Gone with the Internet – The Dying Art of Love Letters?

Love letters straight from my heart
Keep us so near while apart
…I memorise every line
And I kiss the name that you sign
And darling then I read again
Right from the start
Love letters straight from my heart.

(Excerpts from the popular song)

The words of the old song speak of the effect of a love letter on the recipient and takes us back to a time when lovers communicated by writing their innermost thoughts and feelings to each other.

In our grandparents time, they had to resort to letters secretly delivered to the objects of their desire because the courtship process was so closely monitored by their parents. Some used friends as couriers, others passed notes in a classroom and the great majority relied on the post office.

One of my older neighbours in Udupi remembers looking forward to getting love letters from his best girl when he was a young man in his late teens because she used to add perfume to the letters. Long after he had read them, he’d curl up in bed and pretend he was inhaling the perfume from her body.

And his wife told me, she remembers shopping for special stationery with various colours and motifs or making her own using dried and pressed flowers to write the letters she’d send her boyfriend who was away at that time University of Bombay.

She put the letters she got from him under her pillow for at least a week after reading them and could repeat the contents from memory having read them so many times.

Improved communication methods

That is not so today. With improved communication methods such as the Internet and cellular phones, writing love letters has become almost a dead art. Long-distance romances now use the quicker e-mail method, e-cards are sent routinely; text messaging gets in a quick hello and some lovers spend hours expressing their feelings on the phone.

The old neighbour is happy he lived in the good old days when he could tell almost the minute that he would receive one of his precious letters. “Courtship is not fun these days, we used to close our doors and make sure no one was around to disturb us when we were writing love letters, now I see my colleagues emailing off a quick few lines to their beloved at their desk,” he said.

His wife is commending herself for keeping her stack of love letters safely stashed under her bed, in a plastic bag and in an old suitcase. “Close to 30 years have gone since I received those letters and even though I have lived abroad, they have travelled with me. I still read them and have a laugh now and then and some day when I die, my grandchildren will see that they did not invent romance,” she said.

On the other hand, one popular business person who wanted to remain anonymous told me that he was full of lyrics when courting his wife in the ’70s. I told her, “Father locks the door, mother keeps the key; but only the Father in Heaven can stop me from seeing thee.”

This man of lyrics boasts of having different lines to match the mood and he still uses them today.

The retired army officer said he used words of a different nature to signal his love for his wife. “I interviewed her for a job and turned her down because I had other plans for her.”

And one supposedly shy guy said he simply let his actions do the talking and the woman could not resist.

But in the present high technology environment, the less personal e-mail and text messaging using the cellphone have replaced romantic lines and love letters of old.

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