I was reading the Jeffery Archer’s “Paths of Glory”. In the novel the protagonist George Mallory, on an expedition to Mt. Everest, writes one letter to his wife everyday narrating his experiences. Yes, there was a time people used to write letters(now referred to as snail mail). They were a means of connecting to people far and near. This seems like an ancient art now.
Reading the elaborate letters in the novel reminded me of my school vacations when I used to write from my granny’s place to my Dad back home. It usually used to be an inland letter where mum would fill up the first two pages and leave the last page to me and my brother. Other times it was a series of papers enclosed in an envelope. My Dad has preserved every one of them. Going through those letters brings back the old memories just like seeing old photographs.
I also had a couple of pen friends. Even the language grammar curriculum has a separate section on letter writing: one for personal letters and one for business letters. Movies had ample instances of money orders and exchange of love letters. This was one type of letter-writing that was not taught in school neither was it found in Wren and Martin’s Grammar book. 🙂
Writing was only a part of the letters, posting them was another. Lots of letters for some reason used to remain unposted and never reach its intended recipient.A good hand writing was a virtue. Badly written letters were a good source of humour. Even the way address is written on the envelope was important. So much so that our English teacher had also taught us the right way to fold the letter before putting it in the envelope.
Stamps were used to commemorate events and immortalize important people. Sending season’s greetings was a ritual.A post man was one of the important people in remote areas with very few literate people. He was a part of the extended family and post-office an important landmark in any city/village.
The last time I remember visiting a post-office was more than 3 yrs back to collect my passport application form. Even the official correspondence that still go through letters prefer private courier services over Indian Postal Services. E-mails and SMS have taken the place of letters. These have greatly reduced the time taken for communication and increased the efficiency of the same but somewhere the lack the personal touch that the olden days letters had.