Beloved holder of letters

When I got married, a college friend gave me a beautiful letter holder as a wedding gift. It was made of black satin fabric and had three pockets, the edges embroidered in gold and red thread. It became one of my most treasured possessions. One of the first things I did in my new home was to hang it on a nail on the wall next to my writing desk.

In it went all the mail I received almost every day in the form of letters and cards. Both my parents and all five of my siblings were great letter writers and we corresponded regularly. Some friends from school and college also kept in touch, off and on. I would store the letters in the letter holder and take them out occasionally to re-read.

Every few weeks, the pockets would get full and I had to put away older letters in my cupboard. Throwing away any correspondence never crossed my mind. Letters were treasured and read and re-read. They formed the links which connected me to friends and family, all hundreds of miles away.

Then personal computers entered our lives and everything changed. E-mails replaced handwritten letters and e-cards replaced handmade or store bought cards. The only letters I received now were bank statements and reminders for magazine subscription renewals. The poor letter holder, once such a big part of my life, remained untouched and began to gather dust. The next time the house got painted, I relegated it to a nail behind my bedroom door. There it still stands, forlorn and almost empty.

Now I place in it only some very precious papers which I take out and read now and then like the beautiful speech written by my son for Independence Day when he was in school, correspondence from bird authorities like Zafar Futehally, S Rangaswami and Dr Arunachalam Kumar. It also contains some interesting odds and ends like beautiful wildlife photos cut out from magazines, articles from newspapers regarding weekend getaways, etc.

The personal computer which edged out snail mail and letter holders has itself been edged out by the smartphone. E-mails and e-cards have been replaced by WhatsApp. Most of the time, messages are not even written — they are simply forwarded; even words have been replaced by emojis! You need not search for words to convey what you feel. Simply touch an appropriate emoji to express your feelings!

There is no way now to cling on to thoughts and feelings expressed by your near and dear ones. As one’s phone memory gets full, one is expected to simply delete old messages.

My letter holder seems so dated but it is, oh, so very beloved! How I wish its pockets still bulged with handwritten letters from family and friends...

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