Remember the time I wrote 30 letters in 30 days? Well I did it again. This time it was triggered by a random postcard I received from Joy – who is the only person I think I know who doesn’t need a challenge or a 30-day activity to send me postcards.
He religiously sends me postcards from here and there and the last 1.5 years of him bumming around Europe has meant I’ve gathered some pretty cool postcards from countries I may or may not ever visit myself. I didn’t imagine I’d ever receive postcards from Estonia, for example. And the one in the picture, from Poland. If he keeps this up I’m hoping to receive a postcard from every EU nation before his course is done. So, inspired by him, I kick-started the 30-day letter-writing challenge for the year.
I was a bit more organised this time. I made out a list of 30 people I was going to write to, in advance. And I braced myself with enough stationary and supplies before I began. I completed the challenge in two weekends of binge-letter-writing, which isn’t staying 100% true to the 30-day aspect of it, but hey, I sent out 30 letters and that’s what counts, right?
This first lot of 17 letters – Mario Miranda cards to everyone – included 3 doodles, and were posted out to 8 cities, in 6 countries. The best part this year was including 4 letters to people I’ve never met. 2 of them were locally hand-delivered too.
The truth is, writing letters is a mighty selfish activity because I realised I was so eager to hear back from everyone I wrote to! And that moment when I received a message or an email or a picture back, for every card delivered made me so incredibly happy. What goes around comes around, I guess. And it was wonderful to see the postcards I sent reach far flung places, across the globe.
My faith in the Indian Postal Service however is a bit shaken. Amusing that it took a little over two weeks for cards to go as far as Paris and Singapore, and about as much time to go to Maharashtra. But letters to Whitefield/Mysore Road/Kumara Park in Bangalore took forever.
Also, Whitefield is a blackhole. Almost nothing ever reached people there. Here’s why.
This happened, and Go, Singapore Post! Because R received hers in Madras in under a week. And while others took slightly longer, every card except the Whitefield ones were received. WTF, Whitefield?
But this love letter anecdote is not without its amazing stories. When Mommygolightly visited in November, we hung out over way too many beers, “desi-ishtyle” pasta and lots of talk about writing. Right before she left she asked me to pick a postcard from a book of postcards she picked at the trademark Goan 50-rupee-book-sale. Sitting right at my desk at home, she scribbled a note and decided she was going to post it back to me from the station right before she left Goa. But she reached the station, only to discover there was no post box in sight. However, a kind Goan came to the rescue and offered to take the postcard (mine, and another addressed to the other Re – her own!) and post it on her behalf. She handed them over, putting her faith in a good samaritan, and we both crossed our fingers in hope that the postcards would make it.
A week later, they did. Re received his in Bombay and I received mine at home, right where it started from. Full circle, and then some.
By far the most amazing story, though, is of the postcard that went all the way around the globe. Literally. Before finally reaching Tasmania (to P, who originally inspired my first letter-writing binge). Her letter, directed to Kingston-TAS, got missent to Jamaica! Possibly because they have a Kingston too. But somehow, two months after it was first sent, it made it to that tiny island off the coast of Australia, with a stamp that said “Missent To Jamaica.” I’d like to think it took the long-route from Jamaica to Tasmania, over the Pacific Ocean.
The good part of this year’s letter-writing binge was that more people wrote back. (I’m greedy for letters, I told ya!) This year, I wrote more letters to people I haven’t met than I did last year. And this one has to be one of the nicest letters with one of the nicestestest stories in them.
When I write to people, the contents of the letter is mostly specific to the person I am writing it for. But what do you say when you’re writing to someone you’ve never met? M decided to share with me an anecdote from her travels, that had stayed in her mind and asked me to share a memory with her. I responded, but again my letter never reached her. It could have sparked a very interesting exchange, if only India Post could be a little more dependable! I loved, loved, loved this letter and saved it extra preciously. I’m a sucker for hand-crafted goodies. The hand-painted elephant is adorable, the envelope embellished with sparkly things was lovely too. Thank you for this, M. I wish there were a way to get my letters to reach you!
Easily the nicest part of doing this has been that the challenge stopped being a challenge. I started writing letter more spontaneously, across the year. With some folks, I exchanged a series. With others I sent random, surprise postcards for no reason. But the amount of love letters I got back was overwhelming.
One day in December, two bright spots arrived in the form of pleasant surprises, that perked up the otherwise largely shitty morning. A gigantic box of Christmas sugar-rush-inducing goodies from a client who I was totally not expecting anything from. And yet another postcard from Joy. Sent 2.5 months ago, from an airport. Laced with his trademark zany humor and wry observations about everything and nothing.
I’m grateful for timely reminders that love(letters) often reaches me in ways I’m least anticipating, and at times I am least expecting it.
That day was easily one of the lowest points I had had all year. A month (or more) of contemplation and erratic emotions had snowballed into an unstoppable emotional downslide, and the floodgates burst. I was forced to realise yet again that allowing things/people/situations become a priority in your life doesn’t mean that those things/people/situations are obliged to reciprocate. Painfully, I told myself that people owe me nothing at all.
I’ve learned that sending love into the future, no strings attached is much harder than I am willing to admit. And yet it is moments like these that brighten up even the dullest days. For a year of incessant love, friendship and camaraderie from unexpected quarters – I am thankful. Especially for the subtle, but significant lessons that have come along with it.