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28 August 2014

My Favourites: Letters in Verse

Photo credit: Antonio Littorio (The Power of Words)
Letter-writing is an old-fashioned and outdated form of communication today. But there was a time when you wrote a letter and waited anxiously for the reply.  When the postman's arrival was a cause for joy (or grief). When you lovingly cleaned your fountain pen and filled it with ink. When you chewed on the end of your pen wondering how best to express an emotion in just the right phrase. When many papers were crumpled and thrown away because you couldn't get the right word to describe what you felt. When loveletters were tied up with red ribbons and stored in sandalwood boxes, to be opened and read again and again. 

When I was a young girl, I wrote letters. Long, newsy letters to my grandparents, assorted aunts and uncles and cousins and other relatives. And to friends. Pages and pages of news in the most miniscule handwriting that could actually be read without a magnifying lens. (I had to fit it all into one inland letter, or in just-enough pages inside an envelope so I wouldn't have to pay extra postage.) One of my friends, straight out of college, landed rather cushily, or so he thought, into a job as an assistant manager on a tea estate. He hadn't bargained for the loneliness. Years later, when he ran into my father again, he told dad that in those years, it was only my letters that stopped him from quitting his job or committing suicide. Dad grinned. He should know. For years, he had complained that a huge part of his salary went to keeping me in stationery and stamps. (My father actually bought me a letterpad of onion-skin paper so I could use that for even domestic letters.)

Our postman used to know me by name; the bulk of the letters and cards he delivered to my house were addressed to me. In fact, after I married and moved to Bombay, he once asked my mother rather wistfully whether I never wrote letters any more. He didn't have as many letters to deliver as he did before. For the longest of time, I had filed every letter that was ever written to me - from my grandfather's quaintly formal English in fine script to my grandmother's affectionate homilies in her lovely cursive hand. I had my mother's letters both in Malayalam and English when I left home to work, my sister's newsy missives, and my brother's scribbles from medical college hostel. (Dad found it difficult to read his own scrawl, so he never wrote letters.) Letters from friends, pen friends, and relatives were all filed safely away by name.

When I moved to Bombay, the only letters I took with me were the ones my husband wrote me in the many, many years we corresponded before we got married. It was fortunate that I did so, as it happened. My father went on a cleaning rampage one year, and one of the casualties of that enthusiasm was all the letters I had so carefully stored away. He didn't think I would need them any more. I'm afraid I wept. It was a part of my life that he burnt that day. 

Given a choice, I would still write letters to the people I'm closest to. Words seem brighter, and to hold more meaning when seen on a page. Am I alone in seeking meaning and comfort in pen-and-ink letters?  Perhaps not the only person, but we are definitely a dying race. It is not even that I wish to get a hand-written letter some time; I know that is asking for the moon. A greater sadness lies in knowing that most people do not want to even receive a pen-and-ink letter any more. 

My cousin teases me saying that my emails are no less than letters. But the hand-written letter has gone the way of the tonga and not just in Hindi films. Mention it to a youngster today and they make you feel a bit like Methesulah. A generation that has grown up on texting and 'likes' on social media even write their emails in a lingua franca that often leaves me scratching my head. Numerals take up the place of letters in a word, and acronyms abound, and honestly, I feel older than my chronological age. (When you get laughed at for spelling out every word fully during a chat session, or for using correct punctuation and capitals in an email, you begin to feel a bit awkward, especially when you once had to ask what a common chat acronym stands for.) It is like the floodgates have opened and capitals, grammar, punctuation, and whole words itself are fleeing in despair. In a world like this, what chance does the poor letter have? 

Am I a fuddy duddy who mourns the passing of an age? A luddite to whom technology doesn't hold the charm of the scent of ink on paper? Not really. Working as I do in digital media, I'm both fully aware of new technology and have no trouble embracing the ones I need. But here is an ode to an age that has long passed, and a communication that will never return, here are some songs through the ages where a letter sent, and a letter received bespoke of varied relationships and diverse emotions.

