10 am: My mother chances on a letter that my grandmother had written to my grandfather in 1968 that says, ‘I have banged the car and am going to the garage. I will come back in a few hours and before you think that I banged the car because I am a lady driver, let me tell you I am a good lady driver. The person who banged into me from the back is a bad gents driver.
I will make Butta Curry for dinner.
The letter lends me an insight into the mind of a capable woman who seems exasperated at being defined by her gender. I marvel at her neat handwriting, and wonder how she got it delivered to my grandfather’s office — did she stop a stranger on the street and implore him to become if not a knight in shining armor then at least a postman in dusty khaki?
These are things that an email can never offer, with our thoughts homogenized in Times New Roman font, spell-checked, edited and fit only for the trash bin icon.
But, as Simon Garfield says in a book on the lost art of letter writing, old letters are “a form of expression, emotion, and tactile delight we may clasp to our heart”. I couldn’t agree more.
10.30 am: I get an email from my accountant: ‘Dear Madam, I am not able to come to office today. In morning time, my sons two fingers came in car dicky door and then after lot of crying I took him to hospital. I asked when doctor is coming and nurse said doctor is coming before now. She told lies because doctor came at lunchtime only. The doctor sawed my sons fingers and he thinks it is fully broken. So please give Tuesday holiday for me today.
Now this email is perhaps one of the few worth saving to brighten up a dreary day, and I quickly reply, ‘Dear Srinivasan, If the doctor sawed your son’s fingers then the two digits are now definitely broken even if that had not been the case before. Best Wishes.
ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: CHAD CROWE
2.30 pm: Over lunch I find myself chewing on the fact that sometimes the things we post may not even reach the right person, like the letter that Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Adolf Hitler urging him to pull back for the sake of humanity. Hitler never got that letter, not because it was lost in the mail, but because the British government intercepted it.
And then there are certain things you post online that you truly wish were intercepted as Kajol found to her dismay when she posted a video of her friend preparing a ‘beef’ dish and started getting viciously trolled. The actor then had to make a hasty declaration that the meat was ‘legal buffalo meat’ but ended up inadvertently making an even more pertinent statement about the state of the country where beef eaters in India are treated like they are the Death Eaters from Voldemort’s camp, evil with souls that belong to the opposition if not to the devil himself.
7 pm: The prodigal son and I are sitting on the couch and I tell him, ‘You know when I went to put granny’s letter in my keepsake box, I spent an hour rereading many old letters but I realized that I don’t have a single one from you. You should really start writing, not just to me, but to your masi in Delhi and friends overseas. It is so nice to have letters that people can look back on. I have one from your dad just after you were born, very romantic, almost like the letters Napoleon wrote to Josephine which, by the way, were also intercepted by the British. I really have a beef with those roast beef-eating busybodies who, not happy with enslaving the world, also sat around steaming everyone’s private correspondence open with their kettles.’
The prodigal son interrupts my rant, ‘I have seen that letter mom and I don’t know how you can say it’s romantic considering that dad wrote it on the back of a Lufthansa inflight vomit bag!’
I snap, ‘It is the thought that counts, stop arguing and just do what I say!’
He whines, ‘So old fashioned, who writes letters anymore!’ And right at that moment, I recall seeing a new promo. In an elegant study, sits a dapper Arnab, ink pen in hand trying to revive the lost art of letter writing. He films the writing process, reads it aloud and then posts it. I quickly find the promo, nudge the prodigal son and say, ‘Look! I know that the art of letter writing is currently comatose but here is an innovative way to revive it!’
The prodigal son says, ‘But mom I will still have to order stamps online then Google search the nearest post box, too much work!’
I reply, ‘No no just like Arnab , don’t post the letter just post the video online instead. No need to run from pillar to post then na?’
The prodigal son immediately asks, ‘But mom, what will I then do with the actual letter?’
I had not considered this crucial point, so I quickly pull out a paper and begin writing to Arnab, ‘Dear Sir, I am so glad you are back. I have missed you especially because your show was one way of getting my low blood pressure up without medication. I am very pleased that you are also interested in reviving the art of letter writing by merging tradition and technology. I, along with the nation, only want to know one thing, after posting the video of our letter online, what do we do with the actual letter left in our hands? I have a few ideas — make paper sculptures, save money by using it as toilet paper or turn the letters into bespoke wallpaper for the spare room so all unwelcome guests leave as early as possible. But I have been unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion and so have decided to ask you for further guidance.
And folks as for the reply, I will keep you posted though I may have to post the video of this letter first.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.