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The steel trunk in front of me was filled with letters dating back to the ’30s. There were letters with a broken wax seal, letters on onionskin sheets and letters with stamps so rare that I chuckled with excitement. Whenever we romanticize something old, there is a possibility that it is dying and its practice is scarce. New Year cards sent by post changed to New year gifs, thank you notes turned into the abbreviation ‘ty’ and the post boxes around the city yearned for love letters that are now sent via text. While I don’t hate texting or the development of technology, we all know that hand-written letters are rare these days. Since we are in a race that doesn’t stop, people just aren’t patient enough to wait for a letter.

Although technology has made our life more efficient it has made people a little impatient too. We can say that texting is an extension of letter writing, they both include written words. The only difference is that texts don’t carry the aesthetic significance that letters do. We can say that it is an extension of letter writing with changed obligations and norms which are better suited for this fast-paced world of ours. While I enjoyed writing letters in school which was a part of our English curriculum, I too would resort to texting as I live in a time where I want my response to reach the receiver as soon as possible and writing a letter here won’t be a viable option.

The art of writing a letter is rare nowadays – whether it a formal or an informal letter. These handwritten pages have played a beautiful and important role if we trace our steps back to the past. Be it the first-ever letter written by Queen Atossa of Persia or the letter written by Einstein with regard to his nuclear research, letters have played a major role in building our history brick by brick. It has helped unite countries and has also reflected the love that two people conveyed through their letters addressed to each other. Ludwig Beethoven’s famous love letter to his immortal beloved contains the phrase ‘ever thine, ever mine, ever ours’ which is included in many wedding vows even today. If he hadn’t written this beautiful letter to his beloved, we wouldn’t have witnessed these words coming into existence. 

While all these apps which support texting connect us to people around the world, the satisfaction you get on receiving a handwritten note or letter is beyond comparison. While my phone lights up with a string of messages, I yearn for a letter in my empty post box. The only letters that come my way are bills or formal correspondence. I remember my first letter; I wrote a thank you note to my mother for my birthday party and the smile that crept on my mother’s face was the most satisfying feeling for a nine-year-old. Don’t you want a love letter? Don’t you want to experience butterflies in your stomach while reading them? It can be a letter from your dream university which will fill your eyes with tears. But my main question is- aren’t you tired of the fast-paced life and technology that eats your time away?

When was the last time you got an informal letter or a postcard in your mail which said –’Dear xyzzy, ….?’ and closed with a ‘love you always.’ When was the last time you sat down away from your devices, in front of a pen and a piece of paper? When was the last time you had a pen pal? Due to the pandemic and the overuse of gadgets, some people I know resorted to the art of letter writing and found it therapeutic. The fact that what they are writing reaches someone and makes them smile was a satisfying feeling for them. I try to write as many handwritten notes so I can to show gratitude or love for the people who surround me. For me, it’s an act of slowing down, taking a break and helping an old practice of writing come back to life. I cannot urge other people to slow down but I can request people to take out some time and practice this dying art of writing letters to your near and dear ones, sealing your envelope and dropping it in the nearest post box. Even though it’s a time-consuming process, it has a cathartic side that is sure to bring you satisfaction. John Donne has rightfully said, “ More than kisses, letters mingle souls.”

Happy writing everyone, may your postboxes be abundant with letters, and I hope you have new memories for keepsake!

Lekha Nath

Delhi South '23

Lekha is a student of literature at Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. She is at an age where she is free to explore any arena, and she likes to record her experiences in her trusty ol' journal. She goes by the tagline- "Just keep swimming". She is just another human with a journal trying to keep up with the ever-changing world. :)
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