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     Volume 5 Issue 109 | August 25, 2006|

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View from the Bottom

Letters in Blue Envelope vs Email

Shahnoor Wahid

Since time immemorial men and women have been writing letters to one another. They wrote on stone, on clay tablets, on papyrus reeds, on goatskin, on leaves, on coarse paper, on white paper and on blue and pink paper. They used sharp tools to write, they used dye to write and then they used ink to write those letters. The love-tormented damsel of Bengal in the ballad or novel even wrote “Angulo katiya, kolomo banaiya.....” (Her finger is the pen, her blood is the ink) to her beloved who lived in a faraway land. These opening lines... “Joto likhey jaee tobuna phurai, chithito hoina shesh, sritir binai ajo bajey hai prothomo ganero resh / tumi aaj koto durey...” are from the immortal song “Chithi” sung by late Jaganmoi Mitra, perhaps in the forties.

Who can forget the pristine excitement of waiting for that special letter that came in the conspicuous blue and scented envelope? Anyone expecting one such letter always missed a heartbeat at the sight of the postman in the locality. But the heart missed a good number of beats if the postman passed by the house without knocking. But the day he came by, knocked and delivered that envelope became your day. The next thing after opening the envelope with trembling hands that sent thrills throughout the body was the handwriting. It used to be nothing but enchanting calligraphy intricately designed to speak volumes about the sense of aesthetics of the writer. Then came the language, the words, the quotes, the lines of poems, and the romantic outpouring mixed with a touch of melancholy at times....tumi aaj koto durey.. One such letter was enough to keep a love-torn soul in mystical pain distress for one whole month. The torrent of emotion subsided only when the time for the next letter came closer. Ah! The pangs of waiting!

But alas! All good things come to an end at one point. It is sad indeed that the art of letter writing has come to an end too. This is the era of writing romantic letters in a machine. It is sent by a machine. It is received by a machine. It is read in a machine and it is replied through a machine. This is the era of electronic mails or emails in short. You write it now, send it now, and you will get the reply within ten minutes. Like fast food and instant coffee, letters are also fast and instant.

They say email letters travel through the sky. I wonder, in that case, how could our late poet Rudra Mohammad Shahidullah write twenty years back..."Akasher Thikanay Chithi Likho...?” Uncanny, isn't it? This was one heck of a romantic poet.

Now what about the language of today's letter, email rather? Goodness me! I trembled for a full five minutes after reading one such mail that my younger brother received from his 'fiance' the other day. It was on his computer screen. It went something like this. “Jaantu, I have something jhakas to show you. Tell that shala Babu not to bother me anymore. He is a pain in the ass. And if you talk to that bitch in my class again then kosom khoder tui laththi khabi. I promise you. Tell Babu ore khobor achey.....

So you see, beautiful romantic letters with soul-touching metaphors have been replaced with rampant tui-tokari and loud profanities.

Just think for a while. Romantic letters of great writers, poets, performers and statesmen of the past are now being put up for auction! And rich people are paying awesome amounts to have those in their possession! But what about emails? Will the machine-written, machine-sent and machine-printed copies of emails of today be put up for auction 100 years from today? Oh, no! Don't tell me that!
Here is one on email for the road:

A man checked into a hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an e-mail to his wife. However, he accidentally typed the wrong e-mail address, and without realising his error, he sent the e-mail.

Meanwhile.....somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. The widow decided to check her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends.

After reading the message, she fainted. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

“ To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've reached

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now, and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones.

I've just reached and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey will be as uneventful as mine was.”

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