Inland letters and postcards have become a thing of the past today. No one writes letters anymore…it has almost become an extinct art. There is not much need for that either I guess, since a profusion of options for instant communication have made life ‘easy’ today. Red letter boxes in street corners have become a rarity and kids running to drop a letter in that box are no longer to be seen.Today, mail boxes mostly see greeting cards, bills, magazines and a lot of unwanted junk mail!
One of my fondest memories from childhood is that of the small round red post box at the corner of a big field, some fifteen odd steps from my ancestral home in a small town in eastern India. On ‘Doshomi’ (the last day of Durga Puja), the chaotic mornings would have an extra pinch of frenzy as the elders would be scrambling to convey their ‘Bijoya’ wishes, through letters, to relatives living in different parts of the country. And the correct addresses could always be found after a lot of commotion since there would invariably be multiple addresses against most names in the very tattered address book, and the correct one could be found only after a lot of discussion. The dramatics that ensued was a sight to behold all by itself! Once all of that stopped, it would be time to post the letter/s. On the very rare occasion that I was allowed to do so, which was probably a couple of times before the post box went out of use, it would become one of the highlights of my trip that year. It was as if, I had been entrusted with the responsibility of making sure that the good wishes reached whoever it was supposed to in Assam or Delhi or Kolkata, and my red little box had the power to do that. I was small and still believed in magic and also I had never actually seen a postman take the letters out of the box! This special bond that I had unknowingly formed with that red box is one of my treasured memories from the bygone days. Since digital cameras, cell phones were matters of sci-fi books/movies, I do not have a picture of that box to remember it by but I strangely remember the feeling of walking up to the box to post those letters.
As far as I remember I have always loved writing letters and loved seeing them being slipped under our door by the postman who found his way all over the neighborhood in his trusted bicycle. Those letters and post cards that found their way into each others homes from all across the country carried hope and happiness, bore bad news and brought tears. That red little box and most like that are gone, as are the letters. But memories of those times have remained, almost unscathed. As Aldous Huxley said ‘Every man’s memory is his private literature’, and I am glad that I have that little red box in one of my/its pages.
(The photo of the letter here is an actual one that I had written to a friend of mine- we did not have phones at our homes at the time and we used to write letters to each other over our summer holidays..I still have a couple of such letters! This one however, was the one I wrote and my dear friend has been kind enough to keep it!)