By Fawad Ali Shah
KARACHI: Chithi Zara Sayya’an Jee Kay naam likh de, haal mery dil ka tamam likh de (write a letter to my beloved, tell him about the emotions of my heart), the lilting song sums up the yearning passions of love struck individuals and is a cult classic with those who have ever written love letters.
Thanks to the communication boosts, the unending SMS packages and low call rates, the art of letter writing is dying. While the younger generation claims that love letters were a bad way of communication, there are still many who hold the romantic notions of love letters dearly and believe that nothing can replace the charm of a heartfelt love letter.
“Love is an intellectual process and love letters consist of intellectual input,” opines Abdul Hai Kakar, a journalist and a believer that love letters are a part of literature. Kakar once had a crush on a classmate in his university days almost a decade ago. He has compiled and printed a book “Magar Yeh Ho Na Saka”, which chronicles the journey of his love, the letters he wrote and received during the said love affair.
The one time lovebird strongly insists that love letters had more than just romantic offerings. “They are like an on going conversation on different topics between soul mates,” says Kakar as he elaborates on how socio-economic issues, problems and other tidbits from everyday life were discussed in the letters. He argues that SMS and emails lack the emotions the thoughtfully crafted letters carried. “One would get satisfaction by writing or reading these letters and, as these were hard copies, one could save them and read them whenever they felt lonely.”
Apart from being written with thoughtfulness, another characteristic of love letters was that they were written after one had built some rapport with the person to whom they were addressed. There have always been two categories of love letters, with one being where there was an actual affair and both parties were exchanging letters and the second being those where the affair was one sided.
The individuals in the later category used different tactics to convey their messages. Often, they would throw the unsolicited love letters at their “beloveds” while following them to schools, colleges, shopping centers and even bus stops.
Unlike the stalker love letters, letters exchanged between couples in a relationship were much civilized. The involved parties would exchange letters, using different channels, from fixing time and leaving the posts at a particular spot to using a mediator, usually a child bribed with candy. In order to show affection, apart from the use of poetic language, blood was also used in place of ink to signify the extremity of passion and desire.
Just like the urban centers, this mode of communication was equally popular in the rural areas, where literacy levels are comparatively low. Those who were not well versed in the art of writing would seek the help of their learned friends to assist them in expressing their feelings.
Zubair Mir, 43, was in class ten when he fell in love with a neighborhood girl. “Her house was in front of ours and I would often follow her on her way to the school,” Mir smiles sheepishly as he narrates his case of puppy love. He says he loved her to bits but had no idea how to express his love. “I thought each and every step of hers was related to me. If she smiled looking at me I took at as an approval for my affection and if she had a flicker of anger in her eyes, I took it for anger directed at me.”
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, he finally mustered the strength to write her a letter. “I could not sleep that night as I tried my best to write a letter. Sadly, I could just jot down a few lines,” Mir says and claims that after fifty attempts he managed to write a letter. Once the writing bit was done, delivering it to his beloved was another problem but he cleared that hurdle too. “She accepted the letter and the response was positive, hence, began my love story,” states a beaming Mir. He, too, says that he wrote his letters in blood and is proud of the fact that his love story was a success. With regards to affairs carried out via SMS and email, he considers them to be childish.
While Kakar and Mir still hold on to their romantic notions, the youngsters of today are more in favour of communication through SMS and emails. Sohail Raza, a student of Bahria University, believes that writing and delivering a love letter was a slow and tiresome process. “Without taking any risks, you can easily communicate your message and get instant feedback as well,” he opines. Endorsing Raza’s point of view is Azhar Khan, who says that the latest technology has made communication faster and easier. “Writing love letters was always a tiresome and risky job,” he adds.
Though he regards letter writing as an old fashioned approach, he does insist that one should be sincere, whether, communicating through emails, SMS or love letters. Faizullah Jan, a communication expert, told this scribe that the importance of both SMS and letters could not be denied. He opines that while the SMS culture has made the communication fast, yet, it has some negative aspects too, particularly the use of language.
“Although, people are making friends without even knowing each other, the SMS culture has adversely affected the language, as usually, people use short terms and lines,” laments Jan. As far as literature and poetry goes, he agrees that they played an important role in writing a letter but it’s the delivery and preservation of the love letters that was an uphill task. “When somebody was in love, he was willing to take the risk of delivering the letter.”