IF a man wrote you a letter, professing his love for you, what would you do? If you shared his sentiments, would you write back to him, letting him know that you felt the same? If not, would you still consider writing to him, explaining your point of view? Or, to cut matters short, finding absolutely no meaning in such a wasteful exercise in penmanship, would you drop him a WhatsApp instead:
“*Smiley face*. Sweet letter. But…*Smiley face again* You deserve better. *Another smiley because I don’t know what to say*. *Puzzled look..God this is now getting very awkward.* Okay, I don’t think I am ready. *sad face*.”
Truth is: Nobody is ever writing any of those letters to you; at least, not in the day and age of Twitter, where 40 characters are just about enough to tell your side of the story. Anything more is considered negative marking. To see my self-worth reduce with every extra word I type on that Twitter text bar hurts, so, after struggling with it for years together, I eventually quit that space. Now, my Twitter handle is a showpiece with no added meaning or value — just a silent proof of my existence in the larger scheme of things.
Getting back to where I started, my parents just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary yesterday. I asked them how they feel about crossing another glorious benchmark and they both looked at each other and smiled. I’ve seen them do that before — that smile I mean — and this silent communion feels comforting. They fell in love at a time when phone conversations were a privilege enjoyed only by a handful. Their affection for each other survived despite no computers to Skype call or smartphones to exchange minute by minute Whatsapp updates. If they missed the other, they wrote poetry. And, they didn’t have Facebook to share these sweet-nothings. They still don’t understand what it means to wish your better-half Happy Anniversary or Happy Birthday on Instagram, because they’d rather kiss and tell instead. They courted for three years, before they got married. In those three years, they met sparingly because they lived in different countries. My mom can actually count the number of times they met, on her fingers. But, she tells me that before she married my dad, she had never known anyone so deeply. I always wondered how that could have been possible.
Ten years ago, after endless prodding, my mom finally revealed their backstory. Digging into her old treasury, she handed me a sheaf of letters that they had written to each other over those three years. I was spellbound. Sometimes, they had a fight, and the arguments would continue for months at a stretch through the letters, until the issue was forgotten. On other occasions, they would be so diabetically sweet, that you’d find it very hard to consume such mush. Come to think of it, they expended a lot of energy into these meticulously written letters. But, that was how they experienced love. Oh! How I romanticize their story. But, trust me, there isn’t an iota of exaggeration to this.
Some days ago, I read a heartwarming book. It involves an Indian theatre artiste and a simple Irish lady. The book is a collection of letters he wrote to her during a span of 10 years, somewhere in the 1950s, when they enjoyed a whirlwind romance. He loved her, he claimed. Though, I personally believe, not as much as the woman. She raised his love child with little animosity for him. He, instead, chose to cut-off, afraid of how such news would be received back home in India. They would eventually keep in touch, and continued to remain good friends till before he died. But, there was love, and this, she is confident about. It is only love that can keep a soul in denial of his affection still attached to a person, who is so fully aware of what and how she feels, I gauged from what the lady told me when I reached out to her, out of sheer curiosity. I read and re-read the letters he wrote her, and I probably know where she got that assurance from. He immortalised his love for her in words, when he most felt it for her. Everything else then was secondary.
As I write this absolutely meaningless post, while trying to jot down the random conversations in my head, I am thinking about the love that my parents experienced while being together for three decades, and the love this Irish lady enjoyed sparingly. I find no difference. May be, that’s what’s absolutely adoring about that old-fashioned love. It doesn’t rely on bizarre emojis or memories made on Facebook, to make a point. It’s methodical, poetic and enduring. Patience today is hard to come by. We are an age that loves to swipe – right or left, but we have to make it quick. For everything else, there is block or delete.
PS. Meanwhile, all isn’t lost in this world. My girlfriends and I are obsessed with writing letters to each other. It’s a timely reminder of how much we care; it’s the gift we want to give to the world, but hold on to, for only a deserving few.