Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Death Of A Greeting

Writing can be quite taxing. It needs you to not only use your fingers -- to write or type, but also your eyes, ears and your mind. Unless you observe, listen and internalise an incident, a thought or a story, you can seldom write. One can be a great thinker and a great orator but for him to be a good writer and to convert his thoughts into written words, he has to learn the art of patience, the skill of letting the thoughts take a definite shape and form something worth displaying in the show window of his wall. 

One reason for my being away for a while now is that I have been busy trying to brew my thoughts, to make stories. I am a bad story teller and even worse at imagining them, so putting together something as small as a thousand word story is quite a task for me. The other reason is that  I have been busy writing new year greetings to the people closest to me.

I am sure by now everyone who reads this blog knows how old fashioned I am. Let me tell you another secret -- I hate change -- of any sort, but more so if that change takes me away from my roots -- the old fashioned ways of life. Therefore, at a time when everyone has moved on from Orkut to Facebook, from SMS to BBM and from emails to Watsapp (is that how its spelt?), I still latch on to my redundant mobile phone. And at a time when people post impersonal status message that wishes all sixteen hundred friends of theirs a Happy New Year (can one have those many friends?), I carefully select a card each for my family and friends, write a personalised message on it and post it -- the old fashioned way. 
Now, writing a greeting is an event in itself, an activity that takes its own sweet time and course. Unlike a status message or an SMS, it does not take a few seconds or minutes but a few days or more, depending entirely on the number of cards one sends and the amount of love one puts in each one of them.

My earliest memory of writing a new year card is almost twenty-five years old. We were in Allahabad at that time and my father had a big network of people. I vividly remember him bringing home a huge pile of about a hundred new year cards home, he had got them printed with his name. We -- my brother and I were very excited to see the cards, especially because they had father's name in print. My sister was too young and too oblivious to make any sense of it. 

After that it became a ritual, a part of our new year and Christmas celebration: to make a long list of people who we wanted to send the cards to -- family, relatives, friends and our friends too, to look up the addresses in the dairy, write the cards, put the stamp, mark them as book post and finally post them. The entire process took almost a week, if not more. 

I think, that is where I learnt to write -- to people, a habit I am still to let go of. My first letters was written shortly after moving out of Allahabad, a place where I made friends for the first time and a place I hated moving out of. I had written to two of my closest friends --- Shweta Yadav and Ajai Iyer. I remember baring my souls out to them, telling them how I hated to be alone and lonely and how backward the new town was and of course how much I missed them. Hence started my tryst with writing. Every city we moved from added a few names to my list of friends who I would write to regularly, some replied some did not.

But writing a letter or a card was only half the fun. The other half, the better half, being receiving one. The anticipation of awaiting a reply, the excitement of getting many cards, the joy of recognising the handwriting and mentally preparing yourself for the contents of the letter while undoing the envelope and the many staples that a friend might have added to ensure the elders never read the juicy gossip, the glancing through the entire thing first and then reading it again to get the details, hiding it at a designated place to prevent others from reading it, the happiness that it brought for days after -- completed the picture.

Unfortunately, those days are long gone. People don't write, people don't read, they just tweet. 

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