19 June 2005

Writing woes

No, this is not about writer's block. It's about how writing is absolutely the pits these days. Handwriting, I mean.

I wrote a letter, after a very long time, last week. And after I finished, and looked at the paper, I was appalled! Was that MY handwriting? It never looked so awful! It should not have been surprising, considering that the only 'writing' I ever do these days is to sign cheques , credit card receipts and other miscellaneous signatures !

I haven't 'written' a single letter since I opened my first email account a decade or so ago. And since then the fine art of letter writing went into a decline. With email, somehow, communication follows simple rules:

1. Send annoying forwards. That way people know you are (probably) alive and kicking because there is activity on your email account.
2. One-liners. Short updates on what's happening in one's life. Not as traumatic as a telegram.
3. Long letters in mass mails addressed to the world at large. An infrequent impersonal update on our lives.

Are there more? Do let me know.

In the good old days, when I wrote, it was to one person at a time, and each time it was written from the heart. Since I was spending the minimum on postage anyway, it would be pages and pages long. With all kinds of news, gossip and tidbits whether relevant or not. There was something so exciting about seeing a letter addressed to me, the anticipation, the actual perusal, and there was something so wonderful about just slipping it into a desk, or a handbag, and reading it again and again, whenever I wanted to, wherever I felt like it.

I loved buying stationery. There were special pens kept aside for writing letters. Reynolds was only for jotting down notes and doodling in class. A nice fountain pen was de rigeur for letters. Wacky letterpads added to the crazy letters to friends; floral, handmade or marbled paper to write to my grandmother and for those occasions where a wacky one wouldn't work; inland sheets for those urgent replies with writing crammed onto every single available square millimeters; spending an enjoyable hour at the friendly-neighbourhood-Archie's-gallery for birthday cards, good Luck cards, get well cards, New Year cards and cards for whatnot, each of which would be crammed with a quick letter on the inside so it could still go by book post.... What happened to those good old days?

I remember how Paati, my grandmother, would tell me to write to her. So what if I spoke to her frequently over the phone. She told me how she would take out a letter, read it, and re-read it as and when she wanted to. It was a nice way to spend a quiet afternoon composing a reply. Taking time to finish it. Add pages and pages to it till it barely went into the envelope. I miss that.

The foundations of my best friendships have been cemented with letters. I still have all of them filed away. Last time I was home, I spent a quiet afternoon reading through old letters and cards. And I cried. No ever writes to me that way anymore.

Email was supposed to make communication faster and easier, but has not necessarily made it better. With the best of intentions, even a birthday wish to a friend is conveyed with the barest minimum of words and an excess of flash animation. The personal touch is missing. There is no fun in reading an old email, the way there is in reading an old letter.

I am going to write a letter this week. So if you get an email from me asking for your address, do reply at once, and wait for the post man to ring..... (twice??)

Perhaps there'll be something in my postbox too that isn't a bill or addressed to occupant. And I won't make any cracks about sucky handwriting if you won't.


Dents said...

I was thinking of hand writing you to get your address... but faced with the chicken and egg dilemma, I take the easy way out. I would love to see how my doctor-y handwriting looks like these days.
"Vidya, whats your postal address?"

Axe said...

Yeah I remember those letters ... I remember my third year in BITS - I was so bored with Mechanical Engineering ... V & I used to write (minimum) 10-page letters. My wingies used to think I was writing a report for a course (Gods-only know how they got that impression!).

Of course, getting replies from V were always fraught with danger, as she'd always write her name on it ... and the different surname was reason enough to my wingies to hold a letter hostage ... usually for a chai or sam chaat. B'staads, to the last man!

I tried writing a letter to Malz last year ... gave up after a page or two. I just do NOT have that kind of enthusiasm anymore. It saddens me that I prefer to type (and subsequently delete typos and mistakes) an e-mail rather than write a letter.

Taz Snow said...

I remember those letters, and I miss them too...both the writing and the reading!

The only writing I do these days is when I am 'writing' and then too very rarely!

I have saved every piece of postal correspondence I have had...Axe, that means I have 2 files worth of your letters from BITS - each letter averaging 10 sheets... I remember wierd bits which were actually from your wingies! And I remember when Wrattler (Sudeep, for the uninitiated) and I used to write each other, though we were in the same city.

I agree, Vee, email just don't have what it takes. :o(

Those were the days!