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In praise of snail mail

It is the season of greeting cards and there are many who enjoy posting cards instead of mailing e-cards

I sent a friend a birthday card and waited a week for her response. I have great faith in our postal service but considering how it, on occasion, lives up to its “snail mail” tag, I wasn’t unduly perturbed when there was no acknowledgement from her for another week. Her subsequent silence, however, made me anxious. Had it got lost in transit? The card had been chosen with great care and I didn’t want the time and effort spent over it to go waste.

Operation Tracking Card started with a call on her landline to find out if she had received it. She didn’t take the call. Next I sent her a text message, following it up with another call but drew a blank on both counts. By now I was troubled by two possibilities - either the card hadn’t reached her or she was ill. I called her, this time on her mobile. And again. At the third attempt I got her.

‘What’s it?’ she asked brusquely. ‘Is it a life and death matter? I’m travelling.’ I guessed as much, from the sound of honking and muttered expletives in the background. ‘Er...I just wanted to know if you got the card I sent,’ I explained.

‘What? Speak up! When did you send me a car? Which car? Whose car? Where? Why?’ The line began to crackle in protest at the string of wh-questions.

‘Not car. Card. CARD!!! C-AAA-R-DDDD’ I yelled, giving the entire neighbourhood a free demonstration of the power of my vocal cords. Her voice rising in indignation, my friend responded with the ‘wh’ questions she had left out in her recent interrogation. ‘Who are you calling a cad? How dare you?’

Now the English teacher in me got offended. How could she think I said ‘card’ for ‘cad’ when the two words are pronounced differently? Before the cad-card debate could go further, the line cleared and I explained, quite piqued, that I meant the birthday card I’d sent.

Her laughter almost ripped my ear off. ‘Oh, the birthday card? Haha. Of course I got it. You’re the only one who still sends cards, hahaha. So sweet!’ She blew a loud kiss that whooshed to my eardrum like air from a cycle pump. ‘Keep up this cute practice. Did you call just to find out if I’d received it? You’re nuts! ‘Bye!’

That’s how it works. Sigh. And the less said about calls, text messages and e-mails, the better. That’s exactly what many of the recipients believe too – the less said, the better, so they don’t say anything at all. Text messages go unacknowledged, calls aren’t returned and e-mails don’t get answered. There are many internet devotees who believe an email delivery is so foolproof, it requires no acknowledgement. ‘What if a mail ends up as spam or the mail id is wrong?’ you ask. They just shrug it off, as if that’s the sender’s fault. ‘How about a brief “Got it,” “thanks” or “will get back?”’ you persist. That’s so formal, they counter. You sigh again at the dismissal of courtesy as mere formality.

There are many who are neurotic about taking calls from unknown numbers. They could be stalkers, they say. Or pranksters, or cheats. ‘Can’t you save such a number as spam and not take calls from it in future? What if a friend or relative is trying to get in touch with you for the first time or it’s an important call?’ you suggest. Oh, then they must send a message first, they respond nonchalantly. ‘And maybe put in an application in triplicate,’ you retort. Under your breath, of course.

At the other extreme are people who don’t know when to bring the email back-and-forth to a conclusion. They require something, you respond, adding at the end, ‘Hope you are fine.’ That is your hamartia. The gratified sender now replies with a detailed account of the state of his stomach and alimentary canal when he had fallen victim to a recent bout of gastritis.

You hadn’t bargained for such edification, but believe a word of sympathy is due and write, ‘Trust you are better.’ Now you have played into his hands. A fresh epistolary overflow of the person’s most recent metabolic misadventure ensues. And it goes on…

It’s close to New Year. I’ve just posted a few cards. My trust in the postal system remains steadfast and I’m certain the postman will deliver them. But will I know they have been delivered? Happy New Year!

(A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academician and author of the Butterfingers series. The author can be contacted at

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 12:15:31 PM |

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