To Feel The Weight Of A Handwritten Letter!

While scrolling through my twitter feed, I came across a letter from eight-year-old Monti, asking the UK PM if Father Christmas will be able to deliver presents this year, given the Coronavirus situation. The PM had replied that having spoken with experts, he can assure that Father Christmas will be packing his sleigh and delivering presents this Christmas!

The image of a lovely letter handwritten by a child, brought into sharp focus the adorability and genuine anxiety, making the question look legit. I doubt if a typed and printed letter with its lack of personality and personal touch would have had the same effect.

It also made me think of the last time I had written or received a handwritten letter. When we do need to write one, we either do it via email or just type it on a computer and print it out. Even the occasion and seasonal greeting cards are sent via websites where you can upload your pictures and messages for them to be delivered to the intended person, without us ever touching it. The entire process lacks personal touch. Ironically, the only documents we actually touch are the formal official letters we have to sign on.

How have times changed! Gone are the days when letter writing used to be an art with some writing beautiful intricate ones while others struggled to express their thoughts coherently. Sometimes news was sent on hastily written postcards bearing all of two sentences, with no privacy and reached us after days if not weeks. The postman was an essential character in a social community, much sought after as the bearer of good or occasionally bad news. This culture was reflected in books and movies too.

Given our fast-paced life and the corresponding plethora of options available to us for prompt communication, from voice and video calls, emails to social media messaging, the idea of writing a letter by hand and sending it through snail mail seems like a waste of time.

However, for me there is something very personal, almost intimate, about a handwritten letter or card that I love. Especially now more than ever, when we are unable to physically meet our friends and family over long periods of time, a handwritten letter makes me feel more appreciated than a dozen social media messages or texts, however much I also love receiving the latter.

A handwritten letter represents the time and effort someone has devoted for you. They actually thought about what they want to say to you, mentally structured the flow into a socially approved format and took pains to sit down and write it by hand. They did not type it while doing three other things or added bits over a course of time till it was finally ready to be sent across. They also have to get it right the first time as there is not much leeway for correction, without making it look untidy of course, so it means dedicated time to mull it over too. It conveys the warmth of their affection and their appreciation to have taken the pain for us, when we hold it in our hands.

On a personal level, writing a letter makes us feel tranquil as we force our brain to calm down and focus on the one thing, the one person only. It not only brings us closer to them but also sometimes makes us nostalgic with memories. This in turn is reflected in the writing getting more meaningful and personal, sometimes filled with anecdotes. The process is a great way to relieve stress.

Taking time to add a personal note, even if short, also reinforces the importance of the person to us. Even in an official context, it demonstrates the personal time spent rather than mass produced, so the recipient will appreciate the effort and may result in greater happiness and loyalty.

While just enquiring, chatting or delivering news, we would still want to do it in person or use the current popular modes of communication where we can react to the situation; a letter is more deliberate and ruminative. It is not a substitute for regular communication. It is like a side conversation around things that may not be urgent but are important to us and our relationship, in the long run.

It is a good activity to keep the kids engaged and to make them practice their handwriting. They can write, draw and decorate cards to send to their friends and family, especially grandparents, who will appreciate it a lot more than a clichéd message or a forwarded WhatsApp content.

Handwriting is supposed to be unique and says a lot about one’s personality. However, in this digital age, people are losing touch with it due to lack of practice, resulting in incomprehensible scripts. It has also led to the slow death of the beautiful art of calligraphy as computer generated scripts work just fine, if and when required.

Spending some time in deliberately writing a letter by hand could be a much more meaningful way to reach out to your loved ones, particularly during this pandemic. It is a tangible piece which most people treasure and cherish as mementos, rather than lose among the huge volume of emails or clear out while cleaning the chat history. After all, displaying a handwritten card or letter in your display case or side table and maybe rereading or hugging it for comfort, is not the same as hugging your phone, is it?

It’s the end of November, with December bringing Christmas and New Year. It’s a wonderful time to pull out those rusty pens and write some sweet letters and cards to loved ones. It will ensure they receive it on time, most likely as a pleasant surprise. Maybe it will fill their lives with some much needed cheer and give them a substitute tangible piece to hold on to, in lieu of your physical self.

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