I have a habit of checking the mailbox almost every day, a habit that my wife finds irritating. Perhaps that is motivation enough to continue doing it! But the habit actually stems from my childhood. Back then, going to the US was a big deal and any gift from the far off land meant it had to be valued and savoured. So, chocolates from abroad were not to be distributed to friends but were to be devoured alone and a souvenir was to be placed neatly in the showcase in drawing room. An uncle who used to frequent US got my father a rather uncommon gift from one of his trips abroad- a letter opener
I have very fond memory of my father handing it over to me. It was maroon in colour just like the colour of my school blazer and its interior had a shiny blade secured carefully by the maroon plastic body like a hilt meant to cover a sabre. “Presto Letter opener” was methodically inscribed in silver over the body. I would derive a pleasure from the shhrrr sound that it would produce as I ran it through a letter. Any letter arriving in the house had to be opened by me using my imported gadget and only then it could be read by the addressee.
I may be old fashioned but I still believe letter writing is an art and it exemplifies the romanticism of human communication sometimes even better than in person communication. The entire process is just so personal, from choosing the paper you want to write on to the ink that touches the paper and the envelop that secures the paper. Letters denote something tangible travelling distances to convey multitude of emotions – longing, happiness, joy and even sad news.
I have vivid memories of an occasional beautifully written letter (and one that lacked too many personal details perhaps) being handed down by father to be read aloud and then filed in a letter holder bag made of jute. The remaining he would stack with him somewhere, there were few which were torn right away or few days later which reflected their worthlessness more than anything else. I remember my mother reading letters from her mother or sister multiple times which I think she did in different tones mentally just to be reassured herself every time, that the letter actually conveyed their well-being.
I don’t receive any meaningful post now; the post that I receive is usually promotional flyers. Shuffling between this random promotional mail, credit card statements or flyer points, I almost always hope to find a truly personal mail without seeming propitious. The posts I receive now- I never bother to open them as immaculately as I opened the mail in my childhood. Infact recently presuming junk I grabbed the corner of a letter more than my entitlement and in the process, ripped through a bank cheque that lay inside. The cheque was still honoured by the bank thankfully. I was however reminded of this grizzled gadget of my boyhood. I thought I must get one, but the thought of running it through this pile of mullock just doesn’t seem encouraging. It’s meant to be run through letters pregnant with emotion as if you surgically incise through them to release the liveliness inside. But I guess to receive one I need to write one. One day hopefully the earnestness to get one in mailbox will triumph the inertia and indolence to write one and that day without waiting for a reply I will go ahead and purchase this long lost pal of mine -letter opener. (the awesome part is they are being sold on-line!)