Consider this a “Wanted” advertisement. Here is the story of how I came to placing this advertisement.
This Sunday, in my old documents and papers, all of which I carry with me – no matter where I live – I found a blank inland letter and curiously there was a stamp pasted on it [because inland letters don’t require stamp]. The stamp has a picture depicting “Hemant Ritu” – one of the six seasons as per Indian classification of seasons. It falls after autumn and before winters. I checked the online catalogue of stamps released by India Post, and after one hour of searching and checking, I found that this stamp was released in 1996. So, the blank letter has to be about 18-19 years old. It was torn but still maintained its integrity. I found it among a few old photographs and wondered why that letter was blank, unsent, unreceived. I knew for sure that that letter, if it were ever thought of to be sent, it was intended to be sent to my grandmother.
My grandmother has had such a profound impression on my life that whenever I recall her memories, I am pulled into a different space-time continuum. This time when her memories came rushing to me, I was reminded of letters I used to write to her and the ones she used to write to me. My sister was my first penpal and my grandmother was my second and my lifelong penpal or at least until we got our first telephone connection in late 1999-2000. I was very close to her and would eagerly, desperately and almost -pathetically wait for my summer and winter vacations to visit her and my cousins. More than the cousins, it was the lure of her food, her love and her hospitality that kept on bringing me back to my family’s town, among my cousins, well into my adulthood [mid 20s] until she left this world for a better one. After that, I have visited that town only once.
Now about this “inland letter” – Indian postal service, called as India Post, has a facility of “Inland Letters” – a bluish foldable letter paper, having three flaps, one on the left side, another on the right side and another one on the top side. No stamps are required. One would write their message on it, fold it, paste the flaps, put the address, put it in a letterbox nearby, and they were as good as sending a private email. These letter papers were good only for sending your letters within India, and they were delivered via airmail. There was no need for them to be put into an envelope. I wondered whether they still existed and found out that they still do.
Many a letters were written in those days. To a number of close relatives and friends. To my grandmother, all letters that I wrote were in Hindi/Punjabi. She would write back in Hindi/Punjabi as well. The time taken for a letter to travel was really subjective. Subjected to whims of weather, India Post, post office and postman. The last letter I wrote to a friend went unreplied. It was years ago. The last time I wrote a letter [I actually typed it and printed it] was earlier this year. It was a confession of love to a now lost love.
Now – to the present. This is an advertisement seeking a penpal. Now, I might ask someone I know to be my penpal but then I run the risk of being called crazy, perhaps little demented, or may be – outright silly. Even if I am not called any of these, I don’t want to really associate in this endeavour with the current set of people I know. They all lack commitment, passion and eagerness in any endeavour meant to be done for heart, by heart and belongs solely to the domain of heart.
This advertisement is for perpetuity -until I find one penpal- male or female or transgender – of any age above 21 – hair or no hair, ill or healthy, happy or depressed, ambitious or carefree-and one with a good supply of paper, pen and skill of at least almost-legible handwriting [or we can decide on typing/printing them]. However, I feel if we are to do it, let’s do it right way – by writing. Proximity to the post office will be an added advantage. The person must share the passion for sharing, writing, and the thrill of communicating only via letter. Countries no bar. Religion no bar. Sexuality no bar. Race no bar. Gender no bar. Language is a bar – I will prefer to communicate in English.