Letter writing is an art. Yes. We have all heard of that. It is a dying art. We know that too. Should I take the onus of reviving it? I am not sure. I live in the age of instant gratification. I thrive on phone calls, SMS and e-mails.
I don't remember using my pen except when I have to write down my grocery list. Sometimes, even that goes into my phone because I might forget to take the list but forgetting my mobile is unlikely.
So, when Mum insisted that I write to her sometimes instead of calling her, I was taken aback. Hearing my voice she said was pleasant but a letter would be personal. I couldn't fathom what a letter could do instead of a phone call.
I was lazy to grab a pen and write. Although I grew up with a fair amount of letter writing myself, I now found writing letters tedious and that surprised my Mum. But, I tried writing and I failed because there was a door bell or my son's screaming that needed immediate attention. My letter writing never took off.
When Mum was visiting last month, I took the opportunity to introduce her to e-mail. I was teaching her to check and receive mail when I suddenly remembered her fascination for letter writing. I told her that she would love mails because it was so much like letter writing.
Mum smiled when I made the comparison. "You don't understand," she said. "Letter writing is special. You leave a bit of yourself in the letter."
Her comment reminded me of my own self before the era of internet took over our lives. In the days when the postman carried personal messages, I wrote many pages and filled it with dreams and love notes. My husband, who was then posted in a far away land, replied in the form of phone calls.
Sometimes, when I insisted he write, he wrote and I received a print out posted in a neat envelope. He never really understood what the 'big deal' was.
I enjoyed everything about writing then. The letters I received were neatly filed and I read them many times. Whenever loneliness caught up, I sought solace in those written words. They meant the world to me.
I liked the fact that I could read it any time, any place. I carried letters in my bag. At other times I wrote whenever I pleased and posted them and I thanked the miracle called 'post office' that enthused romance in my life.
I waited for replies and there was such pleasure in waiting for those letters that the Mument my eyes fell on that man in khaki uniform on a bicycle my heart would jump. I enjoyed the magic of letters by post. Yes. I relished every bit of my romancing days brought alive by the mail.
Back, now, in my living room, I found myself talking to my mother like my husband did to me years ago. I had called him insensitive at times for his inability to understand what it meant to me. And I could clearly remember saying exactly the same words,
"Your handwriting is a bit of yourself that comes in the letter." I had said. I had then preferred a letter more than a phone call because although I could hear his voice in a call, I could replay it only in my memory. While a letter stayed with me to be re-read any time I wanted.
So, when I saw Mum off at the airport, I did two things - I promised her I would write to her with my pen and I thanked her for letting me take a peek at my own self of yesteryear and not get sucked into the vortex of technology.
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.