LOVE is in the air these days, much more expressively than in my younger days, but I must admit to have written a love letter or two. The objects of this rather public confession were intensely private missives, ones that seemed at that time to express the deepest feelings that I had for the person they were addressed to. You know, it took time, and a lot of guts: “Pyar ka pehla khat likhne mein, Waqt to lagta hai, Naye parindon ko udne mein, Waqt to lagta hai.”
Before you launched your missive, you crafted it. Sometimes your emotions simply poured out on paper, many, many sheets of ruled notebooks, spotless sheets of shining white paper and sometimes scented stationery. The message, the medium, and the whole experience sought to convey much more than mere words could.
I have never spoken or written about these love letters, and now would be as bad a time as any to discuss them or their contents. Yet, I am doing so, and the reason for this somewhat uncharacteristic indiscretion is an advertorial that I have just seen. Something called the “Google Docs: A love letter”, which over two lakh viewers have already watched on YouTube.
Call it a generation gap or whatever, I am simply appalled, amazed is a politer term, at the very idea of someone sharing his or her most intimate thoughts with others. At least in my days, when we wrote a love letter it was (ideally) meant to be strictly personal between the two of us. When you bared your soul, you would be accorded the courtesy of privacy, at least that was the presumption. Sometimes you hit a very wrong number and became an object of ridicule, but for most of us, privacy was an essential part of such an exchange.
Of course, for some this opportunity was simply not available, since they were not educated. In came the ‘Dakiya daak laya, daakiya daak laya‘ option. The somewhat educated and definitely literate postman was used by the masses to convey their message of love to those in distant lands, often he also acted as the scribe.
Before I deride Google Docs on the corroborative issue, it must be admitted that this is hardly a new idea. In college, I remember one time when a college mate tried out the collaborative route.
The amorous young man asked some Dada friends to help him out with snagging a date. The only thing, which these worthies had in common, was their absolute ignorance of the fairer sex. It is not that they could not talk to girls. It was a matter of record that they could say a ‘Hello!’ Beyond that, they became tongue-tied.
Yet, they were more than up to the task of telling others what to do. This poor chap followed their advice. His flowery presentation left her unmoved and she shared the experience with others. The affair that had hitherto been confined to his head now made him the laughing stock of the university.
Now, to be fair to Google, they have taken a diametrically opposite route. Michael writes out a long, elaborate, and flowery letter, quoting Shakespeare, throwing in a bit of French, and even including an elaborate list of possible date activities.
He asks his friends to help and they collaborate to produce the perfect letter for Jessica, whom Michael has met at the beginners’ French class. They do so by pruning the unnecessary flourishes and emotions in Michael’s letter to make it a simple request to meet after class. In the process, someone has included Jessica, too, by saying: “I know that I shouldn’t be showing you this, but this is so cute…”
Jessica accepts the request for coffee after the class, but with the proviso that next time he should ask her in person. Now, isn’t that simple! If only my friend in college had known not to seek advice but follow the dictates of his heart by directly addressing the girl, he might well have succeeded.
This middle, by Roopinder Singh, was published in The Tribune on February 14, 2011