LOSING FINGERPRINTS

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I was probably a third grader, when my first letter arrived in the mail. It was a point in time when I was learning the enchantment of words and the stringing of them together into sentences. The fact that an envelope bore my name was a big deal to me and the idea of someone writing to me was beyond magical. That was the first of a series of letters that soon became my prime hope of knowing a father who was physically absent from my young life. Dad had left for foreign shores when I was barely three. The only connection that we could now have, apart from his annual visits, was through the monthly letters that he wrote mum and me. The letters were always beautifully scripted in Dad’s bold, cursive hand and ran into multiple pages. He had been a published writer and at one point, had written some very imaginative and funny stories in his native language. His creativity was now unleashed in the letters he wrote. There was a charm to those sultry afternoons, the dreariness of which could only be made luminescent by the simple arrival of a letter.

A couple of years later, leafing through a magazine in the library, I came across the concept of ‘pen friends’. It was a fascinating thought and I lost no time signing up to the ‘Pen Friend’s Club.’ We passionately wrote to each other across countries and continents, sharing our humdrum life which the other found suitably exotic. To our innocent minds, it was a delightful experience, as thrilling as physically discovering a new city.

 It might seem strange that in an age of speedy digital communication, I’m longing for an era gone by. The virtual world is great; it’s like a manifestation of Neverland and there’s no end to how far one can go here. But like everything else, we need to rein ourselves in and know where to draw the line. We’ve initiated new and rekindled old relationships by the dozen. But how many of them have any depth? And where is the honesty in our altered, pseudo lives? While getting in touch with a lot of people, we seem to be drifting away from our own selves. By endlessly typing out thoughts and feelings, we are gradually losing our fingerprints. The deluge of information is so much, we have no time to sift through it.

Emily Dickinson wrote: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church, I keep it staying at Home.” It’s worth contemplating on how we can expand the meaning of Sabbath beyond just the religious connotations. As they say in Kyoto, “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” Pico Iyer writes in his book ‘The Art of Stillness’: “The very people (..), who have worked to speed up the world are the same ones most sensitive to the virtue of slowing down.” He goes on to describe his visit to the Google headquarters where he found “the workers at the time enjoying a fifth of their working hours free, letting their minds wander off leash to where inspiration might be hiding.”

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So while I stay attuned to the times, I’d like to sporadically veer off towards old-fashioned ways. The white noise of thoughtless forwards, countless jokes and pointless chats is jarring to the soul and I long for hushed voices and meaningful conversations over steaming cups of coffee in real cafes. It would be nice to look into people’s eyes and hear their laugh instead of deciphering emoticons. It would be refreshing to hear people say words that they really, truly mean. Why can’t we give and receive real flowers instead of virtual ones and occasionally go through the trouble of mailing a handwritten letter? At the risk of sounding passé, I crave the allure of things gone by.

Three days ago, it was M’s birthday. The last time I saw her face was four a half years ago. It’s strange how a person fills up your life and then suddenly vanishes without warning. What do you do with a love that can never be replaced? I remember our last meal together in the Indian restaurant right below her building. When I told her that we were moving back to India, she had recoiled as if something had hit her. Saying a tearful goodbye, we had promised to write to each other, but sadly never did. Five years later, she was flown home and I was feeding her little morsels of bland rice in a dismal hospital room. The next day, she was gone. The memory of her doesn’t leave me. If only I had those letters we never wrote to each other.

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As I lay half-awake in the shadows of dawn this morning, memories came to me like snippets of a strange dream. Later I found myself on a park bench, pen poised over a notepad, starting a letter that I had promised a friend two months ago. I refuse to live with another broken promise. As if on cue, the pigeons settled around me like a clique. Sunshine filtered through the leaves. I recalled that the Japanese have a term for it: ‘Komorebi’, this interplay of light and leaves on the ground. It is the light curtain which is more visible after the rain. There’s a science behind it, but I couldn’t be bothered right then. Just that it seemed beautifully premeditated and made for an aesthetically perfect setting.

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13 thoughts on “LOSING FINGERPRINTS

  1. Haa yaar kindergaerten sahi boli👌 we forgot the passion of writing the letters by embracing the virtual world. It was really a sad moment. Felt very sad that u nd ur frnd couldnt exchange that Letter. Beautifully written as usual nd thnks for reminding me☝

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  2. As ever, its a wonder, to see your writings, stories, et-all.

    But the one thing that stood out is that ‘Pen-friends’. That was a child-hood hope, to have a distant friend, yes, write about and hear about. Write and read anything under the Sun, without any inhibitions.

    The para is Well written. It would be great to meet and greet in person, especially with those pen-friends.

    ‘M’oved by those inspirations.

    Great Article as always. Inspiring as ever. Evergreen Inspirations.

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  3. Hey it’s so true we are lost in our world soo much that we have actually forgotten to write
    We r just typing two lines and are thinking what to write next
    Gone r the days of writing letters to our dearies
    Sharing our thoughts,fears,joys
    Pen friends ,this is used to always fascinate me but never got down to having one
    I believe whether u write or don’t what’s important is keep in touch
    By any means be connected
    Ren thanks yaar for always reminding us of things we ve forgotten
    Ur writings actually makes me sit down and think
    😘😘😘😘😘
    Keep inspiring and motivating

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  4. Nostalgic….Really enjoyed reading ….your notes ran me through a roller coaster flashes of bitter sweet childhood memories. ..feels good.
    You are a gifted story teller….March on my friend!!!

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  5. The thought of writing to someone can never be replaced with mails and the networking we have. Although I’m someone who is very much a part of the current techno savvy generation, I was would be delighted to experience something magical like that today. Well written as always! Precise and yet to the point. 🙂

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