Dear Santhanam

Dear Santhanam,

Hey, how are you? As you can see, I have finally gotten around to writing you a letter. And I must thank you for the two thousand, three hundred and forty two letters that you have written to me in the last Fifteen years. It’s been a long time since we last met, and if it wasn’t for your letters I wouldn’t have known that you now have a son, a daughter and wonder of wonders, a wife too! And from the photographs you sent me in the last letter, I notice that you need more investment in hair.

By the way, did you know that I had to go to the post office to pick up the parcel you sent me? And that there was nothing in it? You idiot! If you wanted me to write you a letter, all you had to do was ask. And could you please open an email account now that I have finally written to you? I can’t seem to hold the pen for too long these days… my fingers are out of practice.  

I will write again in a couple of years once I have recuperated from the acute cramps in my right hand because of writing this 309 word letter. I may never write again and it will all be your fault. If you have any home remedies for writer’s cramps please write to me… and don’t expect a reply! Next time I am going to call you up. 

My regards to your wife and children. 

PS: Why don’t you move to Pune? That way we won’t have to write letters. No wait, that won’t work. I have many friends already in Pune and we neither meet, nor talk on the phone or even text message for that matter. On second thoughts, please do continue to send me the letters.



This is more or the less the letter that I wrote recently to an old friend, Sameer. He is a man of words and his letters are cherished by all who know him.

Now Santhanam has refused to let the ravages of email, texting, Wattsapping, and sundry other new media destroy his language. In fact, he has valiantly fought off pressure from all quarters to join the world wide web citizenry. He insists that the email is a mockery of language, and communication itself. And so, he has been writing letters to all his friends, painstakingly keeping them updated on his life with his beautiful penmanship. That is how I know about the broken leg on his third dining table chair – his son sawed it off so he could test if superglue is really strong enough to fix anything. Chintoo (his son) had seen something similar on YouTube and wanted to be sure. As you can imagine, Chintoo was disappointed and he wrote me a two-paragraph letter expressing his outrage.

Now I am an idiot myself. I have never bothered to reply to any of Santhanam’s letters nor that of Chintoo’s. Or anyone’s letters for that matter. Of course, I have called everybody on and off, or have been emailing them thrice a day. But it isn’t the same.

I have all the letters that anybody has ever written to me. All the cards, postcards, drawings, poems, photographs… it’s all there in several cardboard files. And once in a while, I sit down on a rainy day or a winter night and go through the letters. And laugh. Or choke. Or smile.

I can’t do all that with an email – and I am a hard-core fan of email, mind you.

I can’t do any of that on any social media – have you ever tried searching, cataloguing, and reading related conversations on a social media? Don’t bother – you just have to rely on memory to find context across weeks, forget months or years.

I am glad I have Santhanam for a friend. It is because of him that I recently realised that if I were to give an exam today, I would fail. Simply because I wouldn’t be able to write more than 15 minutes… my hand would ache till I was blue in the face, and miserable. And my doctor would not be too thrilled if I were blue in the face, I can tell you that.

I think I shall visit the post office one of these days. And meet the man who brings me my letters and parcels. I think I shall also write a letter a month to each of my friends. I think a letter is the simplest way to tell them I care. That I have the time to write to them. Call it snail mail, but I think a letter is a letter is a letter.

And so, here’s my wish for everybody out there: I hope you get a letter in your letterbox once in a while.


Charcoal-on-paper illustration: Sanjay Mukherjee

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