1. Tere khat leke sanam 
Ardhangini (1959)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Vasant Desai
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Here is a song that exemplifies the joy of getting a letter. There is the surge of excitement of hearing the postman's cycle bell, the quickened footsteps that slow down just before you reach the gate (or open the door) so you can pretend you were not waiting for a letter, and holding on to the joy of receiving that expected letter that you do not open it just at once...  It's a letter from her beloved, and she knows just what he would have written. His voice is enclosed within its bounds, and she needs to calm herself before she can read it. As it is, she can barely stand upright, she is that delirious with the joy of having heard from him. 
Raaz jo is mein chhipa hai woh samajhta hai dil
Kaise bhool tera khat hum se dhadakta hai dil
Ye dil thehre zara nazar thehre zara 

Hosh mein aa le zara hum
Tera khat le ke sanam
Paanv kahin rakhte hain ham, 

Oh kahin padte hain kadam, kahin padte hain kadam

I especially like the ending, where she hides the letter behind her before going inside her house. And a pretty Meena Kumari who absolutely personifies that joy and you have the perfect song to start this post off. 

2. Phool tumhe bheja khat mein
Saraswati Chandra (1968) 
Singers: Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyrics: Indeevar
Lovers separated by circumstances in those days had no other option but penning their thoughts and feelings down on paper and waiting for the postman to carry it to their beloved. And yes, sending little tokens of their affection - a pressed flower, a photograph, a poem - was quite the norm. Here, Nutan's Kumud is penning a letter to Saraswatichandra, sending him a flower in lieu of her heart. His response is all that she dreamed about - he can sense her love, and if she only were in front of him, he would have kissed her hand. The picturisation is beautiful - the way she moves her arm as if in response to his kissing it - and then the plaint that begs for a meeting because now, letters aren't enough... 
Khat se jee bharta hi nahin
Ab nain mile to chain mile
Chand hamare angna utre
Koyi to aisi rain mile
Milna ho toh kaise mile hum

Milne ki soorat likh do
Nain bichhaaye baithe hain hum

Kab aaoge khat likh do

Ah, nostalgia. :) 

3. Khat likh de 
Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (1966)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
 This is a pretend letter since the occasion is a stage show, but the emotions expressed are ones that have been expressed many a time before. Her beloved has gone away to the city in search of employment, and there is no one here to witness her anxiety. And so she begs the postman to write a letter for her. (Postmen in rural areas had to double as letter writers to a largely illiterate population.) If her beloved were here, she could be annoyed with him, but now, the heartless city has taken hold of him; she even wishes that he would lose his job. If he would come back when he read this letter, she would reward the postman well. There is so much more that she would like him to write, but she is embarrassed to tell that to a stranger... 
Aur bahut kuchch hai likhwaana
Kaise bataaoon tujhe tu begaana
Sharm se ankhiyaan jhuk jaayegi
Dhadhak utthega mera dil deewaana
Bas aage nahin tera kaam babu
Kore kaagaz pe likh de salaam babu...

4. Ye mera prem patr padhkar 
Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen 
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri  
This is a straightforward loveletter, one where he begins by wondering how to address her. And as he writes, we are privileged to see his beloved's response to his love letter. As she pulls it neatly out of his hands, he is annoyed - isn't she ashamed to read others' letters? She is totally unrepentant - isn't he ashamed to write them? Their pretend annoyance soon dissipates, as he hopes that his letter will not anger her. She continues to peek at his letter even as he sings his feelings to her...  [The song begins with a lovely musical prelude, and ends with Lata humming the refrain.]

Tu dil ke paas hai itni
Tujhe apna main samjhoonga 

Agar mar jaaun rooh bhatkegi
Tere intezaar mein, intezaar mein, intezaar mein...

There is a rare video of Lata Mangeshkar singing a snatch of this same song in a duet with Mohammed Rafi, as Radha (Vyjayanthimala) re-reads Gopal's letter in the privacy of her room.

5. Dil ki shikayat nazar ki shikve
Chandni Chowk (1954) 
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Shailendra
Written at a time when letters were the only means of communication, the unfortunate Zarina (Meena Kumari) has just received news that her husband, missing, presumed dead, is actually alive. That news comes in the form of a money order brought to her mother-in-law by the postman. But there is no return address. But the postman suggests that if she writes a letter to the bank where the money order was drawn, perhaps the bank would forward it to her husband. Zarina, smiling for the first time since she was married, sits down to write a letter. 

