Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Of Letters, Sms and Tweets

When my parent were young, everyone wrote letters to each other. I have many handwritten letters from people and even though some of them may be torn or faded, the memories they evoke are rich and resonant. The most treasured letters are naturally from  brothers when they were growing up, and family and distant friends. Phones were not so common then.They were the days of postcards, inland letteres and stamps of all colours. Not all the emails, tweets, smses that come my way these days can quite evoke the magic of those handwritten letters.

No one quite anticipated the letter’s sudden demise. So, not many preserved the letters we received. Luckily my parents did, though I wish they had kept some more of them. Today, when almost all communication is only verbal or virtual, one misses the intimacy of handwritten words. Once in a while I chance upon them while searching and am amazed at the patience, the gentleness, the unspoken bonding of a time when people sat down and wrote their hearts out to their friends, family and lovers, in their own hand. Some like Amitabh Bachchan still do, in his characteristic calligraphic write. But less, I guess,now that he is busy conversing with the whole world at large through his blog.

Letters, unlike blogs, were not meant for people. They were always one on one. I have personal letters from Indira Gandhi telling how disappointed she was when my grandfather gave up poetry. I have letters with drawings, countless doodles from Husain, each one a charming missive. Some of my grandfather's friends used to send him handwritten poems  every now and then ( I  remember something nice myslef last year :) ).

There are no letters, no words I have to decipher meanings from. In fact, all communication today is more obvious (and more guarded) and even though I respond to tons of sms, emails, tweets I get from friends, acquaintances, colleagues, I can sense I am missing something out there. All I get on my birthday are scribbles, flowers, chocolates, books, CDs, aftershaves. Among my cherished gifts are still pens. I still preserve the Sheaffer my aunt  gifted me. I collect any hand written books I can lay my hands on, be it the Irodov's or  some beautiful, lost literature.

The technology of communication has vastly improved. Smses will soon cost only a paisa. Email is free. So are tweets, FaceBook postings. But I miss the personal touch of the handwritten letter, the poem, the manuscript, the drawings, the music notations that my parents have. They bring about a sense of belonging and remembrance. No flowers, no chocolates, no CDs can quite compensate that.