“I beg anyone who has ever been in love to remember how one usually hurries home after dropping the letter in the box, rapidly gets into bed and pulls up their quilt in full conviction that as soon as one wakes up in the morning, one will be overwhelmed with memories of the previous day and look with rapture at the window, where the daylight will be eagerly making its way through the folds of the curtain.”
I read and re-read these words written a century and half ago, and marveled at their relevance even in the age of BBM, emails and tweets. I had clicked the ‘send’ button in Gmail, instead of dropping a letter in the postbox, but I felt equally overwhelmed by delightful anticipation on sending a letter to the one I love.
The Chekhov quote reminded me of those days of taking out time to pen a long, hand-written letter. I had not received such a letter for more than a decade. Email is the more available, more convenient option. So is a facebook wall and SMS. And there’s always the phone.
But how I miss writing long letters! I am terrible at making small talk, and overcompensate for it by writing long mails. That’s the most important reason I write. I can give some form to my thoughts and feelings, which become blurred in course of a conversation.
If and when I get married, I would want my husband to write letters to me. And patiently read my long letters. Even when we are living in the same house. It sounds silly, and probably is so, but I always want to experience the intimacy and the pleasure of exchanging hand-written letters.
During my childhood, summer vacations always brought letters from friends, cousins and pen pals. Pen-pals. Yes, I had a few. Just the very idea of communicating with a faceless person, who was from a different culture and country, and comparing notes with them during the growing up years was very exciting to me.
But as it happens to most things as time goes by, the child-like enthusiasm to write to a pen-pal faded away, and so did the pen-pal. I didn’t care anymore about sitting down cross-legged on my bed with the pen and letter pad on my lap and writing to a friend I had never met about my experiences in school and the books I had read in a scraggly script, oblivious to the rest of the world for a blissful hour. My parents got a telephone connection one summer and the new thrill was talking to my best friend every few hours about how many pages of history homework I completed, the latest songs we heard, and gossiped about how the new girl in class was such a big gossip. It was again the more available and more convenient option to communicate. Why waste time writing letters and waiting for days to receive a reply when I can just pick up the phone and talk? Letters faded away from my life. And I didn’t even feel their absence.
I shifted to a new city when I was in the 8th standard. I missed my friends back home and exchanging letters became a habit again. There were a lot of friends I wanted to write to but I didn’t know everyone’s addresses. So I used to address a fat envelope containing a nearly ten page letter to the school principal! And he was kind enough to pass the letter without complaining to my amused friends who read it in the classroom. And there were days when I walked in home after school and my mother handed me an equally fat envelope addressed to me. I can’t describe in words the joy I felt on reading my friends’ replies where they rejoiced with me in my achievements, gave me advice on my problems, described in detail hilarious incidents, shared the going-on in their lives, updated me on the latest happenings in my old school. And the familiar handwriting, the doodles, and the violet ink; these are memories I will always treasure.
When I had my first heartbreak I was devastated and I wanted to share it with someone who would understand the gamut of emotions I was going through, someone who won’t judge me by my wrong choices and patiently hear me out. I wrote a letter saying all that to my father. He understood and most importantly he didn’t laugh when I wrote him a letter from the next room!
And ever since that day whenever I face a problem where I am at a loss of words in communicating it, I write a letter. When I am in love, I write a letter. When I miss a friend, I write a letter. When it’s my favorite cousin’s birthday, I write a letter. When I want to apologize, I write a letter.
I will always write letters.