I recently received my copy of the book The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, and was I thrilled?! I had heard wonderful things about this book, and looked for it high and low, but was unable to find it. I was happy to come across a decently-priced copy on a site and immediately ordered it. This happens to be the first book that I’ve ordered online, and, though it is something quite trivial, I’m happy about it. A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine myself to be blogging so avidly, leave alone ordering things online!
Anyways, that is not what this post is about. I’ve started reading The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, among other things. The epistolary format of the novel has me falling in love with good, old-fashioned letter writing, every day, more and more with each time I read the book. The same happened to me when I read 84 Charing Cross Road and Daddy Long Legs, both epistolary books.
I loved writing letters as a kid. My summer vacations were full of letters flowing back and forth – between me in Chennai at my grandparents’ place, and my friends at Ahmedabad. I used to write long, descriptive letters to my dad on those trips when he would not be able to accompany mom and me to Chennai. I remember, I also used to write letters to my grandparents about life in Ahmedabad. Every trivial detail of my life – from buying a new school bag to going out to a fair – would find its way into these letters. Even in college, I used to communicate with one of my friends using letters. Our homes were barely at a 20-minute distance from each other, but both of us loved writing and preferred communicating the old-fashioned way. Another affecting factor was that I did not have a computer at home, and was practically computer-illiterate. These letter-writing sessions continued throughout the 3 years of our college life – and we used to share a lot of gossip about our respective colleges. We were typical girls in our letters, and it used to be fun!
I still remember waiting eagerly for the postman to come and make my day with a long, personal letter. I remember him dropping my friend’s or grandparents’ letter with a thud in the letterbox, and me rushing to get it. I remember smiling fondly in anticipation of a loving letter, looking at the envelope and the postmark and stamp, taking in every minute detail. I remember poring over every little thing in the letter – from the writer’s handwriting to the kind of pen and paper he had used. Yes, I used to be a very observant kid! I remember painting a picture in my head, based on the little details the letter writer had captured for me on paper. I remember feeling a thrill on seeing the word ‘Personal’ written out in upper case on the envelope.
In my school days, I also used to have quite a few pen friends. It used to be fun to read letters from different parts of the country, and know about the lives that other people led. Everything in these letters was imagined, with a vivid, childish imagination. And it used to be an amazing feeling!
Then, there used to be the Diwali and New Year greeting cards, which used to arrive by what is now called ‘snail mail’. Selecting the perfect card for each recipient, writing it out in different colours with sketch pens, putting them in envelopes with silly messages like ‘Open with a smile’ on them, sometimes also adding in a handwritten note – my, what a time I used to have doing all of that!
Somewhere down the line, I stopped writing – and receiving -letters. Other, faster modes of communication like e-mail, SMSes and chat took over. I did write the occasional letter once or twice in this period, but nothing like the long, detailed ones I used to earlier. Now, I don’t write with a pen and paper any more, except for shopping lists and, sometimes, my daily work list, but letter writing is no less charming to me even today.
Even today, I love the feel of good, old letters. I love the process of selecting stationery to write letters on. I adored the quaint little shops selling handmade paper in Pondicherry, when we visited some time back, and couldn’t resist buying a few sheaves. Pictures of old letters on the Internet or in newspapers still make me stop my work and take notice. I can’t resist epistolary books.
Letters are something very precious to me – a piece of your life very painstakingly and lovingly painted out on paper, specially for someone to read. So are e-mails, but letters … well, they just have a different sort of charm … and oodles of romance. In the hustle and bustle of life, I’ve lost the habit of letter writing, but I do miss those wonderful days when I used to write and receive letters. I do feel sorry that letter writing is now outdated, and has almost vanished as a habit. I hope my kids will get to feel the magic of personal, handwritten letters the way I did.
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society has made me yearn to write fond letters to dear people, and to receive long, loving replies from them. The book has made me nostalgic to relive those old memories again. Maybe it is time to pick up a nice, blank sheet of handmade paper and fill it with all there is in my heart, not caring whether I’ll receive a detailed reply back or not!
Do you write letters? Did you ever do? Do you feel the same way about them, or am I someone from a lost planet? What do you guys think about the vanishing art of letter writing?
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