And slowly, she fills it with all her hopes, her dreams and her aspirations; how only he could understand what she was going through; her little complaints about how they could have met in her dreams, only he took her sleep away when he left; how she's only written a little, but there is much left to express... 
Thode likhe ko bahut samajhna naye nahin ye afsaane
Dil majboor bhara aata hai chhalak uthe hain paimaane
Khat mein jahaan aansoo tapka hai likha hai maine pyaar wahaan

Chhupa sakoon na dikha sakoon mere dil ke dard bhi huye jawaan

6. Payaam-e-ishq-o-muhobbath humein pasand nahin 
Babar (1960)
Singer: Sudha Malhotra 
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
What happens when the heir to the Mughal throne falls in love with the daughter of a courtier? Babar is ruling over the Mughal empire, and his son,  Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun (Sohan Kapila) has just met the beautiful Hamida Banu (Azra), the daughter of his father's courtier Mirza Sahib. Entranced by her beauty and fascinated by her shaayari, the crown prince is young enough not to realise that love and the royal throne seldom go hand in hand. Not so the noblewoman who realises that however much the prince loves her, she can never aim to become the Empress of the realm. After all, how much can one believe the promises of an heir to the throne? Everyone knows their eyes wander. 

And so she writes to him, in verse, excoriating him for constraining her to be his beloved. 
Hamein to hans ke sitaaron ne bhi nahin dekha
Nazar mila ke bahaaron ne bhi nahin dekha
Kisi nigaah ki ju’rrat hamein pasand nahin

Jo takht-o-taaj ke waaris ho unka pyaar hi kya 
Badalane waali nigaahon ka aitbaar hi kya
Huzoor ki ye inaayat hamein pasand nahin

She can't get clearer than that, surely?

7. Tum ek baar muhobbat ka imtihaan toh lo 
 Babar (1960)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
This is a back-to-back song - it is the crown prince's response to the letter that is sent by the woman he loves - a letter that asks him to stay away from her, that tells him that she is not interested (in so many words). In response, he tells her that he is not so fickle - he may be a prince but that does not mean that he cannot be faithful to his beloved. Would she not give him one chance to prove his love?
Main apni jaan bhi de doon toh aitbaar nahin
Ke tum se badhke mujhe zindagi se pyaar nahin
Yun hi sahi meri chaahat ka imtihaan toh lo
Tum ek baar muhabbat ka imtihaan toh lo

It is a cry from his heart and she cannot but melt. Her heart has not remained untouched, even though she had tried very hard not to let her feelings lead her astray. So even though she throws his letter away at first, she cannot help but be moved by his pleas.

8. Dakiya daak laaya
Palkon ki Chaaon Mein (1977)
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Gulzar
If Khat likh de was a pretend song to a postman, Dakiya daak laaya was a song picturised on a 'real' postman - a man who not only delivers the villagers' letters, but also reads (sings?) it out to them, as well as writes their responses for them. Sometimes, the news he brings is happy, sometimes it is sad, sometimes it is both... the woman in the picture gets an invitation to a wedding, as well as the news of her grandfather's death in the same letter. As he goes on, he is stopped by a woman who wants him to write to her husband, asking him to come home. She is missing him. Since the illiterate woman cannot express what she really feels, the postman takes it upon himself to pen a letter that will wring the heart of the proverbial stone...
Birhaa mein kaise kaise kaatoon ratiyaan
Saawan sunaaye bairi  bheegi-bheegi batiyaan
Agni ki boondon mein jale jale baawariya
O naukariya chhod ke tu aa jaa na saanwariya

9. Aayegi zaroor chitthi 
Dulhan (1974) 
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Lazmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Here lies the anticipation of a letter. One that never comes. The sheer agony of waiting is excruciating. In this case, Radha's (Hema Malini) husband passed away on their wedding night, leaving her in shock. As she awaits his 'return', she is aware that the villagers look upon her with pity, though she is not very sure why they should pity her. Her hopes are still high that her husband will definitely come back to her... 

