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Spice of life: Missing the melody in today’s messages

A handwritten letter is tangible, intimate, unique and spontaneous. It shares the writer’s vibes, breathes its soul and manifests its mood.

punjab Updated: Dec 04, 2017 15:30 IST
IP Anand
IP Anand
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Spice of life,Hand written letter,Letters
(HT Representative)

I once received a letter from a friend, who was an IAS officer.

Those were the days when we frequently exchanged letters, describing our pleasures, pains and pressures — all scripted in ink. This one was a typed letter and looked like an official memo.

The feel was missing.

The impersonal, cold message that this otherwise innocuously typed letter represented, was offensive. My friend tried hard to explain but in no way was I ready to be convinced. He had to surrender and promised not to repeat the mistake.

I reflect on those times when writing and reading handwritten notes from friends and family was the primary means to nourish and nurture relationships. Neither was there any constraint of time nor dearth of stories and sentiments to be shared.

Sometimes, we would write literally in line with Ghalib who said: “Khatt likhenge garche matalab kuchh na ho/Ham to aashiq hein tumhaare naam ke. (I’ll keep writing letters whether they hold some meaning or not; smitten as I am by your name).”

Alas! Nowadays no written letter, whether meaningful or meaningless, is received. Letter writing has been eclipsed by the ever surging, strong and swelling, social media sites.

All day the latest happenings, good or bad, happy or sad, are flashed on Facebook. Email, WhatsApp, SMS, and Skype are the contemporary channels of communication. It’s a matter of concern that this harvest of IT revolution is, directly or indirectly, impacting the art and practice of handwritten notes and letters.

The young generation has almost forsaken, if not forgotten, forming words by hand in favour of the mechanical keyboard or keypad.

There’s no denying that the electronic media and technology-driven communication is convenient in application and instantaneous in execution. It is easily available and affordable.

Despite the merits, it is short on intimacy, privacy and personal touch. Hardly does it reflect the relationship, the bonding or the sense of belongingness. The reason is obvious: Computers and keyboards are emotionless, impersonal and objective.

A handwritten letter, in contrast, is tangible, intimate, unique and spontaneous. It expresses the writer’s vibes, breathes his soul and manifests his mood.

Handwriting, says Paris-based journalist Catherine Field, opens a window to the soul in a way cyber communication can never do. No wonder then that Skype, email, SMS can hardly be treasured the way letters of John Keats and Ghalib, Jawaharlal Nehru and Aurobindo have been. These epistles not only contain a treasure trove of wisdom but also throb with warmth and emotions.

If we want to treasure sentiments, let’s not lose the art of lending a personal charm and charisma to the words we write.

Borrowing words of French psychiatrist Roland Jouvent, “There is an element of dancing when we write, a melody in the message, which adds emotion to the text.” Let the practice of handwritten letters, sent by post or courier, not die an unnatural death.

Howsoever prompt and convenient e-communication may be, it can’t produce letters with emotion, about which poet Akhtar Sheerani once said: “Mit chale meri umeedon ki tarah harf magar, aaj tak tere khaton se teri khushboo na gayee. (Words are fading like my hopes; but your fragrance has not left your letters till date).”

The writer is a Jagadhri-based retired associate professor

First Published: Dec 04, 2017 15:30 IST