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The power of post

My mother is 89 and growing more frail by the day. She lives in one city, and I in another in a different State. Our contact was largely through letters. Even if mine were rambling ones on plain sheets of paper, she would read them over and over. Occasionally, she would reply in an inland. Her handwriting was not so great, but each letter made me feel her presence. Then came the blessed telephone. We stopped writing letters to each other. She didn’t like using the small mobile handset to make or receive calls, not even from me.

Since the start of the year, I noticed that I was calling her more often than she did. Only a few minutes into our increasingly one-sided conversation, she would seem to be in a hurry to disconnect.

Nothing that my brother told her would induce her to walk up to the telephone. Through a video call on a mobile, I could ‘see’ her but she could not hear me. Her speech was slow and slurred; so she preferred not to talk at all. I had never felt so helpless. After a health scare a year ago, I was in the vulnerable category. Forget about my family permitting me to travel, the first thing my mother would say was, "Why did you come? You shouldn’t have taken the risk."

Time and COVID-19 created a huge chasm between us that was growing by the day.

It was in this state of despair that I decided to write a letter to her. I rummaged and came across a few inlands. They were bought several years ago and no longer looked fresh. The stamp printed on it was ₹2.50. Could the rate have gone up? The India Post website reassured that it still cost the same. I wrote in big bold letters and dropped it off with a prayer that the postman should collect it and that it reaches my mother without gathering any virus along the way. Exactly five days later, on October 10, my sister-in-law telephoned to say that my letter did indeed reach its rightful destination, that my mother read it loudly and slowly and that her smile lingered for a long while.

Coincidently, October 10 happened to be National Postal Day. My sincere salute to our dedicated postal staff. Thanks to them, I am at least able to write to my mother even if she is unable to send a reply.

usha.rajagopalan@gmail.com

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 4:53:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-power-of-post/article32935995.ece

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