Karo aetbaar mera baat nahi jhooti 
Toota hai dil mera aas nahi tooti  
Maanega mera rootha rab dekhna 
Aayegi zaroor chitthi mere naam ki sab dekhna   

Who is she trying to reassure here?  

10. Masterji ki aa gayi chitthi  
Kitab (1977)
Singers: Padmini and Shivangi Kolhapure
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
Another song that does not have a 'real' letter. Set in a classroom, the kids are upto mischief as soon as they are left alone, as is their wont. So after a little romp, shooting paper aeroplanes, talking and laughing, they break into song, letting their imaginations run riot. If their Masterji received a letter, how would it read? Perhaps a cat would jump out of the envelope? Or a mosquito? Or a cheetah, perhaps?

Chitthi mein se nikla cheetah
Thoda kaala thoda peela 

Cheetah nikla hai sharmeela
Arre thoda thoda kaala
Thoda thoda peela 

Arre wah wah 
Chaal dekho
Ghoonghat daal ke chalta hai
Maang mein sindoor bharta hai

Maathe roz lagaaye bindi
English bole matlab hindi
If agar is hai but par what
matlab kya...

Gulzar's nonsense verse fit in perfectly with the situation as we got to see some normal children on screen for a change. 

Do you like to write letters? What 'letter' songs would you add to this list?


  1. Siggghhhhhh

    Such beautiful songs, all. Except the Kitab one and Chandni Chowk one that I have never heard. Must redress that immediately.

    I used to write such long letters too. I always had an assortment of lovely stationery and stamps and envelopes handy. Everyone's address was written down meticulously in pretty address books. I always had back-up, even then. Can you believe that once I got credit at the Post Office? I was there so often to post letters that the clerks at the post office knew me well. One day I did not have enough cash for the stamps needed. I was about to leave when the clerk said, "Hey, you can pay the money later." I don't think that has happened very often. Nowadays, not at all.

    Oh those Babar songs! They are so gorgeous. I even started watching the movie just to get the background of the songs. But alas, the bits of movies were songless!

  2. Wonderful post, Anu! My family moved to the States when I was eight and I used to write letters to my Nana and cousins till I graduated from high school. Still have all those letters. I haven't done much letter writing since my teens, but I do a lot of "note-writing" - to my 9-year old who loves finding notes in his lunch from his Mom. :-) Wonder how long that will last? :-(

    I like all the songs in your list save #2 (the songs of Saraswati Chandra just don't do it for me) and # 9 which I hadn't heard before. I almost embarrased to say that the song that comes when I think of letters and hindi films songs is "hum ne sanam ko khat likha" from Shakti. Despite the angels of good taste and Lata's ghastly singing, I like the song.:-) I think it's the presence of AB and the last few lines are actually quite poignant.


  3. I envy you, Shalini, I really, really do! I wish I had all those old letters still!

    I haven't written notes to my nine-year-old yet. Hmm, I wonder if he will like them.

    I must confess to having Humne sanam ko khat likha on my list until the last moment. I actually do like that song. :) And in fact, I removed it in favour of Aayegi zaroor chitthi because despite everything, I couldn't bear Lata screeching. But I'm more than glad to have you post it. *grin*

    p.s. Your wish might come true sooner than you think. :)

  4. You're welcome, Harvey. :) And perhaps, we letter-writers of the world should unite. And keep what has now become an archaic custom alive. *grin* US post offices are in danger of closing down.

    Loved your choices - I did have likhe jo khat tujhe in my shortlist, but discarded it because there was no khat in the picturisation. :) So I'm glad to see it here. Loved the inclusion of the song from Stree. Talk about a 'letter' from ancient times. (Seeing Mumu is always a bonus!) And how did I forget Afsana likh rahi hoon?! *head to desk* Thank you for those additions.

  5. So was the recent e-mail you sent me - those beautiful letters - derived from this post? :-)

    Lovely post, Anu, and I really appreciate it even more, because I've often toyed with this theme, but have always given it up because I can never come up with ten good songs on the theme. But you have, and such lovely songs, too (though I must admit one of the songs Harvey suggested - Likhe jo khat tujhe - was on my list. So were a couple of songs from your list: the Sangam and Aaye Din Bahaar Ke songs.

