In a small town surrounded by hills there lived a postman named Shyam. Without fail, rain or shine Shyam would go out on his bicycle every day to deliver letters and mails. For there were many eagerly waiting for a letter from their loved ones. Dropping letters in the letter boxes outside each house and clearing the post boxes of the neighbourhood on the way back was his daily routine. In those days people would write to their friends and relatives living in faraway places and drop those letters in the post box, it was Shyam’s job to collect those letters and take them back to the post office to ensure that they reach the right person.
Whenever Shyam’s bicycle passed the neighbourhood people would peep out of their windows hoping that he had a letter for them in his bag. A little girl Tiya would come out running at the sound of his bicycle and ask him sweetly he has a letter for her. Sometimes Tiya would run to the post box with a letter in her hand while Shyam would be collecting that day’s mail with a smile and a request to send her letter to her grandparents at the earliest. Yes, for Tiya Shyam was the symbol of her connect with the world outside the little town. He was the one who carried her letters to her grandparents, cousins and relatives in far away places and brought back their letters to her.
Tiya loved writing letters. At first, she wrote because her parents asked her to, then she started enjoying it. Letters were the only means for her to stay connected with her cousins and relatives and learn about what’s happening in their lives. Though they had a telephone at home making STD (outstation) calls were expensive then. She could only call occasionally and had to keep the conversation very short. Those were the days before emails and mobiles. People had no idea that something called ‘digital revolution’ would take their world by storm. Of course, digital revolution has many positives, but we are talking about Tiya and her letters here.
On lazy Sunday afternoons Tiya would pour her heart out over letters. Writing about how hard she’s been studying to her grandparents, telling her cousin about the boy she likes in school. She would post the letters and look out for the post man Shyam everyday eagerly awaiting a reply. And when she would finally get a letter, she would read it several times over before putting it in a box where she carefully kept all her letters. Post cards or inland letters from her grandparents, stamped envelopes from her cousin and sometimes a picture postcard. Shyam would fondly hand over the letters to little Tiya, smile indulgently at her request to ensure that her letters reached her loved ones soon.
One day when Shyam went for his daily rounds he could see Tiya no more. She wouldn’t peep out of the window or rush to the post box with her letters, for Tiya has finished school and left the town to pursue higher studies. She was staying in a hostel now and would write back regularly to her parents, letters that Shyam would deliver to them of course not knowing they were from Tiya.
Tiya finished her studies and picked up a job in a big city. She had a telephone now and an email account. In few years she got a mobile. She would now call her parents and relatives and email her cousins. Soon there was skype and WhatsApp and she forgot all about those long letters. Messages have now become short and sweet and nobody had time to indulge in the eloquence of letters.
Then one day when Tiya went home she chanced upon the almost forgotten box of letters. Going through those old letters with faded ink she felt the same rush and excitement that she used to feel as a little girl. She asked about Shyam, oh he must have retired she was told. And anyway, the new post man was hardly to be seen for people didn’t write letters’ anymore. Everybody has a mobile, it is so much easier to call. And the younger generation has moved to WhatsApp and Snapchat and what not.
Letters that were so important to her growing up are now gone, thought Tiya with a sigh. May be the generation next will never know the joy of receiving a letter. Letters that had once been an important part of our lives have also been central to many a great works of art and literature – Tagore’s masterpiece Strir Patra (Letter from a Wife) or the acclaimed play Tumhari Amrita where the protagonists’ read out the letters that they have received from each other – Tiya wondered whether these will make any sense to the gen next!