30 July 2009

Romancing the Letters 2

In my post about letters I was a little wistful. I exhorted people to send real letters across to friends. I now realize, I was far removed from reality.

To wish that folks would romance about letters is to be caught in a time warp. The days of real letters are over. Your eyes may cloud remembering all the letters that you had received, but you are not going to get letters anymore. I learnt from a teacher what we know about letters today.

There is a short story of RK Narayan titled ‘The Missing Mail’. The story is part of the curriculum in certain schools in India. The story revolves around a postcard that was wittingly not delivered to the recipient by the postman.

First a little bit of that story:

The story is set in the sixties or seventies in Malgudi, a fictitious small town of Southern India. A marriage has been arranged for a girl after a lot of trials and tribulations. The marriage must be solemnized before a certain date else the prospective groom will only be able to marry three years later. In comes a postcard for the would-be bride’s father with the tidings of a death in their family. This, before the marriage has been solemnized. One couldn’t go ahead with the marriage in those days if there was a death in the family. The postman knew that. He also knew the amount of trouble the family had gone through to get the marriage to happen. Any delay now and the marriage may well never take place. In his wisdom, he decided not to deliver the postcard. The marriage was solemnized with the father and others oblivious about the news of the death in the family.

Now about what I learnt from the teacher:

The teacher said that the students kept asking her as to how did the postman came to know what was written in the letter. She told them that the letter was written on a postcard.
“So?” they asked in a chorus. The children apparently hadn’t seen a postcard ever and had no conception of open letters. The teacher went to the post office bought a postcard and then showed it to the class.

Students hadn’t seen a postcard. I am betting that they hadn’t seen an inland letter either. Envelope was something that one received through FedEx or Blue Dart. And these carried official documents or bills. So what is the future of letters? Very bleak, I would say.

Letters are slowly withering on the vine. But let’s move on and not romance about letters.

1 comment:

Galaxy4u said...

SMS cost INR 1. Post card costs INR0.50. Post card can send more words than SMS would allow us. The warmth of writing / receiving postcard can't be just explained in words. i think we need to experience it.

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