    I used to be quite a letter-writer too. I actually even had a pen friend, a Russian girl I corresponded with for several years. I rarely wrote to relatives (my mother did, though, very religiously), but whenever we moved from one city to another - and that happened a lot, since my father kept getting transferred - I would continue writing to my old school friends. I still try to correspond, even if it's only by e-mail, with some very special friends. I've stopped hoping for letters, but even postcards give me a thrill - just seeing a well-loved handwriting once again is such a joy!

    Anyway, bahut sentimentality ho gayi. I am adding two songs to your list. One was pretty well-known once upon a time, though I hated it: Chitthi aayi hai (no appearance of a letter in it, though):


    And Sandese aate hain, also not much of a favourite:


    ...talking of which, a similar movie (war and all), Lakshya had Kandhon se kandhe milte hain, in which there was a verse which went Jab ghar se/koi bhi khat aaya hai/kaagaz ko maine bheega-bheega paaya hai. It's always baffled me: since when did the Indian Postal Service become so efficient that it delivered letters - to an APO, moreover - so fast that the writer's tears (or whatever made the page bheega-bheega; ominous, no?) didn't have time to dry out?

  6. Letter-writers of the world, Unite! You've nothing to lose but your stamps!
    I suspected that would be your reaction at seeing 'afsana likh rahi hoon'. So, please allow me some malicious joy. ;)

  7. Anu,

    I admire the way the write, to be honest I am envious,
    I dream I could write quarter as good as you do.

    I am into this bad habit of multitasking, so reading and
    writing is not accessible to me:)

    I enjoyed your writing more than the songs, this does not
    undermine the songs but proves the strength of your writing, keep it up!

    I will add a ghazal from TV series Mirza
    Ghalib, it reflects my impatient temperament.


  8. My father would be deeply offended by that last question of yours, Madhu! He retired from the Indian Postal Service and always defended his ex-department, no matter how many times I would remind him of the person who stole the pen that was intended for us (and the address stated very clearly, Mr. ..., Post Master General!). He would come back with the story of the letter that reached him even though the address was just Mr. ..., Retired Postmaster General, Madras!

  9. Thank you, Madhu, I'm glad you liked the post. Why doesn't it surprise me that you were also a letter -writer? Harvey, Shalini, Ava, you, me... I'm so happy to see this post resonate with somany people!

    Like Maine sanam ko khat likha that Shalini posted, these songs were also on my list. I dropped Chithi aayi hai because even though I had liked the song when it had first come out, I found its cloying sentimentality a tad bit too, well, cloying. I still do like Sandese aate hain, but again, I dropped it in favour of Masterji ki aa gayi chitthi. So I'm glad to see that posted here.

    since when did the Indian Postal Service become so efficient that it delivered letters - to an APO, moreover - so fast that the writer's tears (or whatever made the page bheega-bheega; ominous, no?) didn't have time to dry out?

    *grin* They are at an APO, re. Allow them the luxury of some hyperbole. :) Though, I must admit, my initial reaction to kaagaz ko maine bheega bheega paaya hai was how the heck did they read the letter in the first place?

  10. Lalitha, my great-grandfather was so well-known that letters from abroad addressed to Dr ------, Trichur, Kerala, India used to reach him. I still remember asking my grandmother, what if the letter was to another person of the same name? :)

    But I must say that in all my years of letter-writing, I have had only an odd letter or two go astray.

  11. Meanie! But I forgive you (see how magnanimous I am!) since you posted Afsana likh rahi hoon here. (Even if you are taking an unholy joy in seeing me miss that one!)

