It’s the Letters that Make Us Who We Are

If you know me, you know that I love to write. I probably don’t write as much as I should for a “writer” but then this is not the post where we argue about what I do for a living. Instead, it’s this journey that began as a writer then proceeded to a letter writer that has actually brought me here.

This is also not a shameless promotion of the wildly crazy bunch at Letter Earthlings founded by Nivendra. Instead, it’s an honest confession of what letter writing has done to me and how it has contributed towards making me who I am today.

I began writing letters as a little girl. Of course this was after the time that I was taught to read and write. I was no child prodigy but an ordinary-IQ child. The letters (if that’s what the scribbles of airmail could be called) first went back and forth between my grandfather, uncles and myself. If I recall correct the practice came to me through my grandmother and then to my older sister and me. IDD (or international direct dialling) was ridiculously expensive in the late 90s and often times we would wait until the dead of the night on a Friday specifically for a two-minute (or similar time longer) phone call from my uncle.

I would like to think that relationships were sacred then. As a firm believer and lover of technology it does sound hypocritical now that I think of it but those two-minute once or once in two week phone calls were God-sent. There was no ease of dialling calls from your mobile. We made an effort to remember a phone number. This is probably why the only phone number I remember besides my own is my mother’s!

Then as I grew a little older, I would like to say ten? My then best friend from school, Saashya and I would write each other during school holidays! It was somewhere about three years after when we were into our cool teenage years did we once go through all the mail that was sent back and forth and boy oh boy! 🙂

In my teenage years I would holiday in Nuwara Eliya for a good long while and then my sister and I would write to our grandmother in Colombo. I was older then and would like to think in retrospect on how sentence construction having come easier.

(c) Letter Earthlings

It was about a year or two later that my sister moved to Dubai for work. I then began writing to her whenever I could and even got utterly creative (in my mind of course) and wrote to her in a gigantic kottu-roti wrapping paper with a permanent marker!

We kept writing back and forth – she was more of a card-person and I a letter-person – up until I went to University in 2010. The letters to her still continued but then I also started writing to my mother, grandmother, best friend back home and others perhaps who may have been romantically inclined. I also began getting creative with my packages and the letters always contained a little more.

Because suddenly, the letters were no longer adequate, I had to add something more. This could range from a fridge magnet (with of course the padded envelopes then) or to even confetti. I still do the confetti because even as annoying as it is to clean up afterwards, the sheer joy of having little pieces of shiny paper fall on as you unfold the letter is everything magical.

I got back to base after university, lost, probably under the not of best influence and careers I had not really thought through. I kept going nearly about a year and a half after graduation and then by chance I was to write an article on Letter Earthlings for Roar.lk and started chatting with the page admin. Ironic as it may seem, it was a senior from university (we didn’t have a lot of Sri Lankans on campus) and he asked me to be a part of the gatherings.

See what letter writing has done to me since February 2015 is not just a monthly gathering of wonderful people and colourful stationery. As corny as it may sound, it has coloured my life. I have always been the sort that has had the inability to express myself in speech. Instead, I always chose to write. Usually an essay because my poetry can be abstract-in-the-not-so-modernist-way AF. This is when I began turning to letters. They started appearing on my blog. My cards to people began turning into letters. And even in the absence of birthday cards, I wrote a letter. Because to me, a letter is a gift. And a gift is more often than not, personal.

Being the optimist I am, I believe that everyone can write letters, just as everyone can dance. We are not looking for accuracy of language because no one is going to grade you on your skills or supposed language demands. Instead in letters we look for authenticity and the feeling of belonging when you take the effort and sit down to pen your thoughts, to me.

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