By Bhavna Sultana:
Long gone are the days when we had a little excitement, a little nervousness while unfolding letters that arrived from friends, parents, relatives, lovers and sometimes even strangers. Those scribbles meant so much. They could speak of our emotions such as love, concern, longing and what not.
I still have the letters I received from my friend almost five years ago. They mean a lot to me. They are the written evidence of the long-lasting friendship we have had. She usually would inform me about her daily on-goings and ask me to share my stories. Some of the letters would have just general discussions, yet others had drama. She once wrote a really long letter to me, explaining how she did not realize that the dog she took in as a pet was actually a bitch and how she had to rename her from ‘Sherlock’ to ‘Pepper’. That was one hell of a letter. It can still make me laugh, even in my lowest moments.
Letters were a very significant mode of communication in the past. The advent of technology has brought a lot of change in the way we communicate. Letter writing got replaced, initially by e-mails, and then as we began to lose more patience and got more occupied in our busy lives, text messaging (SMS) and WhatsApp took over. In fact, we have become so lazy that we try to shorten the conversations by literally killing every rule of the language.
This reminds of a message I received two days ago from a friend. She was supposed to fly to my hometown soon, and I kept forgetting the date. The message said, “Dng the chckn“. Even my autocorrect converted it to check-in, exactly the way I thought the message conveyed its meaning. I got worried thinking that maybe she was supposed to arrive that day. Considering how much I hate talking to someone over the phone, it took me another hour to eliminate my fear, and finally, I called her up and asked what she really wanted to write. She told me she was going to make chicken for the first time and she was in so much hurry that she wrote “Dng the chckn”. That literally messes all rules of grammar and spelling. All I said to her was, “Don’t ever do this to me”.
It is okay to be precise if you are bad at writing long sentences, but at least be grammatically correct. Abbreviating and shortening every other word is like massacring the soul of language, whichever language you write in.
Coming back to this lost form of writing, letters have even been popular as a discrete mode of communication. I would like to quote my grandfather’s example. Nobody in our family knows Urdu other than him. When he would write letters in Urdu to his friends, some of us who were too curious always kept wondering what they discussed about that had to be so discreet.
Another role letters have played is in the form of love letters. I am sure they are still in use, the only difference being that kids these days put sparkling heart and star stickers on them to confess love. I remember watching some movies where a soldier would write to her darling only to receive words of love and affection in return. Being a sort of poet myself, I have always felt excited thinking about how poets would express their feelings for their beloved. It reminds me of a quote I saw one morning that said, “If a poet loves you, you will never die”. I guess because they will keep you alive in the words they knit out of love. I guess I am too much of a romantic.
The thrill of writing a letter or receiving one remains unparalleled. I don’t want to make the article morose by discussing letters that carry uneventful news. They are written expressions, especially for those of us who fail at speaking our heart out. And for others, who cannot put even one sentence on paper, even if they can write, “Keep smiling”, doesn’t it mean a lot? I guess it does.