  12. Thanks for this one, Raj. I haven't liked many of the modern 'pop' ghazals, but I liked this one's lyrics.

  13. Thank you for the appreciation, Ashraf. You've made my day. :)

    And thank you for adding this Ghalib ghazal. I remember Mirza Ghalib being a really well-made serial, and of course, Ghalib's ghazals and nazms were the icing on the cake. And it is funny you should post this right now, because only recently, a friend and I were talking about this serial. :)

  14. Anu,

    I tend to disagree with you here, I find Aayengi zaroor
    chitthi more screeching than Humne sanam ko khat likha

  15. I thought of two more letter songs. Interestingly, both are "new" songs - I like one and dislike the other.:-)

    First the song I like and which I was introduced to by my 11-year old niece:

    And the other one:

  16. My Goodness! You film bloggers never cease to amaze me, you do come up with some unique themes, I would never have thought of this one. I tried thinking of some song other than the ones you have chosen but could not come up with any. However that is not important, what is important is what you have written, you have written what I keep ranting about. You have expressed what I feel each day. I too had the habit of carefully keeping each letter received from friends, pen friends and relatives. As I get older and the fact that I will not be taking anything with me when I leave this world, I have begun to now destroy the letters ,am sort reducing all the clutter.

    Thanks to letter writing we have been able to get valuable information about people who were not famous in their lifetime but went on to become legends after their deaths. One of them is Vincent Van Gogh. Irving Stone was able to write his biography 'Lust for Life' thanks to all the letters written by Van Gogh to his brother.

  17. Shalini, I did like the song from Doli Sajake Rakhna, though I found the male voice annoying. :) The film is a remake of Aniyathipravu, a Malayalam film that saw the 'adult' debut of Baby Shalini.

    The other one? Oh, god, Shalini, why do you hate me so much? :)

  18. Do you? I have to listen to both of them again, back to back. I do like Mere sanam ko khat likha because the lyrics are beautiful, and as Shalini says, there is AB. :) But I didn't like the picturisation.

  19. Thank you, Shilpi. I'm glad this post resonated with you. All of you are making me feel very, very happy indeed. :)

  20. Anu,
    After I read your lovely post I had to go off for some work, and thought I would post my comments on return. Now I find Ashraf Lakhani has beaten me to it and said exactly what I wanted to say. Nevertheless, let me say again you have written beautifully, and it stands as an excellent post even without the songs. The first seven songs are my favourites too. Here is a song which may not meet your exacting standards, but you see Waheeda Rehman reading a 'love-letter' she has received - she has an amused expression as she must be used to getting such letters without leading anywhere. This spurs Raj Kapoor (Mukesh) into singing this absolutely melodious song. The antaraa says Chithiya ho to har koi baanche bhaag na baanche koi.

    PS. At first hurried glance I thought it was a review of Bette Davis film 'The Letter'. But there was nothing nostalgic about the letter in the film. The 'letter' was at the centre of some dark conspiracies. Gripping film though. If you have not reviewed it, it is right up your alley.

  21. thanks for appreciating the lyrics. I hope you have heard 'Marasim'..some soul touching lyrics by Gulzar Saheb

  22. Remembered one more chitthi song..although there is no chitthi in video..still a chitthi song..


  23. You can post Sajanwa bairi ho gayi hamar any time of the day on my blog, AK. :) It's such a touching song. And I like it as a reaction to her reading a fan letter and her response to it at the end.

    Thank you for the appreciation of this post.

  24. Ravi, I too kept some of the envelopes. :) And the greeting cards. I used to buy beautiful blank ones and write my own personal notes to send. As you may imagine, my poor father paid for a lot of them until I started earning my own money giving tuitions when I was about 16 or so. I'm so glad you liked the post.

    I love how the she is addressed as Miss Mehta, Ashaji, Asha - in each successive letter. :) I used to like this song a lot when I was younger.Haven't heard it for a long time. Thanks for the link.

  25. Well, it is a letter in verse. :) I have never heard this song before. Thank you for the link.

  26. Another reason why classic cinema is awesome: there's a song for virtually every situation. And sometimes, such songs preserve lost arts or lost values (like letter writing). I was a prolific letter writer, once upon a time, but somewhere along the way, that habit got consumed by "easier" social media. This post makes me want to take up my pen again, this time, to music. :)

  27. You're so right about classic cinema having songs for any (and every!) occasion. I'm doubly glad because I get so many 'themed' lists out of those situations. :)

    Another letter writer? 'Come into my arms', she said! :)

  28. Safia's letters were beautiful, yes. And, especially towards the end, as one 'saw' her getting more and more ill - so heart-rending too, even though she seemed to put up a brave face through it all.

