Monday, January 11, 2016

Letters, I Wrote

Vasu Reddy From Chicago

In the age of texting, chatting and email, we are quite used to sending quick messages, or responses, often with common abbreviations.  Much of our responses are in symbols and emoticons.  It really doesn't matter if we are busy or simply idling, we try to shorten the responses as much as possible and just hit send.  Gone are the days when a sentence started with "My dear" and ended with "Yours lovingly".  The letters we wrote were long and detailed, often written with impeccable styling and language, and often detailed much of what happened since the last letter.  Each letter had no mistakes, no corrections, no bad words, no abbreviations; there was nothing written but great communications.  It really did not matter who you were writing to, as every letter was a matter of heart and soul as communicating was in long hand and covered the distance and longing.

Often the letters were written in detail and in wonderful prose and hand writing, unlike the shortest responses we text today.  From romantics, to friends and family, looking forward to receiving the next letter was simply the time worth waiting.  The letters were nothing sort of documenting life in pieces, with emotions and commentary, and often speaking the mind and soul in long hand.  Letters were well written short stories, and never abbreviated words of today.

A whole lot of industries were built around letter writing; paper, ink, pens, envelopes, stamps, books and magazines along with many a famous personalities publishing their letters.  Many of yesteryear's personalities have collections of their letters published, for the rest of us to get into their minds and their thinking, and provoking our own thoughts on what they have captured so eloquently.  One can always wonder about the frame of mind and context of each written letter, and no matter how much time has passed, it never takes the context away from the writings.  From great love stories, travelogues, history and culture, requests, proposals, threats, life in general and any other subject matter that mankind can think of, was captured in letters written by folks, one to the other.  There is a great deal of history and learning from each era of letter writing, and we continue to be fascinated by the discovery of letters and their content from yesteryears.

My personal recollection of writing letters was to my home, typically to my grandparents, parents and sometimes to my siblings and cousins.  Living away from folks in a residential school, often allowed you the habit of letter writing as there was no phone (not in your room and was expensive to make calls), internet or mobile at that time.  I had many friends (still am with the same) who I wrote to often and in great detail; travel, school, reading, sports, others around me, and often the letters continued from the last one.  I also had a great number of pen pals (a term foreign today, can be equated to facebook/Instagram friends, which my not be the best comparison).  These pen pals were from various parts of the world (souls similar in interests specially letter writing) who were more of each countries cultural ambassadors. Pen pals kept you updated on their respective countries, cities, location and also their travels, family and friends, habits and sometimes their life and activities.  One of the side effect of having great pen pals was post cards, which were also fascinating to their locations, and added stamp collection from each of your friends.  You rarely had an opportunity to meet any of your pen pals in person, but you for sure got to know them very well.  As you got older and moved from place to place and moved on with your life, your pen pals, were doing the same.  It was hard to keep tracking of the changes in address and place, but the memories of the letters remain.  In the age without a mobile phone, internet or instant communications, the letters and post cards made all the wonderful memories.  The friendships were not instant and fleeting, they were full of effort and longing.

Today everyone has a long list of contacts/friends on email, phone and a slew of internet exchanges, all of which have taken over the old handwritten address book. We have evolved and connected our self with every aspect of daily life.  We are in an impossible situation with no escape from anyone or anything.  We are connected with so many things and so many people, we really don't have the time to make a personal effort to write even a few small sentences, thus the short and abbreviated responses to anything we need to.

It is great to reminisce and think of messages in long hand, well written and well intended, and mailed from a long distance, and also waiting for the mailman to arrive each day carrying stories from far away.  Past so perfect.

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