefully tearing open the letter, with the tip of the tongue barely sticking out of the mouth, all in anticipation of what was in store has been replaced by an impatient staring at a blank screen, feet and fingers tapping incessantly, saying 'loading' in white letters encased in a tiny brown rectangle at the top right corner or when you are in a real hurry, saying 'Loading... This seems to be taking longer than usual....'!! Arrgghh!! The postman was more than a man who just delivered letters, which R.K.Narayanan beautifully documents in his stories of Swami and his friends. So when the time came for me to present a part of my very first earnings to my dear uncle and aunt, I chose to do it via the good old mail. Even today, don't the occasional New Year or Diwali greeting that makes its way onto your doorstep mean much more than a flashy animated e-greeting?

All said and done, the net is obviously capable of doing things which way beyond what ordinary post can ever do. I've rediscoverd and am now in touch with my classmates from even 2nd std and whole lot of others, which would have been impossible if not for the convenience of email(read Gmail), IM(read Gtalk) and social networking (read Orkut), given the ordeal of opting for post (Interestingly, though arguably, Speed-Post could be an oxymoron!). No matter where my cousins, ex-classmates, seniors from college are, its still the same as having them in the room across the hallway thanks to the net.

So what is the bottom line? Electronic media has let us remain in touch with an astounding number of people. With some fineprint. But relations are a bit shallower this way. Or I could say, less intense. The postal service shall continue to exist until we come up with something akin to teleporting. But handwritten letters are fast joining the list of those nostalgic childhood companions that are dying a silent death.

4 comments:

Logik said...

Damn.. How is it that your writing is so professional each time. Spot on man.
I remember trying to squeeze in a few extra letters on the corners and edges, and putting directions so that continuity is maintained. "Economical", I call it, though there are better words for it.

P.S:- Blogs and other online material needn't use Post script, yet they do. Nostalgia or cheap stunt?

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Lost In Translation.... said...

hmmm....u really write abt interestin things..the existence of things tht we hav long ago forgotton...now pple just merely laugh when u say u hav a pen friend....a non-email friend is unheard of..!!
we have taken soo many things for granted...n sumthings diappear without a trace...sans acknowledgement.....u knw once i had written a message leavin my postal adress in a bottle down a river hopin for sumone to find it n write to me....ofcourse no one did..(i dunno if sum whale mistook it for sum chilled beer;).my friends wud mock me today if i said this to them....."a cave woman".....heeeheeee

vk said...

@ lost in translation...
Hehe.. reminds me of the time i too had got feverishly insane on getting a pen friend (it more bcoz i want to add stamps to my stamp collection).. I'd picked up a number of issues of the Russian magazine 'Misha' and scoured through the pen-pals coloumn! As you'd expect, my obsession died away in few days .