  29. Lalitha, as it happens, one of my favourite people in the world - my mum's best friend's husband (also the father of two of my oldest friends - we grew up together) was in the Indian Postal Service too. But he had no illusions about his department. ;-)

  30. Come to think of it, I rarely had letters go astray, but when a letter would arrive was the problem.

    But my parents, who lived in Meerut till very recently, actually embraced the Net because every time they used the postal service (mostly for cards; they otherwise used the phone) - their cards never arrived. Eventually they stopped sending out Christmas or birthday cards.

  31. Mr. Venkataraman did you write letters like Juliette Drouet wrote to Victor Hugo.. Here is an excerpt o from the second letter she wrote to him.

    "I love you because I love you, because it would be impossible for me not to love you. I love you
    without question, without calculation, without reason good or bad, faithfully, with all my heart
    and soul, and every faculty. Believe it, for it is true. If you cannot believe, I being at your side,
    I will make a drastic effort to force you to do so. I shall have the mournful satisfaction of sacri-
    ficing myself utterly to a distrust as absurd as it is unfounded. "

    More serioulsy her letters display a talent for writing that sadly she never exploited except in these missives. It also shows how under Code Napoleon in France female children of parents with modest means could learn to read and write, something which was inconceivable in Europe just a few years before. The translated letters are available under Project Gutenberg.

    There is this song by the Beatles . I'm afraid as a small boy I used it to tease our neighbour's particularly virulent Alsatian. When I caterwauled "you you youuuuuu" his hackles would rise. He was not a lover.


  32. SSW Ji,
    Believe me I was trying be faithful to all of them. I would never hurt any of those tender souls (I used to believe then) and that proved to be my bane! Writing was not my cup of tea, which is why I had to respond (resort)to music.

    Juliette Drouet must have been a very passionate and melodramatic lover, may be very possessive too. I would try reading those letters sometime in future.There must be few more. Thanks for the song by Beatles.

  33. Mr.V
    She wrote thousands of letters to him over the course of a long relationship.This penultimate letter of hers was written when she was 77. She would be dead the following year buried in an unmarked tomb the following year.

    "BELOVED, thank you for taking me to-day to the mournful and sweet rendezvous of St. Mande.
    I feel as if my sorrow would be less bitter, kneel- ing at my child's grave than when I am at a dis- tance ... as if my soul could get closer to that of my little beloved, through the earth of her tomb, than anywhere else. I hope you will find your dear daughter in good health and that we shall both return from this sacred errand re-signed to the will of God, though not consoled, for that is no longer possible in this world. Thank you again, my adored one, for sharing with me a sad anniversary, that recalls to you the many sorrows of your own life. I am very grateful to you and I bless you as I love you, with all the strength of my soul. J. "

    Her daughter (not by Hugo though he took care of her) had died years earlier and was buried in St.Mande, and Hugo's own daughter Adele was committed to an asylum, hence the reference.

  34. It was heart-rending. I ended up weeping over the last few.

  35. WOW ! you have brought up a highly specialized genre of songs, and done it so brilliantly.
    Thoroughly enjoyed the post.

  36. Such a blast from the past. 'Letters from father to daughter'! Remember?
    Letters are history I suppose considering people only communicate through emoticons.
    The thing that saddens me is the slow but sure erosion into the language whether English or vernacular. Sometimes I think that these generations are losing out on the careful links that written expression creates between the heart and the mind. The joy of feeling the texture of a well written piece with a rare blend of language goes a long way in unfurling a whole lot of positive emotions related to reloading of the matrix of memories and personal experience.
    My medical students often ask me what I would have done if I had not trained to be a doctor. I say almost wistfully, 'English Literature '. I remember the afternoons all those years ago when for some reason a series of Shakespeare's plays were telecast on BBC. Black & white and doordarshan! The eighties or was it?
    Anyways, loved your piece Anu.


