I miss writing letters. My father would tell me this story of my childhood. When I was about 2 or 3 years old, and had been staying with my grandmother, my father would write letters to me. My grandmother would give me those letters and say to me, “See! You have a letter from your Appa”! I would proudly pace around the room, with the letter in my hand, pretending to read it and when someone asks me to read it out loud, I would read, “Tu-ti-tu-ti-tu-ti…”.
When we were taught about letters, letter writing and post offices in school, we had to write a letter to ourselves and post them. After we had tracked back our letters, we had to write an essay recording the process. I couldn’t wait to get my letter back! I ran back and waited till 4.20 pm when the post man would come by to collect the letters from the post box near home. I even remember asking him, when I’d get my letter! Finally, when I got back my letter and saw the stamping on it- I was thrilled. It had actually been to some place else and had came back to me!
To all my relatives who wrote to my parents, I appealed that they write the letters addressed to me, but the contents to my father or mother, to whoever they were writing to. It was a routine for me to ask our post man “Do you have a letter for me”? Wherever my dad traveled to- he would send me a post card from there- contents written in Sanskrit! I couldn’t understand a word.. But it was so mystical to get those. From Bhubaneswar… Cuttak… Hyderabad… I wondered- had people tried to read those post cards? Did they understand? There were post cards with pictures of places at the back. The souvenir cards.
Our school would send our annual exam results by means of a post card, addressed to us, students. When my 1st standard annual exam results were announced, I had written a post card to my dad saying that I had passed. And that I was going to be in II std ‘A’ section. My father still has that letter which I wrote. My father, in fact, has so many letters. Letters from my mother from before I was born, letters from his friends. Sometimes, he would show me a letter and remark, “Now that’s what you call a fine handwriting”! My aunt had a great handwriting. Most times, she would send us in-land letters. I had always wondered about how she was able to write so little when in person, she was quite talkative! My other aunt, would never waste a single space on the letter. She would squeeze so many words spread through the entire sheets of paper.
My father had a box full of unused stationary. He had beautiful envelopes and papers. He would say they were “hand-made” and that he was saving them for a “special occasion”. The paper felt rough and any ink on it, I would secretly think to myself, would be the ruin of it!
I had once complained to my father that this teacher at school had beat me. I remember him writing a letter to her in his ‘executive bond’ paper in black ink. “Children are walking flowers”, he had written in it. When I rose up to give the letter from my father to the teacher, the entire class was staring at me. She never held a grudge. Even after all these years, she fondly remembers me and inquires after my father.
We had five of those wall hangers that would hold letters. Letters from some of my aunts and uncles stopped coming once they had bought the telephone. Every year, during my Christmas holidays, my father would have me draw these pictures on the post cards. Simple pictures of mangoes, crow, sun in between the hills, grapes, tree, etc. And he would dictate and I would write down the address on them. Over a hundred pictures I drew and wrote hundred such addresses each year. My father would then drive me to the nearest post box and lift me up so that I could drop off all those letters into the post box.
When we shifted home, I wrote to some of the friends I knew in school. The replies grew less frequent over time. But I loved that I got letters. Both letters and contents, addressed to me! I couldn’t wait to grow up so that I could get a lot more of those letters. All addressed to me…