Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The world in 4 x 6

The excitement is unbearable. As I step into the house I look forward to one little desktop where my mail is kept. And yes, it’s there! Yet another picture postcard. Expected. Yet unexpected. The suspense is thrilling. The reveal equally exhilarating. I am now an official postcrossing addict.
I stumbled upon the postcrossing concept through a message and a link on Twitter. Life has not been the same again.
While a colleague and I checked what it was, it took about 10 minutes for us to get hooked. 10 minutes and I am hooked for life.
So what IS postcrossing?
Let the site help me with this. And I quote:
The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free! The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you will receive at least one back from a random Postcrosser from somewhere in the world.
Why? Why would you want to do this?
To me it’s very simple. Emails are fun. Quick. In a snap. But receiving physical mail (other than credit card bills and pathetic bank statements) has a joy all its own.
It takes me back to lazy summer vacations of my childhood.
After a brief holiday which usually included a visit to my maternal grandfather, I’d be back home getting into my mother’s hair. Having finished reading all the books that I had managed to garner as gifts during my holiday my mother had no option but to tell me to re-read them. Finally she’d give up and say if I had finished reading, the next best thing to do in the afternoon was to write.
So write I did. To my maternal grandfather in Ahmedabad. My mother was indeed clever. This one letter kept me occupied for several days and she had to think of less entertaining things to do. First it meant I was occupied writing it. Then she would suggest I draw a little thing specially for my grandfather. Then I would move on to the envelope and decorate it.
A lot of work got done because the next thing to do was to go to the post office to post it. That took up a whole morning (and I can almost hear my mother heaving a sigh of relief because it meant I was gainfully employed all morning) and she could finish several other errands on the way to the post office without me complaining.
After untidily pasting the stamps on the envelope with sticky white post office glue, I’d already start waiting for my grandfather’s reply.
Impatiently I would look at the postman as he came twice a day and ask him if he had a letter for me. He’d smile indulgently but shake his head in a no. Disappointed I’d pace around the hall much to the amusement of my grandmother. (Remember the Carpenters’ song, Please Mr. Postman?)
And then finally then it would arrive. A small envelope, barely 3 by 7 inches, a dull brown 20 paisa stamp, tiny ruled A5 size note pad plain letter paper and it meant the world to me. A letter from my grandfather!
The envelope itself would be breathtaking. He always painted on the envelope. It was either a beautiful landscape or a sunset scene. Painted in glorious watercolours, I’d treasure the envelope as much as the letter. I’d jump around with joy then retreat to a corner to finally open and read a letter that my grandfather wrote only to me. The letter would be about two pages long but even the letter had a watercolour painted at the bottom in strokes that (I’d realise later of course) only a fine artist could have painted. The letter contained words of wisdom and little bits of humour. But the letters meant a whole different world to me. They brought with them a sense of importance - they were addressed to me and me alone – not even a note for my mother. For a person who was a freedom fighter, who gave up salt and sugar during the two wars and who wore only khadi, not to utilise the envelope for a dual purpose must have been a very heroic thing to do. But then he was my hero! Secondly the letters came painted, in colours, in words, in emotion. They brought with them unconditional love and the belief that as a unique individual that I was, I deserved that letter and it was only for me. The letter reinforced my belief in myself as an individual and my belief in me.
As I grew into a teenager, moved cities, I continued writing letters, to friends, even classmates when I was ill and recuperating at home, to my aunts and uncles, cousins, girlfriends and yes, boyfriends. Till life took over and the only writing you did was work related and you did not have time. And then the internet came in and one marvelled at these in-a-snap kind of mails, bulletin boards and the instant emails and now of course, it’s the age of the Instant Messenger and Skype.
And yet, something in you yearns for something small and colourful in your hand that tells you that someone took time out for you, someone made a trip to the post office and someone brought it to your doorstep, to tell you, Hey, you are still an individual and here is the physical proof.
Each post crossing card that I get evokes in me that joy, that sense of wonder. I ‘m just beginning, am 9 post cards old – but suddenly Finland and Estonia are part of my world, Germany and the US are part of every day and I already have a post crossing pen pal in Texas! Like millions of others in the world, I’m addicted.
Welcome to www.postcrossing.com

5 comments:

leenata said...

lovely painting and a very good thought behind the concept. your daughter sure has grown up, vaishakhi. what is she doing, as in studying?

Vinay said...

"But receiving physical mail (other than credit card bills and pathetic bank statements) has a joy all its own."

Absolutely right! I haven't felt this kind of absolute joy in a long time.

- Your fellow postcrossing colleague

Ypsilon said...
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Ypsilon said...
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Ypsilon said...

Yes Vinay. But it's sad that most people don't understand this joy that we are feeling... I am already waiting for my next batch of postcards :-)