  37. Excellent post! Almost all the songs are my favorites! Songs from Babar (1960), that I haven't heard before thanks for the links :) In my childhood pen-friends were a like a 'status' symbol and we children had letters from diverse countries such as erstwhile USSR(Russia), Germany etc.We used to peel off the postage stamps carefully and add it to our philately collection :) Alas! now text messaging and e-mail has taken over(they still have some advantages) .One of the commenters has mentioned a fantastic ghazal from Mirza Ghalib,which brought old memories back of good old DD serials such as Kabir,Nirmala.

    As almost all the songs based on the theme are mentioned in the comments,I only could think of this song about two pen friends from Sirf Tum (1999)


  38. Mr Venkatraman, thank you so much. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post and the songs.

    My father-in-law used to keep carbon copies of his letters. I laughed at your reason for keeping copies of your loveletters, though. I agree it would be an interesting exercise to read through those old letters, especially since you have your letters to refer to as well. You seem to have led a rather charmed youth, what with loveletters and tonga rides... :) Alas, I don't have any letters other than my husband's, and even those were no pranay nivedan. Indeed, I think they were quite prosaic - I'm sure I remember long descriptions of the weather in them.

    I have not reviewed Love Letters; actually, haven't heard of this film until now. Thanks for the link to the song. And I shall see if I can find the film now.

  39. Those letters were beautiful. Mr Venkatraman, there is a website where you can read letters by famous people, historical, fictional, and by celebrities. Will post the link when I have some time.

  40. Thank you, Ashokji. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  41. Meenakshi, I'm glad you enjoyed my writing. Thank you so much for the appreciation. It does bother me to see the erosion of language as I knew it, but rationally, I suppose, a language has to evolve to remain relevant. It's just that (I feel) the beauty of the language seems to have disappeared. We're fighting a losing battle, but it's a good fight to fight while it lasts. :)

  42. Thanks, coolone. :) I had penfriends too, but I don't recall it being a status symbol, but I'm older than you, so I guess things changed. We used to collect stamps as well!

    I don't have an issue with email since I use it solely as an electronic form of writing letters - instead of writing them, I type the words. (Yeah, my emails are long; you should realised that from my posts as well!) I don't like texting, and I try not to do it at all. I'd much rather call. But yes, texting is here to stay.

    Sirf Tum was quite a decent movie if I remember it right. Didn't it also star Sushmita Sen?

  43. Thank You Anu Ji. I wish there were more hours in a day, I do not know how many more will really be enough.

  44. Mr Venkatraman, here is the link: http://www.lettersofnote.com/

    I agree with you about the number of hours in a day.

  45. I am with you on most of the songs. Love the last one the most through.
    Kids in their element, nonsense words and kids singing too. There are a
    couple which I would like to add to your list.

    Gum hai kisi ke pyar mein -- Rampur ka Lakshman.
    Chtthi aayi hai -- Naam
    Chitthiye -- Heena

  46. The kiddo song is good! :)

    I didn't realise Gum hain kisi ke pyaar mein was a Chitthi song. I don't really like the song from Henna. RK's kids don't have his sense of music.

  47. Kalyanji-Anandji once received a blank letter from one of their fans with just a flower enclosed. The end result was that beautiful song from Saraswathichandra, This incident was narrated by Anandji in an interview

  48. Really? What a nice anecdote, and I love that that resulted in that song. Thanks for sharing.

  49. I came across this blog today, which appeared as a result of "Songs about Chai", I have never before felt so grateful for Google Search! It Is categorically the best, most elaborate and engrossing blog (on this subject), that I have ever seen. I love it for two reasons, one I have already mentioned above, and the other that my blog is named after my obsession with Chai. I am so glad to meet you :D. I left all my work and listened to the songs from Babar, Chandni Chowk and Sarawastichandra. It felt that it would be a crime if not done immediately, and listening to them just verified that feeling. So thank you very much :) .I don't know too much about all music etc, but I think one song is mention-worthy, Sandesay aatay hain from Border. A song about letters, personifying them, making them almost tangible. Thank you for writing this amazing blog. :)

  50. Thank you, Annie, you just made my day. :) Welcome to my blog. I hope you will stay and continue reading.


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