Daddy long legs is the only Epistolary novel I have read. Pulling it out of my bookshelf, I see that it was gifted to me when I was 16 years old by my cousin, a voracious reader. She was ten years older than me and was the big sister that I never had. Despite the age gap, she always spoke to me as a peer- we would have deep philosophical conversations- between a 16-year-old and a 26-year-old…. Well…. I digress. An Epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of letters. Something raw and endearing about them- a peek into the soul of the writer.
The art of writing a letter is something that my children are never going to experience. A time when one had to plan to send a birthday letter or a simple greeting card. When you eagerly checked your mail box every day when you were expecting a letter. When we even had songs like ‘Please Mr. Postman’ (1961). When I moved to the hostel for my post-graduation, I would get a letter from somebody almost every day. The blue ‘inland’ letter would be pinned to the notice board for students to pick up their mail. As a homesick student who was new to hostel life, the highlight of my day used to be heading to that notice board at 4pm to check my mail.
Today we call it ‘snail mail’ almost as a derogatory term. Just as my children don’t know what CDs mean… they don’t know what writing or waiting for a letter means. They also don’t know what waiting for photos to be developed after a vacation means. The anticipation of waiting for those precious 24 pictures that represent an entire vacation. Today, we take 2400 pictures and yet only 24 are worth keeping. But we keep all 2400 and then have to buy cloud storage for our crap.
With bills being paid online, photos being uploaded to social media to share, emails, texts and tweets, we open the mail box once a month more to dust it off rather than to check mail. So, it was a delight when my friend wrote me a hand written letter in Tamizh. We are chuddy buddies. Met her at 16. A friendship spanning a few decades. Since she lives in the USA, she hand wrote it,. But scanned it and sent it to me. While yes, it would have been nice to receive it through post, of course neither of us wanted to wait 4 weeks for it to reach me. We cannot force ourselves to be that patient but what a joy it was to read her words, in Tamizh; to see the handwriting.
So, I am wondering if it would be a lovely idea to write a letter to at least our dearest and nearest on their birthdays… send it through snail mail… not a 30 second text or post on social media.. but a handwritten letter… It would be lovely to recapture the magic of reading them, saving them… precious souvenirs for ‘later’. Would you like to try it?