Dr A S Bhatia
It was during the mid seventies when the super star Rajesh Khanna portrayed the role of a Daakiya (Postman) and the song, “Daakiya Daak laya, Daakiya Daak laya… khushi ka payaam kahin ….kahin dardnaak laya…!!!” from movie Palkon ki Chhaon Mein, hit the silver screen. Going nostalgic, as a student of sixth or seventh class, during those days the Hindi and English Grammar papers used to have one or two favourite questions for students on letter writing. During my childhood, I also wrote many letters in my examinations, sometimes asking my younger brother to take keen interest in studies and then there was another favorite letter of teachers, to write a letter to the Head master (as was called in those days, and not as Principal) praying for exception from annual fee on the ground of poor economical condition. With the advent of digital technology the trend of letter writing has been overtaken by the email and other digital modes and I being a part of the social system adopted all the modes of latest technology and was very happy with the speed with which I am able to communicate with all my friends around the Globe till second of Feb when in my office in the Government medical college, I received a letter from Mr. Paul from Digiana Jammu.The letter was also accompanied by the minuscule version of Sacred Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta.
The letter was handwritten on a paper and with very nicely with beautiful calligraphy skills. I was simply amazed, as after decades I was going through a handwritten letter. My laptop was on the other hand blinking with emails, but each and every word of handwritten letter was giving me a feeling of being in personal touch with the author of the letter, some words were small, some were written in capital letters,this feeling of going through this handwritten letter was never perceived during the last decade while responding to hundreds of emails received on my laptop! The words on that white paper seem to be communicating directly with me, each and every sentence was conveying the feeling of the writer. On the other hand when I looked at the screen of my lap top, the email stood in front of my eyes as lifeless and emotionless composition of good English and gave a robotic look without reflecting anything and any emotions from the composer! Yes that was the difference between letter and email and I could not have even noticed it in my life time I had not received that letter of appreciation about my articles that appeared in Daily Excelsior during the lock down period of the infamous pandemic.
The present youngsters may have not been aware about a beautiful piece of paper called POST CARD. Many may ask their parents after reading this article, Mom, what this Post Card is all about?!!! all those who have used a post card as a mode of communication must now be realizing that in those old golden times there was no word like “PRIVACY”, as post card is an open piece of paper and everyone can read whatever is written by the sender through this paper. That was the magic of society, as of now we are more involved in privacy, privacy on encrypted chats, privacy on face book, privacy on instagram, as more and more we are trying to take a cover of privacy, the more and more we are getting our self entrapped in difficult situations and making our life tense full of stress and miserable. Such was the popularity of postcards that after being introduced in India in July 1879 for merely an quarter Anna as East India post card along with the diademed head of Queen Victoria on the upper right corner, and as the reports state that about six billion postcards were couriered through the British system between 1902 and 1910!!.Such was the demand of postcards, who now are awaiting a silent death like the one bestowed upon TELEGRAM.
Yes, another thing which now comes in my mind was the, TAAR, the Telegram. The word TAAR was not taken on good note by the people in seventies. Whenever the postman (Daakiya) shouted at the door step, “TAAAA…AAAR” there used to be a silence of death in the house, as the arrival of TAAR meant some urgency and most of the time it used to disclose the death of a near one or the terminally illness of someone elder in the family! But many times it turned out to be lucky when the message encoded in the TAAR was of the arrival of a new born baby in the family or an invitation to the marriage of a cousin. Telegraph services started in India in 1850s, when the first telegraph line was established between Calcutta and Diamond Harbor. The British India Company started using telegraph services in 1851 and by 1854 the system was opened to public. Such was the impact of telegram in Indian society that in 1980s the Telegraph Office near Bhaduar House was receiving and sending 4500 to 5000 telegrams in a Day! But again as the conventional system succumbed to the digitalization, the government decided to call it a day to overcome the financial losses, and the last telegram in India was sent by Mr. Gyan Singh at 5.05 PM , the chief telegram officer, who served in the telegraph office for 39 years. It was a tearful adieu to telegram by a handful of staff at the 70 years old telegraph office at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) near Bhadaur House, Ludhiana, when Government of India finally decided to discontinue the services. The technology took over the traditional method and that was expected in this era of scientific revolution, but the lacuna and the vacuum created will be felt by the people of the generation who had been a witness to TAAR /Telegrams as it reflected Joy, sorrow, applause, salutations and much more. I wonder whether it was possible to keep this conventional system of communication alive in at least some offices of the country just for nostalgic purposes as we have kept alive many other traditional systems.
As I received the hand written letter from Mr. Paul, it seemed to me as the most beautiful personalized gift in my life after decades of digital communication. I had exchanged hundreds of emails, whatsapp messages, Tweets sitting in front of the blue screen but this single letter has made me nostalgic about the mode of communication in our younger days. a handwritten letter shows how much time the sender has taken in writing the letter and in selecting the words to express his thoughts as there is no option to delete or copy in the hand written letter , and if any one of you gets a handwritten letter it is always a welcome surprise and also shows how important you are in the life of the sender. Many of my age group must have experienced once in their life of holding a love letter with a smile or sleeping with a Sorry letter to their mom under their pillow. So in order to make your relationship strong, do write a hand written letter to your dad, to your Mom to your wife , time will always be an issue, as the handwritten letter will demand time in writing, in selecting the correct words as with no option to delete, but remember as Mirza Ghalib said :
Musroof Rehne ka andaaz tumhe tanha
Na karde Ghalib,
Riste Fursat ke nahi, tavajjo ke mohtaz
(The author is professor and head department of Biochemistry, Government medical College Jammu.)
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A hand written Letter!
Dr A S Bhatia