I just finished reading the latest book from Orhan Pamuk — Nights of Plague. The historical novel is the outcome of the research of one hundred and thirteen letters from Princess Pakize, the third daughter of the thirty-third ottoman sultan Murad V to her older sister Hatis Sultan between 1901 and 1903. According to the author, the charming and profoundly sensitive Princess Pakize possessed a narrative appetite, an awareness of detail and a descriptive flair. She could describe the events vividly and meticulously and had a distinctive perceptive approach to people, places, events and objects. Letter writing is an art and a science.
I have a letter from my great grandfather, who was living in a small agraharam(village) near KGF, to his friend in the neighbouring town inviting him to an event. A simple postcard written in blue ink consisting of ten lines provides a great insight into the socio-economic conditions in the 1940s.
My father wrote postcards. These were brief and to the point. While he had no shortage of words, he never provided descriptions of the events; probably, he had no time. He was curt, only one or two words with his classic power signature. His handwriting spoke of his voice.
Sri Aswatha Narayana Rao, my sister-in-law’s father, wrote a postcard daily to his daughter as long he was alive. My teacher from Pottipadu wrote to all his friends and relatives till the last day of his life. He wrote postcards with beautiful descriptions of the meetings of people he met, even in his dreams. There was no coherence in what he wrote, but he wrote.
In my school days, there was a question on letter writing in my English test paper to test my ability to write a formal letter. Letter writing was the only proper communication between two individuals in earlier days. I recall when all my family members waited for the postman’s arrival around noon and felt disappointed that there was no letter that day. I lived through the concept of pen friends, where we exchanged letters though we never met. I remember a letter to a friend describing my excursion to the famous historical city of Hampi. Some of my school friends got punished for writing love letters to my girl classmate. I remember my last letter to my classmate after I left my university. I neither wrote nor received any letters from my friends afterwards.
Love letters have been capturing the minds and hearts of civilization for centuries. Indian mythology is a rich source of love letters — Rukmini to Krishna, Shakunthala to Dushyanth, Nala and Damayanthi, to name a few. I regret that I never wrote any letter to my wife when she was alive.
Nehru’s letters to Indira in 1928 from Allahabad prison are a treasure of valuable lessons a father can teach. Famous letter writers include Virginia Woolf, PG Wodehouse, Saul Bellow, F Scott Fitzgerald, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru.
The form, medium, and content may have changed, but the purpose remains to communicate raw emotion. Letter writing has become a dying art. Formal letter writing has nearly become extinct. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are among the many social media sites contributing to the disappearance of letter writing. In the name of efficiency, letter writing has become “old fashioned” and has completely faded away. People want to avoid writing a letter when they can quickly contact someone through social media or even a text message. The need to have everything faster and more efficient is driving the change.
I request my readers to write at least one or two letters a year to their loved ones and also teach the letter-writing art to their children — please check out the resource — ‘Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society’ for details.

Happy Writing!


Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store