Thursday, May 31, 2007


When was the last time you had a conversation with someone without thinking about tomorrow? When was the last time you poured in the exact words that you always wanted to say & didn’t have to worry about your hair-day while doing so? When was the last time you felt you were on the same emotional & intellectual level with the person you were talking to? Well in my case, it was more than a couple of years ago, when I had a real life pen pal.

Its a very interesting time when you have someone to write to, when you know that there is some person in this world, who you know would spare some time to read through the drivel you just sent her. Its a wonderful feeling that makes you write, makes you spill some coffee on your keyboard since it was 2 AM the last time you checked the watch & needed a good dose of some legally permitted intoxicants to flow freely into the night.

I am not a coffee fan, really, there was a time I used to hate that bitter taste of coffee. But ever since I had a pen pal, I allowed caffeine into my bloodstream. It works wonders at 2 in the night when all you can think of is to read that mail & to reply. There was no romance involved, might be some flirting here and there. But there was this sense of RAW conversation, which you can only have when you have dumped off all your day’s worth of load & emotional baggage. Its almost like Tyler saying, “Its not until we lose everything, we are free to do anything”.

Watching the movie ‘You’ve got mail’, for the nth time now, made me remember those glory days of email chats, waiting for the mails, replying to them, sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas, jokes, trivia, gossip, pet peeves, etc. I remember hearing as a passing reference in the movie, about George Bernard Shaw, who used to write letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell. I believe this dude had written some 250,000 letters in his life time, personally & professionally to his friends, relatives & to whomever. In today’s terms it would easily translate into a couple of Giga bytes of correspondence.

We cannot compare our mail chats to Shaw’s flawlessly executed mails, but we can certainly relate to him when it comes sharing that feeling of writing a mail to someone, just to say Hi, & in my case just to remind that I still “am”. I had a blast, those days were fun, now we do write to each other sometimes, but its not as frequent as it used to be. Now its back to business, submissions, assignments, & in my case, mostly lethargy that keeps me from writing on a regular basis. There can be only one thing for which I can blame the internet, for ruining the essence of communication, it is ‘Instant Messenger Programs’. I wonder what happened to those long monologues people used to send in a mail & then expect a similar reply. It was fun, IM is also fun, but its almost like talking to the screen now.

A pen pal solves many social issues, you don’t have to worry about your pal judging you if you say something, since you can easily refute it later or say that you meant something else. This can be done elegantly, without facial expressions to worry about. You can drop in a line at anytime of the day whenever you feel like rattling your keyboard. You can talk tonnes of junk & not worry about it since the conversation being virtual, can easily be pointless. I have noticed this with regular face to face conversation, if we start talking crap, people lose interest. If we type the same thing & phrase it properly, it becomes cheap humour. Not that written humour is cheap, but everything is passable when it comes to typing your guts out. You don’t need to worry about someone eavesdropping on the conversation unless you are stupid enough to write your email password on a post it note & post it on the monitor.

Apart from these usual perks, there is one flaw in this whole pen / email pal concept. It can kill a lot of time, its very bad during the exams, especially when both you & your pal’s exams don’t clash. You have to be glued to the screen. You need to take time off to write. That can be a little taxing.

Another movie well executed movie about pen pals is the lake house. Apart from the movie’s ending, everything in it has been flawlessly executed except for the fact that the two pen pals don’t share the same time. The experience can be exciting, writing to someone two years in the future.

Mostly if we revisit history, we will find almost all famous people have had written letters to their dear ones or to their friends occasionally to talk, discuss, ponder over a concept, share experiences, share opinions & so on. Notably letters from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Nehru to Indira, Mozart to his friends, Darwin to his friends, rivals in scientific inquiry working on opposite concepts or even racing to discover a concept, there are endless examples of how people used to communicate with each other thru letters. Its amazing to read some of their memoirs in present time, especially some of them which are timeless pieces like Nehru’s letters, Van Gogh’s letters, etc.

The sheer fact that you need to communicate with someone is the essence of being a human. If there was no human form of communication, I suppose we would still be hunters & gatherers & you would be reading this on some cave wall in some form of obscure pictorial dialect.

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