Technophobe no more?

In the not too distant past, a number of us used to engage in this rather elaborate ritual. One would begin by taking a piece of paper, finding a pen, writing on the paper, and walking down to the post-office & paying the nice folks there to get this piece of paper delivered to some corner of the world. This crazy ritual was called ‘writing letters’, a practice I thought was now extinct. I was pleasantly surprised earlier this week, when I received two postcards and a letter – from a friend stuck in a picturesque little village in Bretagne. The only way she can reach the outside world is, well, by writing!

It gave me such a thrill to see an envelope addressed in a hand I could recognize. Ever since I moved to this country, the only folks who “write” to me are the cable guy, the gas guy, the electrcity & cell phone folks, and yeah, of course, the rowdy lot over at the credit card company. The only pleasure a visit to the mail room provides is the occassional more than usually ironic example of direct marketing gone wrong (a discount coupon from ChristianSingles.com tops the list at the moment, while an invitation to join the American Civil Liberties Union is possibly the spam I am the proudest of triggering). When I saw this innocent little envelope, I didn’t even wait to get home – I just tore it apart right there & read the whole 2 pages, or whatever, and had a goofy smile pasted on my face for the rest of the week. In fact, I showed off the postcards to everyone at work the next day (when you see the picture on the right, you’ll know why. My friend, temping as a guide, lives in this castle!)

I was sorely tempted to write back. Indeed, as late as 2001, I was still writing long letters (mostly during Economics lectures, with mad Dr.P believing I was furiously taking notes) and spending hundreds of rupees every year on stamps. I did use email, but not for pleasure. That sounds quite naughty, but the actual explanation is more mundane than you might expect. Email was for ex-classmates / distant cousins you didn’t care too much for. The truly special friends always received a letter. Email was for job applications, acquaintances, and the like…

I stopped writing letters after I started working. It was so much easier to type up something at the end of the day. The Haryana Postal Department also went a long way in building trust in email. Then of course, I realized that an email lets me rant on much more than a letter does. I am ashamed to admit it, but email lets me copy & paste stuff… Shameful, I know, but, when you’ve written something particularly witty, it feels like such a shame to not share it with as many friends as possible.

All this time, I never felt I was betraying the written word. After all, I could always go back. Email’s just a temporary phase. I can quit any time I want to. I just have to put my mind to it. Receiving an actual letter made me realize just how far deep I have gotten into this terrible habit. My friend invited me to ‘write’ back, even provided a snail mail address. What did I do? I emailed her back!!! Sends shivers down my spine even now, when I think about my disgusting deed.

I have been exposed for the hypocrite I am. Sure, I still carry on, pottering about with a fountain pen (adventures of my attempts to buy a bottle of ink reserved for a later post). I may rant against technology and curse all computers. But come high noon, when I’m faced with a write-or-type situation, what do I do? I fold, like the lilly-livered ex-technophobe I am!

Perhaps there is hope for someone like me. If I start again, slowly, with postcards perhaps, I can still teach myself to write again. It will be challenging – I will actually have to think about what I wish to communicate before I put pen to paper. I will have to find my way around a world without backspace, ctrl x, ctrl c & ctrl v. I will have to remember to buy stamps, dig out snail mail addresses of all my friends… And of course, I must steel myself for the heart-break – when no one writes back to you, it feels so much worse than when they don’t email back. Friends will curse me for putting them on the spot…others’ll laugh at another example of my anachronism, USPS will make a lot of money… but surely, there’s hope?

I have to believe I can redeem myself yet. Today, it’s email, tomorrow, what if I let this mania grow and God forbid, stop subscribing to magazines & newspapers, just make do with reading online? Or worse, trade in my library card for some e-book membership? Quelle horreure! Vive la France, for continuing to have villages without even a dial up connection. Were it not for a bunch of way-behind-the-times villagers in Bretagne, I’d have never had a chance to save my soul. Thank you, good people of Achères-la-Forêt – we need more of you in this world.

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