I finally received the official invitation letter from my friend in Germany for the Schengen visa. Not that I needed an invitation to visit Germany, but the consulate surely did, and that too a letter in original. No scanned or emailed letters would do. Ordinarily, I would frown upon anyone reading letters personally addressed to me. But in this case, I let it go. Friends told me I should focus on more important things like dreaming about the Eiffel Tower and fantasizing about Italian men. So that’s precisely what I am doing as a part of the pre-trip warm up.
Anyway the envelope seemed a few grams heavier, and as I emptied the contents of the envelope, I found a nice picture postcard of Germany with a few lines scribbled for me.
I smiled to myself, because I wasn’t really used to people, especially men, doing such nice things. A simple, yet a wonderful gesture. I held the postcard for a while, feeling great that it had travelled all the way from Germany to reach me. I was tempted to do a DDLJ style Amrish Puri stunt, smelling the letter and all, “Dekh, Germany se chitthi aayi hai” !!! But Bollywood has overdone this stunt, with Amrish Puri in DDLJ smelling the cow dung-infested mitti (soil) of vatan (motherland), Pankaj Udhas bellowing the harmonium to “chithhi aayi hai aayi hai” and Bhagyasree in Maine Pyar Kiya smelling the white pigeon-poop letter from the “Kabootar ja ja ja”.
I was reminded of those nice moments when I opened an envelope to see something nicely scribbled. My friend sent me a copy of my TOEFL scores last month with a nicely written “All the best for the visa” note. Sometime back, a friend from New Mexico had invited me to the balloon festival with a small note scribbled at the back of a New Mexico picture postcard. Things have mellowed down a lot ever since emails happened, else back in school and college, we wrote dozens of pages to our best friends, pouring our hearts and writing about everything- crazy physics teachers, flames and crushes, gossip, breakup woes, just about anything. There was a time I could easily recognize the handwriting of each of my friend. The same happened when I taught and graded papers and copies in school. But now that I write this, I realize with a sadness that I will not be able to recognize the handwritings of most of my close friends, thanks to the age of emails.
The most nightmarish of times were when I was expected to scribble something in Bengali, usually while writing to my grand mother. Mother would write letters and leave me a small space for me to say a hi. It would eventually be the “tumi kemon aacho, ami bhalo aachi, amar pronam niyo” drill (how are you, I am fine, regards). You should see my Bengali writing. The alphabets are as huge as rocks. I would start in Bengali and eventually shift to English after a few lines. This happens till date. My occasional letters in Bengali go like, “Kemon aacho? Ami bhalo. Achcha now I will shift to English….”
Anyway, every once in a while, it’s nice to come across a nice handwriting, a nicely scribbled thought or even a few words. Emails don’t really have the flavor that hand written notes do. And as I write this, I realize it’s been years since I’ve held a pen to write on something that was not a visa/immigration form or a check book, thought of a few lines instantly and put it down on paper. We are not writers anymore, we have become typists. I try writing a few lines using the pen and my fingernails hurt. I need to use that key board and that printer less. The next time opportunity comes, I think I’d like to go back to doing things the old way- scribble a note, write the address, make a smiley, or if time and the strength of friendship permits, go back to writing those long letters ranting, bitching nagging, and pouring my heart out. And if nothing works out, I’ll just pick up a pen and write a few lines in the diary, or reciprocate with a reply picture postcard.