Around the time that Re started to write, he also discovered the joys of letters, postboxes, stamps and envelopes. And the fact that he could gift-wrap himself and get delivered to a friend or family far far away. And that he could receive bits of them too.
When we moved to Sahyadri school two years ago, I didn’t realize we had signed up for fleeting Internet and zero courier access. The landline and letters became our only window to the world and we discovered the joy of dialing numbers and talking to people on the other side. We also wrote many letters and sent paperplanes, lanterns and butterflies to people and got some paperlove in return. Sometimes we also received flaky puff pastries from a friend who is a coastal guard in Porbandar and who, despite being young, believes that there is no joy like receiving a letter by post. My mother, who is an advocate of all things old and gold, wrote to us too, as did my friends (they were amused at the turn of events, but they obliged). Things bought at the local village fair began to find their way to Bangalore, Goa, Bombay, Ahmedabad, even Los Angeles. My world (and heart) opened up a lot more since the arrival of the Internet.
The cycle continued despite returning to Bombay a year later. Letters were now fairies that had to be set free. Re and I kept writing to our friends and we always made new ones, and the chain continued. We had reclaimed the lost art of letter writing.
At a panel discussion on parenting and pop culture this weekend at the Pune Lit fest, as we discussed the ill effects of technology and how it had diluted the minds of our children, I couldn’t help but thinking about how the last year was actually a dilution of technology for Re and me and a process that actually brought us closer to each other and the people we love and want to love.
When I told a friend I wanted to visit the agriculture college nearby to buy stationery (years ago, I bought some really nice handmade paper and envelopes there and still hoard a few), she wondered why. It’s then that I realized that Re had actually brought back a little bit of my childhood. His wanting to write letters, doodle and send them to his friends had made me want to do the same. He was reminding me of the person I was, and for that, I am grateful.
This year, I find myself using technology to rekindle the same love, through voice notes. Re now sends his voice in pockets to his friends and they send him voice goodies back. It is the most heartening thing to listen to a voice on a thing you thought could only take you away from people as you go swipe after swipe, into a world far far away. I was finally using technology to keep it real. It was a great feeling!
(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 7th September 2015)