The little library at home is full of books, books that belong to my grandparents, my parents, my brother and a tiny collection that I have procured over the years. Being Bengali, one is predisposed to love books. This gene however, surfaced quite late in my life. The warriors that my parents are, they tried every few years to inculcate the habit of reading into me. At first it was the Noddy collection, and then came the Enid Blyton series, everywhere they went they would bring back books for my brother and I. They even tried Bangla short stories! My brother on the other hand was a voracious reader, as a matter of fact he would average at least two books a week when we were still in junior school. While he looked forward to the Calcutta Book Fair each year, I’d wait for our trips to Nicco Park.
Something changed in 2004 when my brother left for college. Suddenly, I lost my companion, my permanent buddy to do things with. It’s during that summer after ICSE, that I started reading. This is probably why; I hadn’t really explored our little library at home as much as my brother had. All the Tell Me Why’s, the Encyclopedia’s didn’t know of my existence till much later. It was only recently, that I trekked down to our mezzanine floor library to look through my dad’s art books that I stumbled upon one particular book. This book, had an inscription, it said in Bengali, that it was an anniversary present from my grandfather to my grandmother. I stroked over that page and sniffed it to see if the smell would remind me of them. Alas, it reeked of mothballs. Agh!
In another book, I found a note, which said, that my grandfather had won the first prize in 10th grade while studying at St. Gregory’s High School, Dhaka. This was one of the few things that he had brought with him when they had to leave former East Pakistan. That’s the thing about handwritten notes. It transports you to another time almost instantly. I love handwritten letters! This is probably why, I always ask for birthday cards. While studying in the U.S. I’d occasionally send my parents handwritten letters and cards. Whenever they sent me a letter, I would hold it a little close and try to smell my mom’s shower-to-shower powder and dad’s old spice cologne.
While in school, we’re taught to write different types of letters. Formal, informal, official, inquiry, the list goes on. Truth be told, I am almost 30 and am yet to send out an actual formal letter. We are the generation that transitioned from learning to write letters in school, to work emails (mostly). Rummaging through the old books full of little inscriptions, I had the sudden urge to go look for my old letters and cards that are safely kept in the bottom drawer of my desk. Flipping through them, I felt my face hurting from the constant smiling. I identified the letters based on the handwriting pattern. Smiled, that some of my friends still write the same way.
Essentially, our handwriting gives our stories character.
I received an email last night from a dear friend of mine, who is a beautiful writer and one of the few people who still uses the USPS! Reading her digital letter made me miss her perfectly symmetrical handwriting. Every year as we exchanged books on our birthdays, we’d carefully inscribe little saying in it, in pencil of course! As I sat in our library this afternoon, I picked out books given to me by her to feel a little closer. I wish people took the time out to write actual letters. They’re so intimate and personal. It creates a sense of belonging in each other’s world. Also, I feel it would be a far more valuable thing to pass onto the next generation than, digital copies of WhatsApp text messages.