Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Letter

I left Kanpur, my hometown, in August 1994, at the age of 23. I was selected as a probationary journalist by the Press Trust of India, or PTI, in Delhi. Stipend was Rs 4000 during the period of probation -- a handsome amount in pre-globalised India, and the job was supposed to be 'secure'. In fact, most people I knew at the time thought PTI was run by the government of India. "You don't have to look back now," my friends in Kanpur told me.

Today, looking back, I realise I have only been looking back. Even more so after shifting to Chennai from Delhi six years ago. It is a different matter that my friends are no longer there. Maybe they are there, but I don't know where. Perhaps I lost them to technology. For a very long time, I stayed in touch with them through the post. During my early years in Delhi, my routine would be like this: get back from work and -- since I had no functional kitchen; and take-away joints were unheard of -- pick up two apples and two bananas for dinner along with four Gold Flake kingsize cigarettes. I would have the fruits and then, with my fountain pen, write letters to my friends. The next morning I would drop the envelope(s) into the red letter-box.

And then I would get their letters -- some sent them to home and some to the office address. From the handwriting on the envelope, you knew who it was; and the tearing of the envelope gave you enough time to prepare your mind about what to expect.

For the past 13 years, I have been preserving most of those letters. They were all put into a red bag I had got from the Orissa stall during the trade fair in Pragati Maidan. Volatile girlfriends tore away quite a few of them, but the important ones survived, including those written by male friends. I chanced upon the bundle while I was clearing out my shelf 10 days ago before shifting to the new house.

I am inclined to quote from a letter written to me in March 1997, by a friend in Kanpur. He wrote the letter to me barely weeks after he got married. I am taking the liberty of quoting him because we are now so separated by time and space that I am certain he is not going to read this. The basic idea, however, is to highlight how innocent and simple life was ten years ago, when people took the pains to communicate rather than communicating for the sake of it just because their is Yahoo messenger or Googletalk or Orkut or, simply, the mobile phone.

My dear Ghosh,

... on my side, it is dull time now because S has gone home and I don't know where to find solace (don't suggest me for drinking cos she has asked me not to). Dear, it is for the first time I am so near to a girl, a real gem at that. Unlike all those chicks we used to see all around us, she is a great amalgamation of decenty, beauty and ignorance (she is not great in studies, and I like it).

The best thing I like about her is that she doesn't talk too much (a rare thing in her species). There are no ego hassles and I love obeying her. She looks so pretty while scolding me in bed for silly things. Our physical relationship coundn't have been better. I never knew the act is so pleasurable and satisfying. Ghosh, you know I have never hidden even the most bare thoughts of mine from you, but it now seems that those golden moments of ours (mine and S's) should not be opened even to you.

As far as our Shimla trip was concerned...



I recall laughing when I read his letter in 1997. But in 2007, his words made me cry. Were the tears because of the years lost, or the fact that I don't see V anymore, or because of his honesty that is so rare today?


Anonymous said...

Those were the days...

Can relate a similar incident in my life . Eons ago, when I discovered the art of 'self-destruction' , I wrote about it to my best friend, I was 18 . Initially i was hesitant, then i thought what the heck. It was comforting to read from his reply that I was not the only one. What made me laugh was he said that once the act was over , he prayed to God.

dharmabum said...

i still write letters once in a while to my ma :) she isn't tech friendly, to say the least, and just drops a letter out of the blue. much as i enjoy readin it, i also enjoy writing back...

my hostel days were filled with letters coz that was the only thing i really did then!

its not just abt communicating - i think people used to see beauty in the most trivial things, find joy in this simplicity. now only DVDs and X boxes make us happy :)

Anonymous said...

Stopped by the Ganges after a long sabbatical. I have a bag of letters too; too bad nobody writes using pen and paper these days.