Nostalgia: Writing letters

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?

Image Source: Here

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20 Comments

Filed under Life, Musings

20 responses to “Nostalgia: Writing letters

  1. Praveen

    You took me back to my childhood lady. I would religiously write letters (inlands and postcards) to my grandpa and he would correct spellings and grammatical errors and reply. Wow! those days were truely wonderful.

    I even made a few penpals from mags like Gokulam and such. Alas, in a day of quick communications such as tweeps, SMS, emails and FB wall posts everything has remained but for a “personal touch”, just what the image on your post suggests.

    • priyaiyer

      @Praveen

      Same here. I had penpals from Gokulam and some other magazines, back in school. I used to write to my Grandpa religiously, and he would correct my grammatical errors. 🙂

      Would love to start writing letters again. Think I’ll do it soon.

  2. Praveen

    Incidentally I was reading this sometime back.

  3. Thats a post like from the ‘amateur’ days 🙂 Very nice to see, Priya..

    Letters – yes, I too would looove to write letters these days. In my childhood days, I didnt have the chance to write to many people..but still loved it. There is an individual tone to a letter..a personal touch written all over..the feel of the letter is different. I try putting down such things in emails to close people once in a while..it feels good, but yes agree that a letter is different..Its been quite a while since I’ve read something like that though – long and personal letter/email from people..

    Anyway nice to see such a post 🙂 keep writing..

    Sathej

  4. Tina

    I’m a huge letter writing fan and lament the fact that it’s been sliding away. Last week, a co-worker directed me to The Things Unsaid Project (www.thingsunsaidproject.wordpress.com) and I was ecstatic to find something so clever and alive with letter writing. Check it out yourself.

  5. Dear Priya,

    I absolutely loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, and I love this post! I, too, grew up writing letters, and loved to decorate envelopes as well. It does seem to be a bit of a lost art due to email and texting (and maybe even blogging, too, to an extent). I don’t send nearly as many letters as I used to, but when I send a card via snail mail I include at least a short personal message. 🙂

    Sincerely,
    Suko

    • priyaiyer

      @Suko

      Oh, I didn’t know you had read the book. If you liked The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, I’m sure you’d love 84 Charing Cross Road. Do check it out, if you haven’t already. 🙂

      Thanks! Glad you liked the post. I think I should make the habit of writing at least short, personalised notes for my loved ones, if not full-blown letters, too.

  6. I love both writing and receiving letters. Despite the convenience of email and sms there is nothing to beat receiving a letter. You are hopefully not a dying breed.

  7. Hey Priya!
    Nice post 🙂 Oh I’m a sucker for letters! It charms me till date. E-mails, messages, chats don’t have that charm!
    I used to write letters too. Wish I had friends who were enthusiastic about writing and receiving letters even today.
    And don’t worry, I shall write letters to your kids to keep the magic alive 🙂
    Till then keep writing (blog posts for now :D)

    • priyaiyer

      @Nirupama

      Thanks!! Glad you liked the post. 🙂
      I wish I had a letter enthusiastic friend too, with whom I could correspond. It would be a great motivation to write letters.

  8. I used to LOVE writing letters to my cousins in Sidney and one more friend who lived in Coimbatore. I would decorate the papers with drawings and sketches. What fun that used to be! I must admit…this book made me very nostalgic too. Have fun reading it, I know you will love it 🙂 And this is a lovely post priya 🙂

    • priyaiyer

      @Vaishnavi

      Thanks, Vaishnavi!! Thank you so much for the book reco, too. I’m having a lovely time reading it. The better half is wondering how I can dip into my book just like that, in between a conversation. The book is making me do it. 🙂

  9. Very well crafted post, taking the reader to the golden era of writing letters. Even I used to write letters and send greeting cards to my relatives during my early school days. The pen and paper can never be matched by any of the present technological modes of communication. We should revive this wonderful means of communication and not let it vanish just like that.

    • priyaiyer

      @Kalyan

      Thanks!! Good to note that there are so many letter enthusiasts still around. As you say, we should revive the art of letter writing, before it becomes extinct.

  10. That was really a good post Priya. My mother used to write letters and I used to be so jealous of her and had always wanted to learn that art of writing down in a sheet of paper and sending them and waiting for a reply. But to my memory, I never had such experience in life. 😦 But I do write with pen something or the other quite often. Happy to learn that many of you had such good times. Hope sometime in life, I find a person to write to and receive letters from.

    • priyaiyer

      @Banupriya

      Hey! Thanks for sharing your letter experiences! I hope you find someone with whom you’d enjoy sharing letters. 🙂
      Good that you write with a pen and paper at least every now and then. Most of us don’t do that at all. 😦

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