An ode to the writer

An ode to the writer

Lord Byron once said that letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. He would have found a kindred soul in N J Ravi Chander, who confesses that writing letters to the editors of major newspapers has been a “magnificent obsession” ever since his pre-university days in the late seventies.

It was in college that this bug bit him. “I was a Josephite and had classmates who wrote letters to editors frequently. Seeing their name appear in print inspired me and I too picked up the hobby.”

“After a string of disappointments, my first letter was published on April 13, 1980 in Deccan Herald. It was a correction of some wrong facts that another person had put forth in his letter in the same column. Since then, more than 4,000 of my letters have been published in more than 25 major newspapers and periodicals in the country. 

“I was bowled over by the writings of some of the popular letter writers of those days like Harish Bijoor, H P Murali, R Venkatraman, T S Sankaran, J C Harvey and Alec Walker. The consistency with which their letters appeared in print simply bowled me over. I must count myself lucky to have been born in an age where postcards and inland letters were the most common means of communication,” he adds.

His letters have covered a wide range of areas and interests. “I was a hockey player which meant frequent travel and prolonged absence from home. I kept in touch with my family via letters and some of my first ones were quite naturally inclined towards sports. Later, I wrote letters about various other topics like my wife’s prowess in making an omelette, the efforts taken by my mother to bring five of us up, and even the travails my elder son faced while getting admission into convent school. The questions they put to a six-year-old were tough and the interview ended with him sobbing and not getting an admission,” he recalls. 

Ravi Chander vividly remembers the days when he would walk down to the Deccan Herald office while on his way to work and drop off letters at the reception. Later, when he got a cycle, he would ride down to the English newspaper offices located in the cantonment to drop them off. “ My late father, Sri M N Jayaraman was my most ardent fan and critic and would go to town advertising my achievement everytime my name appeared in print. Nowadays, my colleagues in SBI scan the newspaper for my name first thing in the morning,” he says. 

Likening letter writing to art forms like painting and sculpture, he says that it can be honed with frequent practice. “A lot of youngsters approach me and ask for tips on how to go about letter writing as a hobby. The tip is to have a good beginning, catchy to sustain the interest of the editor, and a good ending. The letter should be on a current topic and should be brief. You should convey your message in around 15 lines.”

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