Ek Puraana Khat Khola Anjaaney Mein…

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Friends, Letter, Literature, Media, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Theater)

She: Hi
Me: hello
She: Received your letter
Me: oh! Is it?
She: Thanks
Me: Thanks is too formal a word to be used with friends
She: Ok then give it back 🙂
Me: Take it… 🙂
She: It meant a lot
Me: Hmmm
(18 September 2009)

No mail I had previously written to her made her say “It meant a lot,” nor did any SMS or even direct phone calls. So it is obvious that there was something special about a handwritten letter which made the communication so special which meant a lot for her.

Nearly a year ago when she had first sent me a friends request and a scrap on Orkut, I remember replying with a couplet of Ghalib, which he had written a reply to one of the letters that he had received. He said:

Tera Khat Mila Aankhon Mein Noor Aaya
Seene Pe Rakh Liya Mazaa Aaya…

There is some beauty in the act of writing, reading and exchanging letters which as Ghalib rightly points out brings a shine in the eyes. This beauty of letter writing is never spoken about in schools and only a dry leave note and application writing is taught and made to study.

What is this beauty of handwritten letters? There is something human about it. It has more of human touch and less intervention of outside force like technology in it and makes the entire process a very personal experience.

While young, I used to write letters to my cousins and grandparents. Dad wrote me letters when he was out of station and I wrote to him sometimes. But these were not on a regular basis. I started writing letters on a regular basis when I was doing my post-graduation. Divya, who then was in Mysore, and I would write at least two letters in a weeks time. The mind would unfold and flow in words and drop on a blank sheet. It was dark times for both of us. Both of us were walking on the boulevard of broken dreams and through letters we shared our agony and whatever little joy we found. We unburdened ourselves by writing. Letters were like catharsis. Letters had some healing power.

Yes, letters have some healing power. It was December 2006 and I was interning in Bangalore. I was writing letters to my friends back in Manipal. One day a friend sent me a SMS saying, “Sam, your letter received at the right time. I am going to meet her for the last time. It feels good that your letter is with me. I have something to hold on to.” How was the letter related to my friend and his girl? It was unrelated but my letter, I guess, stood FOR me with my friend at the time of crisis. It acted like a healing factor to a certain extent.

Divya and I would call each other only to enquire if the letter has reached or not. The rest of the conversation would happen via letter. When she came home- Udupi – from Mysore she brought all the letters that I had written to her and I went to her place carrying all the letters that she has written to me. We read out the letters in a sequential order and re-lived the moments of letter writing. Those letters had a life, hence they could be re-lived.

We read out letters to each other like Amrita and Zulfi read out letters to each other in the play ‘Tumhari Amrita’ (written by Jawed Siddiquie) It is an interesting play not just because it has just two characters but also because there is absolutely no stage movement in the play and no settings as such. The letters unfold and turn the heart, mind and soul of the audience into a stage and start dancing and performing on the invisible stage. Human heart, mind and soul could be turned into a stage through letters that is how personal and intimate letters and words can be.

Sometimes I think as to what makes the play Tumhari Amrita such an intense and intimate play? With all the possible reasons, once cannot deny the fact that the play being stitched in a letter format is also a reason. The first novel of Fyodor Dostoyevsky ‘Poor People’ or ‘Poor Folks,’ is also written in a letter format and this very form adds an intimacy and beauty to the novel.

Recently the letters exchanged between the Punjabi poet and novelist Amrita Pritam and the painter Imroz got published. Unlike Tumhari Amrita and Poor People, these letters are non-fiction and real. Couple of years ago the letters of Guru Dutt written to Geetha Dutt were also published. These letters give the closest view to the mind of the writer which his/her art would not with such closeness. If one is to read the love letters written by Kafka and Bernard Shaw one would see a different Kafka and a different Bernard Shaw than what is seen in their creative writings. In their creative writings one would see the intellectual and creative side of theirs. But in their letters one can see the passionate side of theirs which is closer to the human side of the artist. Letter is a reflection of the inner most realities of a person.

Gandhi too wrote plenty of letters. His letters had political agenda behind them. He discussed and educated people with his letters. But, seeing through my eyes, the best of his letters were addressed to Rabindranath Tagore. These letters have been reproduced in the book MAHATMA AND THE POET. As one keeps reading the book one would seriously have a doubt as to who is the poet, Tagore or Gandhi. The act of writing brought out the poetic side of Gandhi.

Tagore wrote a beautiful short story titled POSTMASTER. At the end of the story the postmaster moves out of the village leaving behind the girl all alone. Today postmasters of the world have not disappeared yet they have disappeared.

During childhood watching Sidarth Kak and Renuka Shehane every Sunday in the programme was a craze. More than craze it was an addiction. The last segment of every episode would be Sawal-Jawaab. A question would be asked and the audiences were expected to write the answers on a post card and send it to the Surabhi address. Today all reactions, answers and votes are expected through SMS. This shift shows the eroding function of letter writing.

I too stopped writing letters to Divya. But is till have all the letters that she wrote me. I also have the letters that Jayanth Kaikini, Kanaka Ha. Ma., Gowri Lankesh and Ranganayakamma wrote to me thanking me for the congratulating letters I wrote to them for some of their works which touched me. When I open the box of letters, an entire past, an entire era unfolds before me. I find lost days in those letters. The box not just shelters letters it also shelters some of the finest and rarest memories of my life…

Kushbu Jaise Log Miley Afsaane Mein,
EK Puraana Khat Khola Anjaae Mein.
(Gulzar)

During my last few days with The Hindu I attended the Dak Adalat in Mangalore. There were two petitions and both objecting the removal of post boxes from their area. The post officer was of the belief that box was being under utilized and hence be removed but there was objection from people. I saw these objections as a good sign. But sadly that day both the petitioners did not attend the adalat and the only person attending the adalat was the reporter of The Hindu. Their absence indicated that the need of the post box was not much.

Last evening (09 October 2009) I was going through the newspaper after I came back from the University and saw a full page advertisement from the postal department saying ‘WORLD POST DAY.’ When I informed Faizan about it he questioned, “Who writes letters and uses postal system these days?” Then suddenly remembering me writing letters to Manipal a few days ago added: “There are some like you who still write. But on a whole the art of letter writing is dying.”

Once I had written to Divya:

Khat-O-Khitaabat Ki Sada Rasm Ko Jaari Rakhna,
Bhool Jaana Na Humein Yaad Hamaari Rakhna.
(Anonymous)

Today it appears like the art of letter writing is reciting this couplet to me…..

10 October 2009

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