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Longfellow Serenade

Dear reader,

A conversation in a buzzing bar over a mug of beer got me thinking on today's theme; the writing of a letter. As with many of the shared contemplations I've had, we spoke about it for the sake of the flowing idea, the peculiarly gentle glee in being able to use what have commonly been referred to as 'big words' in actual conversation without having the threat of perplexity hanging in the air. Perhaps you have & enjoy these moments yourself. Mayhaps, you have debated the same theme ?

Nonetheless, I often ponder upon the march of time & technology that has left me regarding life with some ambiguity. I appreciate technology & how it has made living easier on many levels. I do not hanker for the b/w television nor for a computer with 16 MB RAM & the large floppy disk. I thank the heavens for air-conditioning & the photocopier. I use the internet a lot. The Dark Ages or in India's case, the years up to the 1990's, had their moment in the sun. But like a handful of people I know (know, I said. There's probably a boatload of you lot out there), there are some things I miss for their ability to remind me that I was a child once. Those large, box-type knobby radios for one. That delightful telephone with the rotating dial pad for another. Not having experienced a childhood that even remotely resembled either the Blyton or Wodehouse varieties, I'm not struck by a sense of nostalgia when I reminisce about those years. But I am at a loss to explain why the ticker feels a little hollow and the shoulders a tad more weary when I catch a glimpse of memorabilia that has quietly faded away.

I want to ask you - can you remember the last personal letter you wrote ? Not typed. Think back to crisp white notepads with those reddish-maroon ruled lines. To a certain nervousness... or was it hesitancy... as you sharpened the pencil or filled the pen with Camel blue ink. That metallic smell wafting out of the ink bottle or that of the wood shavings. Perhaps you unconsciously stuck the tip of your tongue out as you began to give life to those blank spaces, telling your story to someone else. Someone who meant enough for you to write them. To eventually feeling a slight pain in your hand, only to find that you've written over five pages of vivid yet tragicomically ordinary descriptions. To being confused about whether to end with 'yours faithfully, yours truly, yours sincerely, love...' and having to look up letter writing in the Wren & Martin.

To worrying about whether you've attached the right amount of postage ?

When was the last time you received an envelope with sheets of writing addressed to you ? Perhaps the writer liked using scented paper. Perhaps they included photographs. Perhaps they knew you were something of a philatelist & attached exotic stamps ? When did a sheet of paper start with 'Dear (your name)', meaning it was for you & you alone, letting you delight in a rare fragment of privacy in a public home.

I write to no one because I do not know their exact address. I no longer read names of funny sounding streets & cities and dream about what these places would be like. There is no longer any need for me to look in the mail box.

One moves with the times, but the tendrils of the past often reach out and brush up against memory. Against an aching longing. Against a loss of identity.

Not having written a letter to anyone in years, I find that I have written one to you. Not in the way I wanted to but perhaps with more affection than other avenues would allow.

With warm regards,


Song for the moment: Video killed the radio star - Buggles


Piggy Little said…
iremeber writing a 20 page thing to bhumi wen i was in my second yr/ third yr of college. that is 5 yrs ago.

i wrote one a couple of months bak to my moms' uncle who really likes me a lot. bt never got a chance to post it.

but lovely post, as usual.
girish said…
you are one of the lucky ones, then. Post the letter that got left behind.

And thank you for the comment.
bhumika said…
yes, i've written letters (20 pg sth) to neha. and every month i would receive a huge bundle from her too. All of this, while i was still in Pune.

Call it a co-incidence, i was planning to do my next post on the same :)

"One moves with the times, but the tendrils of the past often reach out and brush up against memory." Well said.

And thanks to you for this wonderful letter :)
girish said…
Looking forward to reading your take on the topic.

Thank you for the comment.
namrata said…
just stumbled on to your blog n i have a feeling m going to get hooked.its been so long since i received a letter by post that i have almost forgotten what the feeling was like to do so......but it was definitely more reassuring than the feeling of guilty satisfaction i get when i 'casually' scan some of my mails to check whether those protestations of undying frienship, love, concern have been simultaneously sent to a hundred other people... :)i guess its a humbling experience to realise that you are one among a me a sentimental fool but how i long for those letter-writing days of exclusivity.i am glad there are others who share my feelings
girish said…
welcome to the blog & let's hope the post quality stays steady enough for you to keep coming back.

your sentiment about mass-mailing rings true & got me to wonder whether we're confusing impatience with efficiency.
Kirby said…
Stumbled across your post while looking for something else entirely. I wonder that, at the youthful age of 26, you are old enough to remember hand-written letters (at 40, I have sent and received many, but those days are now long over...) never mind the radios with the analog dials or the rotary telephones. What else might go on that list of the old-but-fondly-remembered technologies of the recent past? Televisions that did not even come with a remote control? Not having caller-ID? Having to look for a public telephone on a street corner to call a cab? (a friend of mine recently tried to find such a phone at a new grocery store here in Los Angeles-- the security guard he asked for directions just offered to let him use his own cell!).

Anyhow. I enjoyed the reading. From here in California. Thanks!
girish said…
You're welcome. Hope you visit the blog again.

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