Spice of Life: Letter writing, a priceless he(art) stamped with lifetime validity

The tactile pleasure one gets in writing and joy one savours while posting a letter is missing in mechanically tapping the keyboard and sending an e-mail.

The tactile pleasure one gets in writing and joy one savours while posting a letter is missing in mechanically tapping the keyboard and sending an e-mail. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Words have their own self-governing beauty that enhances as they get dressed in ink, lending profoundness to their meaning and a sense of belongingness. Easily available and affordable technology makes it quick, convenient, and seamless to shoot across our thoughts to remote recipients at the fingertip’s gentle click. But, supersonic written correspondences on the internet ironically lose in the race to slow and natural channels of olden communication on paper when it comes to sharing deep inward feelings.

The sublime art of penning letters was a unique mix of tangible-cum-intangible elements. Just like today’s video call, people supposedly saw each other’s faces while reading exchanged letters, provided if, the then like-minded distant correspondents exercised mutual telepathic understanding. This belief too finds place in Punjabi poetic expressions, ‘Mera maahi injj likhda, chithi vichon ohda mukh dissda (My beloved’s face appears in his dearly inked letter)”. Considerable amount ofthoughtful time invested in hand-written letters helped the former generation express their feelings and opinions empathetically. The soulful fragrance of the letter made the recipient feel special.

As a child at my mother’s knee who’d had a knack for lettering her way through the brightest and darkest times, I took immense delight in beholding her hold a pen to write her heart out on navy-blue paper. Her state, deep in thought, necessitated pin-drop silence as she sieved the best thoughts among the rest in her mind in close attention, courtesy the sheet’s limited space before her pen’s nib distributed ‘filtered ink’ on paper meeting brevity needs besides avoiding unwanted cuts, omits, and slip-ups.

The practice of writing letters by hand-bridged physical gaps, too, particularly when my mother threaded our well-being into words before slipping the sacred Rakhi threads along with the folded letter into an envelope well in advance to ensure her brothers’ wrists won’t go bare on festival day. Reading through the treasure-trove of family letter collections sincerely cherished by my mother is a free ticket to a pleasant nostalgic trip. Meaningful letters evoked happy or sad tears in tune with good or bad news of far-flung loved ones. On the flipside, ‘meaningless’ letters too did have a pure, well-intended meaning. One decades-old extant letter sent by my then-school-goer cousin in neat handwriting during her early English learning days even today sends us into fits of laughter thanks to the awkwardly formed syntax and amusing grammatical errors.

Alas! Those slow and simple days have gone by, when the plain call of the postman or the monotonous ring of his bicycle was the most melodious tune to the recipients’ ears before the uproar of the telegram, pager, telephone, and cellphones silenced it. Unfolding a hand-written tangible letter by the recipient not only opened up a new realm of feelings, but it also refilled them with a whole new range of subliminal thoughts worthy of penning down to the sender in reply. Deep subjective joy marked with sweet palpitation in the heart died a slow death that was inevitably associated with the waiting period ensuing between the acts of sending and receiving letters. The advent of cyber communication executed the wait in the blink of an eye.

With cloud computing, countless letters nowadays might be stored virtually but treasured really. Contrary to today’s online communication mostly ending in ‘forgotten’ trash; the ages-old hand-written letters, abstractly stamped with warmth, love, privacy, and trust, are still equally prized in our hearts in both letter and spirit for reasons too many to ink.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Una and can be reached at

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