Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What happened to the postman?

A few days back, I was at my friend’s place watching an old Malayalam movie called ‘Midhunam’. In one scene, the hero who is trying to cope with grave problems concerning business and family is exasperated with his wife-cum-childhood-sweetheart who reminds him of his promises mentioned in old letters all of which she has saved.

My friend and I exchanged guilty glances. No, we were not thinking about any promises made to old sweethearts or anything embarrassing, and definitely not scandalous. No, we were not in the habit of going through those searching for nuggets from the past knowing that most of them were less than flattering. No, though those letters are not lost, we do not remember touching them in the last ten to twenty years. But yes, we still kept old letters.

I studied in an obscure college in an equally obscure village hidden in the innards of this country. It took two to three days to reach that place from my hometown. It took a letter a little more than that. We got access to telephone in the final year but it was not a viable option since a call was as expensive as a cassette of Doors or Jethro Tull.

I used to know how many sheets of paper I could stuff in an envelope without requiring extra stamps. Life was usually boring then but some transient selfish desire for attention with a modicum of affection and care managed to fill up those pages in that age before cynicism - with music in the background along with the rustling of paper and the scratching of an ink pen. Then, the agonizing wait and close scrutiny of the reply - reading between the lines and trying to decipher those words which were blackened or crossed; finding more meaning than there ever was in those letters. In the course of a semester or a few semesters, one could see the ebb and flow of each relationship in those letters. With some, the letter degenerated to a compilation of tweets written at various places and times, just fillers; some who erased or were erased without reply; and, there were those which were special and will remain so.

The postman used to come to the hostel around one o’clock. These days, the postman delivers tattered annual reports and pristine monthly bills. But, even though my inkpot is nearly empty, when the postman does not turn up I still ask “What happened to the postman?”

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