FLOATING IN ENDLESS NOSTALGIA
Sumaiya Ahsan Bushra
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
With the age of technology and highly consumerist lifestyles, there is barely any time left to express our private, humanistic emotions. With emails, and text messages conquering our world, letter writing can seem hopelessly outdated. But it's an art worth reviving and not because of some 'misplaced' sense of nostalgia. The writing and
reception of letters have always provided a sense of the deepest form of feeling which technology cannot offer. Be it a love letter or a letter sent from a grandfather to his most beloved grandson (living in a distant land), letter writing, no matter how obsolete, will always serve as an evidence of lost human values.
On the contrary, social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook are limited to 'what's on your mind' only. These portals are effective for broadcasting where you are vacationing or for dealing with petty issues like relationship squabbles. Emails are an excellent choice for quick exchanges on most pertinent pieces of information in one's life. But, when it comes to sharing sincere sympathies, ardent love, and profound gratitude, words travelling along an invisible superhighway will never suffice.
Technology has replaced the art of letter writing.
Back in the days, letter writing was not just considered an art but it was a means of making friends from other countries in the form of pen-pals and also for rekindling with old flames. Apart from this, parents and siblings could stay in touch with their newly wed daughter or sister who lived abroad. Capturing such tranquil moments of love or joy was best done through words of a letter. For a widowed mother, the only way she could let her son know about her where-about was through letters which she would write for days, treating it as a piece of journal.
Modern day denizen, Ershad Kamal a student of BBA, East West University, states “I remember my aunt who was quite a beauty back in the day. She had a pen-pal in Germany who wanted to marry her at some point in their friendship. The letters they exchanged are delightful reads. Her friend wrote to her in German sometimes, and they would teach each other their languages. Volker, the friend, used a typewriter to draw soldiers and owls with symbols. This is very similar to the emoticons we have today.”
Yusha Alam, another young student now reflects on his boarding school days in Assam Rifles Public School in India, “Those emotions are lost. Our feelings have become very condensed. Nowadays, we don't even write the full form of anything. Instead of wishing someone happy birthday or saying I love you, we simply say it in the shortest way possible, mostly, as 'luv u' or 'HBD'. Our thoughts and actions are alike-both are narrow and boxed in.”
Despite being contemporary, the lost art of writing remains like a cherished treasure for most of us. A simple flashback imagination of a young man's finger holding a pen, saliva sealing the envelope and then something tangible from an individual's world travelling through hands, and deposits itself in another's mailbox. The paper that once sat on your desk with the ambience of burning candles is now sitting on another's. The very delicate feeling creates a nostalgic and tingling sensation in an individual which modernity cannot offer.
To the idea of such intense love, Alam explains, “Back in the day when I was in school, away from my family I used to write letters to my sister and they were no less than 3-5 pages long. The exchange of letters almost seemed as if my sister and I were talking to each other. I remember writing every minute detail of my life. However, it is very different now. Emails and other forms are fast but they lack the weight of real sense passion.”
With rapid industrialisation and other form of modern mechanics taking over the world, such emotions have no room for growth. Letter writing was initially replaced by emailing and then text messaging, and now thanks to, high speed internet connections that software like Skype and messenger can instantly link people from one part of the world to another. Common amongst our generation, particularly for those who live outside Bangladesh, they often opt for this easy option to stay in touch with friends and family. Grandparents, now-a-days, have also learned the trick even if it doesn't sit well with their old-school values.
The age of love letter writing has died and decayed as well. For lovers, taking the pains to write a letter almost seems like an ordeal. Sending messages plagiarised from the internet is the hit thing now. At times, feminists and star crossed lovers wrote the letters backwards (a trend that generated in the earlier part of the nineteenth century).
Stamps were often collected by those who wrote letters frequently.
Surprisingly, even in today's context, some of the younger generation happen to follow the same method which, much inspired by brain teasers and novels! Hridi Haider, a young girl who lives in Malaysia and studies at Monash University says, “My parents are conservative and most of my family members are on Facebook. Also my elder brothers have my password. So, I write in codes to my boyfriend and some of my male friends who live in Australia. This way, I can remain discreet and this causes less suspicion. I got this idea from my favourite author Dan Brown's novels.”
Additionally, earlier, young people expressed their delight and love for the recipients through the use of coloured pens or papers. Now, emoticons are used with a 'yellow headed face' winking, smiling, or resembling other actual facial expressions.
Sifat Faria Trisha, a student from the Department of English, North South University says, “Posting letters is a hassle in itself and quite honestly no one really has that much time at their disposal to wait for a reply that will take a minimum of two days. Technological support has made life much more convenient for us. On the contrary, what we had in the past is something completely unique. Those feelings were different because one took the effort of picking out special kinds of papers and colours to write to their loved ones. A confidential exchange between friends would often bear headings stating 'private' and this would be written with red ink. People would care to invest their effort. Now, we use emoticons regardless of how we feel.”