Dubai: An 80-year-old Pakistani national, who claims he has written the “longest letter of his times” to a pen pal, is now looking to reconnect with her.
Mohammad Siddiq Faruk, a businessman and collector of stamps, manuscripts and maps, shuttles between Dubai and Karachi.
He said: “I sent a 1,240-page handwritten letter by registered post from Karachi to my pen pal Deepa in Kolkata in 1988. It took me over two months to write the letter. We were pen friends since 1960 and must have exchanged over 100 letters in all those years. However, we lost touch after 1995.”
Writing to pen friends is a great hobby, it’s a very positive and educative exercise. There’s something special about writing letters... Unfortunately, it’s a forgotten practice these days.
Asked how he could lay claim to the letter being the longest, the quick-witted Faruk said: “The world record for the longest letter at the time was much less. I never submitted my letter, you see. I was happy with my unofficial title.”
And what was the letter about? “Life and times,” came the prompt reply, “But at the end of it, I felt I hadn’t said enough about myself.”
Faruk said his pen pal was very touched by his effort. “Her joy knew no bounds and she had never imagined that someone could write such a long letter.”
Recalling how he had befriended her, Faruk said: “I am an avid stamp collector and had given my name in the pen pal column of a local newspaper in Kolkota. This lady happened to see it and wrote to me. She was 19 and I was 20 at the time. I still remember the first line of her first letter.
She wrote: “The brightness of this day affected me and I write this day’. She worked in a library and came from a highly educated family.”
A shrinking tribe
With the tribe of pen pals a shrinking tribe, Faruk said, “Writing to pen friends is a great hobby, it’s a very positive and educative exercise. There’s something special about writing letters because you get to communicate in a way other mediums don’t permit. Unfortunately, it’s a forgotten practice these days.”
Although there are stories of pen pals across continents meeting for the first time after many years, he said he had never met his pen friend. “It has always been my dream to meet her. Where are you Deepa?” he asked.
A romantic at heart, Faruk said he has also come up with 101 definitions of love.
“Love is when the journey is unending and every step a destination,” he said, sharing one such definition.
He said his family was among the early inhabitants of Bastakiya in Dubai and that his grandfather Abdul Rahman Farouq was instrumental in the creation of Dar Al Nadha and Farouq Masjid in 1925.
“When Prince Charles once visited Dubai, he was very impressed by their heritage. The authorities have ensured that the rich architecture of Dar Al Nadha has been preserved.”
Among his possessions is an 1879 stamped envelope addressed to the Ruler of Sharjah and another mailed from Oxford in England to India via Bahrain and Sharjah in the 1930s. He said the envelope from Oxford was part of the first air mail service in Sharjah.
A man of ideas, he said he had provided 120 new ideas to the Government of Dubai. “I was given a certificate of appreciation from the authorities for my contributions,” he added.
Did you know?
Guinness World Records lists two groups of female friends from England and America, who wrote to each other for 77 years until their deaths, as world record penpals.
Eight schools in Cumbria of England wrote a 290-metre long letter during National Stationery Week 2015, which is widely recognised as the longest in the world.