Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

My father used to write to me, long-hand. I read them in boarding school, usually cradling RM70 postal orders that came with the mail.

The monthly allowance, I hardly used, and by the end of five years, I had RM2,000 in my bank account.

ANyway, his letters. Always, two pages, detailing some banal details of life at home. He used the palace BM honorifics, as was the custom with letter-writing.

Always starts with, "Ke hadapan anakanda yang ..."

The other kids laughed at this, thinking my father had delusions of being a royal. But that's the way letters WERE written. The mannerisms, the format, the 'kata' as they say in karate.

His spelling is precise, his grammar accurate and his handwriting very beautiful, as he was from an age where cursive handwriting is a sign of being well-educated. My handwriting, in contrast, is the only thing I could achieve to being closely similar to a doctor's.

My father is a Vulcan, so he shows no emotion, especially in letters. No exclamation marks, no sadness, even as he relays news of some relative's passing.

He wrote letters because of the postal orders, and because telephones were not that common back then. We live in a small village by the swamp in Kuantan, where 24-hour electricity was a fairly recent convenience (1986) and our place had the first flush toilets in the area.

Mobile phones were carried by businessmen in giant cases. Emails were still aeons away.

I don't remember the contents of the letters, but I remembered the tone and the hand-writing. And the blue foolscap paper, written cleanly with Pilot pens.

He doesn't write letters anymore. My father's eyesight has deteriorated and last year, he underwent several procedures on his left eyeball which cost a lot.

I am glad we siblings bought him a 29-inch TV, as even with that hulking CRT, he sits a few inches away from the screen to see the visuals.

He doesn't write. Not anymore.

And I don't get letters. I get 300 emails a day. Mostly forwarded invitations and short notes, but no letters. No real ones.

Oh well. Did the dinosaurs lament the trilobites?