Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mourning the Love Letter

Cleaning my cupboard last Sunday, I found myself removing not only the real cobwebs but also the cobwebs spun by time. In the last shelf, behind dust-coated magazines and a bunch of old papers, I found the red bag.

The bag had been my companion for 11 years, but presently it lay there, hidden and forgotten for God knows how long. It contained something very precious — the documented evidence of my romantic youth. Even I had forgotten how I was then — or who I was then — but the yellowing love letters brought the memories back.

It was 1994 and I had just migrated from Kanpur to Delhi. I had no friends in the big city and survived on letters written to and received from people (girls, that is) living elsewhere. In due course, I made more friends, including those who lived in Delhi. To them also I wrote long letters, because I didn’t have a phone then and their phones were monitored by their dads and to meet me they had to cook up excuses, which wasn’t easy all the time. So the easiest way was to jot down matters of the heart, fold the piece of paper and hand it over to them at the next meeting.

So every evening after I got home from work, I would light up the red Chinese lamp by my bed, fill ink in my fountain pen and start writing, imagining the face of the proposed recipient. It’s a different thing altogether that after four paragraphs it didn’t matter who I was writing to, because by then I was writing to myself.

But the most exciting part was the reply. You could, obviously, tell the identity of the sender from the handwriting on the envelope; and your eagerness to tear it open was inversely proportional to the number of days/months/years you’d known the girl. For example, if it was from someone you’d got to know only last month, you’d not only read and re-read the lines but also try and read between the lines. You could see her face on the piece of paper and the ink smelt of her. And that made you yearn for silly things: watching a movie with her while holding her hand. And the impossibility of that happening — for whatever reason — made you yearn even more, making you go through the letter again and again.

Today I have quite an impressive collection of fountain pens but I no longer write. I e-mail my love letters. In fact I don’t even e-mail — since it can be done at the click of the mouse, I procrastinate. And why e-mail, when I can SMS her?

That reminds me, the other day I got a message on my cellphone. It was from a girl who had been ditched by her boyfriend. She was pouring her heart out to another friend but the message reached me — a misfire, as they say. Anyway, I sought to comfort her and we got talking. The conversation stretched to four hours at the end of which she said: ‘‘Will you give me a hug? That’s what I need now.’’

Suddenly, it was all so simple. Well, technology might have shown me the short cut, but somewhere along the path, I’ve lost myself — the person who came out of hiding every time he sat with a pen and paper and began with the words, ‘‘My dear...’’

6 comments:

Sharmishta Goyal said...

Technology has definitely made things easier, brought people closer....but not close enough.....

Brings back memories to when I would pick up pen and paper and write down my thoughts and mail them to someone else (boys, in my case)...still do that sometimes...and it still feels good :) but the blog helps now.

Usha said...

Holding the same paper that was held by the friend who sent it and feeling the warmth of the touch, soaking in the moment when it was written, returning to it looking for something that you might have missed the first time - oh, for the joy of the ink-on- paper mail.
Now I understand why writing them was such a spiritual exercise - as you said, many times I was writing them to myself after the "My dearest ...."

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

Usha: I couldn't agree more about the joy of "holding the same paper that was held by the friend", as you pointed out. Nice to know hardcore romantics are still around.

Local Anusthesia said...

writing is one's bivouac, esp writing love letters is a matter of narrating a love that never truly is or was. i wonder why i never saved any of my love letters -- well, unlike Bishwanath i dont have a redbagful .. but the idea of finding an old letter years after.. i wonder if this mix of fear, disappointment, and detachment isnt the precise reason why i am not in love anymore. ahh .. too much of a confidence there, i'm afraid. but then writing, like i said, is one's bivouac...

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

Local Anusthesia: Now that's real fodder for thought, "...narrating a love that never truly is or was..."

al said...

people come closer only when they experience a distance between them. teknology has made people less tolerant & far too impatient. the longing is too easily taken care of.... love deepens with the longing & yearning for someone who makes u feel better about yourself.. when u can love urself because the other loves u... "make me want to be a better person" (from "as good as it gets").

Ultimatly love is a very selfish act because it is always about u feeling better.
i maybe wrong, but hey i think u too state something similar ...."because by then I was writing to myself."
as for the old style letters u couldn't be more true ..when u feel the personal touch & feel of the paper that has passssed thru' those hands.....hmmm ..cant put words to that feeling...
Many times when i hear a singer singing the beatles or some old ghazals, i wish i could pocket him & take him with me to the sea & listen to him sing. egs Boman Irani when he sung in "Lets talk". Never said that to anyone but reading ur blogs feel like that again....truly romantic ....wish u were a girl . would fly down........