As a kid, I always wanted to get cards. Just a note would have done it. I just wanted to receive something in the mail. Whenever Maniben, our township’s postwoman, used to park her bicycle outside my apartment building, I would always wait for that knock on the door. Whenever those knocks came, they were generally mailed bills which weren’t really my problem because I was a kid! Nobody ever sent any letters. I used to make cards for friends and family members. I used to give these cards out with an added expectation of getting one back. What I got instead was the disappointment that often accompanies unfair expectations.
Then, unintentionally, my Gujarati teacher taught me a life lesson in the guise of some homework.
Sr. Mary made us write a letter to ourselves in Gujarati. Gujarati is a language spoken by most of the residents of the Indian state of Gujarat. She told us to write whatever we wanted–correct or incorrect, write the letter and mail it to yourself. She told us where to get the envelope. She taught us where to stick the postage stamps. She also taught us how to write our postal address properly. It might seem like a pointless ordeal to those of us who can just look for the relevant online links, but this was back in 2005 when dial-up connections were rare to come by. Once the stamped letter came back, we had to submit the letter with the envelop for correction and then narrate our experience as the Gujarati project for that term.
Most of us, including me, groaned because that’s what students want–more homework. I begrudgingly wrote my letter, which was surprisingly easy to write as Gujarati is the language my family speaks at home. I mailed it. Maniben came and delivered that letter within two days. That’s the first letter I ever received. The joy I felt when I received the letter, I wrote to myself could be good satire someday.
I realised that waiting for letters to come my way was pointless. I was yearning for the joy of receiving a letter without realising that I could just contribute to someone’s joy. Armed with my newly learned lesson, I started sending out cards and letters to people. I still do.
If you are environmentally conscious about wasting paper, you can do what I do which is to upcycle the unused sides of two invites and turn it into a thick paper. Then, reuse the invite’s cover and one strategically placed sticky note to send your letter/card to its destination.
I wrote this article by drawing upon my experience as a kid. I firmly believe that if kids don’t experience certain things, they will lose the wonder of these amazingly ancient life experiences. After my letter for the Gujarati homework, I wrote a letter to my parents and mailed it. Once again, I waited impatiently for two days and when the letter came, I remember yipping around like a hungry hyena. I call that the perks of being a kid.
Me, like most 90s kids remember life pre-internet fondly. We used to do the most outlandish things; I used to eat random plants with no fear–stupid things really but it was these experiences that made life amazing. We used to experience these things, get amazed, talk about it to everyone, then we went to sleep. Life was good, we were happy. It’s not that we didn’t have bitter experiences. We just had so many other things to do to kill time.
Coming back to writing letters, I kept writing letters. I kept sending them out. I sometimes received letters back.
Here are a few-old ones and new.
I am a writer, so my opinion on the power of words would seem a little biased. But I sincerely encourage you to write a letter yourself. Encourage your children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces to write letters as well. There’s nothing to lose. Make them experience the written word in a palpable form. Make them want to write.
As an added benefit, these letters could act as the perfect remedy for a gloomy day. All you’ll need to do is look back at your folder of letters. As you thumb through the stacks of paper from people you have interacted with over the years, it will fill you with nostalgic joy. Isn’t that a wonderful experience to look forward to?