2022 Sep 18
“Letter writing is a thing of the past”… or is it?
Before there was sending a quick good morning text on WhatsApp or reacting to an Instagram story, there was waiting diligently to receive a letter and praying that someone at home doesn’t open it before you. Yet, just because people don’t write as frequently, it doesn’t mean that letters have lost their magic.
As the month of September is a celebration of letter writing, we decided to collect a few stories from people who have written or/and received memorable letters. Some stories are old while some are new, but they prove that the memories surrounding letters live on. Let’s celebrate that!
1. Sheneli, 23
When I first learnt how to write letters, I wrote them to my mum. Every day, I’d come home from school with a letter for her, and she still has them!
2. Srilani, 50
I’ve only ever written to my husband, and that was when he was stationed at the Jaffna hospital. During the war, communication was hard, but letters were how I used to tell him all about my day. He isn’t expressive with words like I am, and he only wrote back once, but that letter means the world to me.
3. Anonymous, 27
Mr. Perera was an old but brilliant lawyer I looked up to. Once I left Kandy and moved to Colombo, we only communicated through letters because he didn’t use email and couldn’t hear well over the phone. He passed away last year, but those letters still mean a lot to me.
4. Dennis, 47
My wife’s father sent her to Nuwara Eliya after finding out about our romance, so we could only communicate through letters. Terrified of our letters being found, she created an entirely new coded language from A-Z, one that only we could understand. Our 8 page letters were sent out at least once a week for years, until we were able to call each other from the landline.
5. Sahan, 29
I had to leave Sri Lanka with a heavy heart, I’d never planned on leaving before because of my family. As a going away present, my sister in law wrote me a letter about how my leaving them (family) isn’t a ‘goodbye’ but much rather a ‘see you later’, and it made leaving a little easier. It was honestly the sweetest thing in the world.
6. Piyal, 63
Letters are what kept the romance between my wife and me alive when we started dating. She moved to England and I was here, so we wrote. The international call rate was around LKR. 800 per minute – a fortune at the time, so calling was impossible. I remember starting each letter with 4 lines of a popular love song at the time. We’ve been married for many years now, and throughout the years I’ve written many songs about her.
7. Shanya, 29
I went to an all girls’ convent, and on Valentine’s Day when the prefects were doing their routine bag checking, our class decided to write a fake love letter. We signed it with a fake name and placed it in a conspicuous place, somewhere the prefects wouldn’t miss. Eventually the head girl found it and was furious about it. But when she asked whose it was, no one responded. She never found out whose it was.
8. Dinoor, 38
In school, my friend and I helped each other with languages. She helped me with Sinhala and I helped her with English. Things started to change when she left school after O/Ls. So we started exchanging letters. She would write to me in Sinhala, and I in English to her. We continued writing even when she got into the Moratuwa University. Today, she represents one of the leading architecture firms in the country. We still keep in touch, but don’t write to each other anymore.
9. Shehara, 30
When I was 13, my curiosity led me to sending in my name, address and music interests to a reputed newspaper that had a column for pen pals. A few days after my details were published, I received a rather long letter from an 18 year old boy asking if I wanted to be “close friends”. I freaked out obviously. It was something I had never experienced. I ended up crying and giving the letter to my mother!
10. Rani, 79
I’ve written many letters, but the most recent was to all my widowed friends living in Sri Lanka and abroad. I myself had also just become a widow and was grieving. In the letter, I wrote a poem to them in Sinhala, to help with their grief as well as mine. I explained that loss is a part of life and that just like the waves leave the shore, we must learn to let go.
11. Vimukthi, 32
I met the first girl I ever loved at an O/Ls tuition class. She was a Muslim and I was a Buddhist. We both came from extremely conservative, strict families. Falling in love with each other was not an option – but we did, and we had no way of communication. So, we exchanged letters each week in class for almost a year.
12. San, 24
I got in trouble for letters that weren’t even mine. When I went to school in Saudi, my friend liked a guy in my Toastmasters Club. But they couldn’t meet because it was against school policy to have relationships. So I became their designated mail-woman. One day my mother found the letters and was furious. I even got a beating from her. After that, I had to refuse being their middle-woman.
On a final note, this writer is relieved that the technology and software to communicate virtually exists. However, it’s still interesting to hear stories of letters passed and received.
Tell us some of your memorable experiences surrounding letter writing in the comments!