I get back from work, unburden myself of the bags I carry, and sink into the sofa. An assortment of envelopes stares at me from the table- they have arrived in the afternoon post. I go through them disinterestedly, and find a telephone bill and some letters of official significance. I make a mental note of the things they demand of me, and place them back on the table. In a couple of weeks, during the course of a dusting-cum-cleaning session, they find their way into the bin. An occasional greeting card or a parcel breaks the monotony of these mails.
I think back to the days of inlands, airmails and telegrams….
To the days when the ring of the bicycle bell in the afternoon saw us waking up from slumber in a fit of hope and enthusiasm….
To the days when the postman carried on his bicycle a bundle of scribbled emotions, and greeted us with a knowing smile when he had a ‘gift’ to deliver….
To the days when the sight of letters peeping from the slits of mailboxes brought with them an abrupt shower of joy in our hearts.
Letters addressed to my parents were received with less enthusiasm, but if a letter was addressed to me, I would hold it close to my heart and speed off to read, as if I had just won a lottery!
The immature handwriting of a friend or a cousin stared at me from the address, and I trembled in excitement as I slit open the letter. I am sure I read each of these letters a hundred times, and I read them for days on end. I would enthusiastically hunt for an inland at home, and if I was lucky enough to find one, I would set out on the joyous task of writing out a reply, the very same day. Next morning, on my way to school, I would promptly drop it into the mailbox, and shove it extra hard to make sure it went right in.
And from that moment, commenced the impatient wait for the reply. The postman in his khaki uniform, with the ring of his cycle bell, was such a welcome presence in my life.
We had pen friends too. I was proud of mails from friends in Bhutan, Malaysia, Finland and America. My Finnish pen-friend sent me a beautiful postcard, and also a picture of her, and they fetched me the envy of my friends.
Over the years, the culture slowly faded away, to be replaced completely by revolutionary technological inventions in the form of the internet.
The last hand-written mail I received was from a classmate from school, while we were both in college. It finds place with older letters I had preserved, as an antique that I am proud of.