What A Lot We Lost When We Stopped Writing Letters



 It is always a delight to sift through the relics of childhood. We all have that one shelf in our cupboards that is room to the oldest, most treasurable set of belongings that we have chosen to keep over the years, though we hardly ever touch them. A few days ago, I did just that.

The object was to find some Origami papers I believed I had from back when I was 10. Needless to say, I did not find them. You hardly ever find the right thing, in the right place, at the right time. I found other things, though. Hand-made cards, drawings, autograph diaries (oh how they were popular in those days!) newspaper clippings, stickers, pamphlets (and that includes the ones from the Long March-es that said hum mulk bachanay niklay hain, chalo humaray sath chalo), and of course, letters. Letters received from family and friends, drafts of letters written to government ministries back in those days when I believed they would actually address a school-going girl’s concerns (ah naivety!), and others that I wrote with the intention of posting, yet never actually did. They lie there in the shoe boxes even today, those letters, complete with the envelope and ticket. Unsent. Always will be. Some of the people whom they are addressed to, are dead by now.

I lament the loss of this literary art that was once routine. How sad that we are being raised as a generation that relies on ‘instant’ correspondence! A correspondence in which emoticons and exclamation marks, rather than words, do the talking. A slightly shaky word that gives away how the writer’s hand shivered as he penned it down, is a more powerful expression than the emoticon will ever be. But of course, if you are writing to someone you don’t wish to reveal much of yourself to, then the text message is your thing.

They lie there in the shoe boxes even today, those letters, complete with the envelope and ticket. Unsent. Always will be. Some of the people whom they are addressed to, are dead by now.

 Often I have written to people in this age of E-mails and instant messaging, only to receive a phone call a few days later, thanking me for it. Then they ask me about my studies, comment on the weather, ask after everyone at home, and that’s it. That’s it. They do not write back.

It so happens, that when you allow the hand the freedom to write, the first thing it does is disconnect itself from the head. Then it pricks the heart, and lets it all steadily pour out. That is why you will often find yourself tearing papers to shreds, then disposing them off like you never owned them in the first place – because they give away secrets you have kept even from yourself. As for me, for every letter that I write, I give away at least one secret. And though I regret it later on, deep inside I am glad there is at least one less of them accompanying me to the grave.

As for me, for every letter that I write, I give away at least one secret.

It is good, this kind of catharsis. Necessary at times. And it is something that can only be achieved with a pen on a paper, not fingertips pushing actual or virtual buttons.

So go on, write a letter. Must you forget every time that you are in the position to make a difference? Let it be anyone. Family, friends, the incoming President, or maybe the outgoing one? Oh and don’t forget to post it! Otherwise they’ll be like those letters in that shelf of my cupboard that are complete with the envelope and ticket, yet unsent and always will be. Because some of the people whom they were addressed to, are dead by now.


12 thoughts on “What A Lot We Lost When We Stopped Writing Letters

  1. I love this, especially the line, “As for me, for every letter that I write, I give away at least one secret.” I always thought that one of the great things about writing letters was giving someone a part of yourself that they will always have (if they choose) and you will never get back. They will always be privy to those thoughts of yours, even long after you yourself have forgotten them. Physical letter writing seems like a profound act of trust.

  2. Great writing. We have really under estimated the value of letter writing. It brings the inside out and saves many unwanted exposure of behavior. You have chosen the topic that really in need of attention for great causes.

  3. I love the name of the blog (Y)

    I’m going through the shifting phase and I recently got through my relics and these were the same feelings I have gone through.
    It’s so wonderful to write on paper. It’s as if your head, heart and pen are working in sync trying to communicate with your own self and letting the abstract patterns and words out in the physical form.

    I’m so glad to see you over here. Best of luck for the further articles.

  4. I stopped writing on my blog and on Facebook as the words I typed had emotions but no personality of their own. I remember the first ever poem I wrote was on the back of a Journal I used to keep. I made a rough draft that almost never changed in the final draft. I used to say that writing for me is therapy.

    I was wrong. Or maybe I was partially right.

    My handwriting for me is my therapy.

    I started writing a Journal and delving deeper into my soul and realized… There is more to me than my words. The intensity of the stroke tells me a story of it’s own, which the typed words remain mute about. The way my handwriting shifts from immaculate to shorthand speaks volumes about my anxiety level at that moment. We lose so much of the personality of our writing when it’s all typed out on a screen.

    The permanence of a handwritten note is also something romantic. Everything stays there, either in ink or pressure, either in coffee stains or tears. A typed message can always be deleted and removed from all memory.

    Handwriting is therapy.

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