The purest form of communication

Letters: Teaching communication and amateur forensics (Source: Unsplash)

There’s a special place for those rare people who can put pen to paper and share their thoughts — just for another person. And an even more special place for those who respond. But what is it that makes letters so special? Is it in the words themselves? Or is it just the thought that counts?

For me, the beauty of letters lies in the curves, as one alphabet flows into the next and creates a word. The writing says more than the words — letters bunched up together in a hurry, little scratches where the pen ran out of ink.

Or did they take their time? Was each character carefully crafted for a perfect presentation?

The coffee stain in the corner says otherwise.

Was it water, or tears that caused the ink to blot? There’s no font for the unpracticed hand, formatting cannot hide the progressively broader spaces as one page runs into the next. Words cut out say more than the words retained.

The paper tells its own story — a letterhead, the grooves from where the page was ripped out of a notebook. Do they need lines to order their words, or do they have trains running to the opposite corner on printer sheets?

Hmm, what could I have done, or suffered to deserve this uncommon gift? Are they just old fashioned and enjoy providing mundane updates in the slowest way possible? Or is it a tiny hand telling me about their life? “Today, I pet a dog and made a new friend. How are you?”, my four-year old self once wrote to another nearly a thousand kilometers away. “I am fine”, she replied. “The weather is good in Delhi, but I hope you do not get wet in the rain”. Maybe texting was invented for the benefit of unfortunate parents playing postman for their enthusiastic offspring.

And then comes the actual message. Words of praise, thanks, forgiveness, acceptance, commitment, or regret. There’s no better way to say something important and be assured that the intent will be communicated. Thoughts and emotions flow the best when translated by hand. Preservation is yet another virtue— letters can’t be lost in the cloud, only misplaced due to force majeure events like being thrown away.

We may no longer live in the dark ages where the post was our only connection to the outside world. Food can be captured in pixels, it need not be described in painstaking detail. A couple of clicks and an emoji are enough to remind someone of your existence. In spite of these things, for me, letters will always be the purest form of communication.

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