WHEN was the last time you wrote something - something literal, that is, writing
something by hand instead of posting a message on the computer or sending an SMS?
One of my friends told me the only thing she writes by hand these days is the
Just the other day, my grandmother asked me to get her some
aerogrammes. Do you even remember those? If you are 25 or under, chances are you
have no idea what I am talking about. Well, aerogrammes were what people used to
buy from the post office when they wanted to write a letter to someone who lived
overseas. It sounds so antiquated now, right? Aerogrammes were blue sheets of
paper: that were self-sealing and prepaid. You didn't need an envelope or
stamps. Just write on the aerogramme, seal it and pop it into the postbox. I
don't even know if they make these any more. After all, do people even write
letters to each other these days? They write emails and forward jokes or they
leave comments on blogs, but letters?
Yes, with the advent of the email and the mobile phone, the art of writing is
dying, if not already dead. There was a time when you could recognise someone by
his handwriting. These days, the only bits of handwriting we come across on a
day-to-day basis are hastily scribbled notes. There was a time when we were
taught good penmanship in schools. It was not good enough to learn how to read
or write... you had to write beautifully. We had to practise our cursive writing
and there was a prescribed way to form and join letters of the alphabet into
words. But as we grew older, individualistic tendencies crept in. In secondary
schools we started developing our own unique handwriting style.
When I look at my own handwriting now, I see I have become lazy. Computers
are the enemy of good handwriting, don't you think? Still, my handwriting is
pretty legible, even when I write fast. I often thought the entire time I was
growing up that I would have beautiful, elegant handwriting when I became an
adult. That didn't quite happen. Now that we hardly write by hand, I think even
that will deteriorate further.
I miss the joy of receiving letters and writing them. I know email is faster
but there is something about holding those pieces of paper in your hand and
reading words formed and joined together in the unique way of the writer. Oddly,
the handwriting I miss the most was also the worst handwriting I have ever come
across. Rosemary's handwriting was the subject of many jokes in our circle of
friends. The sentences were worse than scrawls. Somehow, I was the only one who
could decipher her letters from the many places she lived overseas with her
diplomat husband. Whenever a letter from Rosemary arrived, we had to meet up and
I had to read it to the gang. By the time they lived in Venezuela, there was
email and those lovely, scrawly letters ended. It was through those sprawling
letters that we got to know about those foreign lands and more importantly, how
she was doing.
These days, there is the immediacy of SMSes and emails. So, there is simply
no need for letters any more. But this much more personal method of connecting
with people you care for is not quite dead. My best friend still gives me cards
to celebrate various occasions: my birthday, Christmas. And in them, she always
writes a little message. I love those little personal touches even though we
live in the same city!