Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letter Writing: A Case Study

Last post, we saw the different forms of communication prevalent in our forefathers’ times. Now, let us go back further in time to understand the predominant form of communication in the prehistoric era of the 20th century.

Perhaps, that is how history would introduce the concept of a ‘Letter’ to its students five hundred years from now.

When was the last time any of us wrote or received a letter? Letter, as in, handwritten (however bad the handwriting may be) and delivered either through India Post or in person? Except for the occasional note attached to a gift, it has been ages since I received a nice handwritten personal letter. And of course, more than ages since I wrote one too.

I still remember the time I used to write to this pen friend of mine. It was during secondary school. She was technically not a pen pen friend if you know what I mean. A friend of mine had moved to a different city and we used to correspond through letters. E-mails were not popular options those days; we were still programming (read playing) with Logo on a now ancient black and white computer. Her friend in the new school somehow got introduced through mail to me and so we started corresponding too. I vividly recall the expectation with which I would await each letter of hers and the happiness with which I would write to her. Aah well, it died down due to some reasons. But, that is for another day!

One of the most memorable gifts I received for a birthday was a very smartly masqueraded, apparently alarming letter trying to profess love finally ending with a ‘Happy Birthday’. My reaction changed from speechless shock to undying laughter for the rest of the evening. Anyway, that is again a story for another day totally!

Many are the stories of the letter. These are some I remember off hand now. And I still have a file (hard bound) containing many of these letters, reminded of which, I think it is time to go through them today and relive old memories.

Today, we have only e-mail and chat history to go back to. But, what is scarier is we are very quickly migrating to Facebook and Twitter. The quick fix solution of updating statuses on Twitter* instead of sitting and writing a mail, even an electronic one at that, has become the trend of the day.

This post will be antique material in five years’ time. Already, ‘letters’ sound slightly dated.

Anyway, let me stop being so cribby about the whole thing and tell you about how we got around the problem of the ‘dying art of letter writing’.

Rashmi got married, very vividly recounted here. We, some very arbit almost 12 people (some did not participate to their full potential, so am not going to count them completely :D), started a thread to discuss operational issues like when we should reach the venue etc. Sometime down the line, the mail thread reached a count of 50 and we realized we had been mailing random stuff very similar to spamming on BR (our internal messaging system at IIMB). And, then, we thought we should take the thread to perhaps 1000 and print the same and give a hardbound copy to Rashmi to read and enjoy!?! We did not reach 1000. We ended at 263 odd. And, being an extremely environment friendly group, we translated the mails in to pdf, wrote it on a CD and gave it to Rashmi as a wedding gift. Last heard, Rashmi’s husband very patiently read through the entire set of mails and thanked us for the same. Some novel ways to keep the art of letter writing going!! What do you say? J

* – It would be extremely unceremonious on my part to not acknowledge that the minute this post is published, the link would be up as a status message on both Facebook and Twitter


மணிகண்டன் (Manikandan K S) said...

I realised one more benefit of such a gift. Of course Dijo knows some of us, but such a mail thread would help him know us better and know those ppl who he would not have met so far. a nice way to get introduced to your spouse's friends!

A Random Traveller said...

You, me and mostly all humans are victim to this irony. :)
We get moved easily by things of the past! :) I am not attacking sentimentality. But, there can nothing be that would be preserved..Everything is bound to change and everything is going to become something else..

Lets enjoy the emails of today and vmails of tomorrow. I do agree, the letters of yesterday was great fun too. ;)

Kavity said...

@ Mani: Yeah that is true. Also, we should give half the credit to Dijo who has been so much like us in replying to our threads :) Kudos to him!

@ A Random Traveller: Senti is quite the core of many of our identities! However, like you say, change is the only constant and we, as a civilization, are expected to accept and nurture such developmental changes.

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

The concept of a pen friend was very enigmatic. now a days you do a FB search :)

Kavity said...

requesting for fraandhips no doubt :D

The Corporate Idiot said...

hmmm.. Havent been to your blogs lately, as a matter of fact to the bgog itself.

Its really a nice feeing to write and receive letters.

I do had these thoughts about "letter writing" so I started writing a letter a week to my wife. Its a nice feeling to feel... !!!

BTW, USPS is taking too long to deliver the letters to IPS

Kavity said...

@ The Corporate Idiot: USPS to India Post is quite a bit of a stretch. Even within India Post do letters get delivered after decades, sometimes :)
Maybe, you should just keep writing the letters every week, and then hand over them together to your wife whenever you guys meet. Reading it all together and in retrospection thinking about events and moods is also fun in some way :)