Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A life in letters

I have written three mails in my life. I am of course discounting the numerous replies to near and dear ones. When i say three, I mean three instances where I thought writing was the most satisfying way of getting rid of that uncontrollable itch of thoughts. One was to this guy I briefly dated in ACJ. I wrote to him so that I could provide him and mostly me a closure on how things went woozy between us and it was in the best interest of both of us to look for greener avenues in life. That one flowed smoothly since I has a lot of grudges against this dude and it was my best chance to vent out things that i couldn't tell him otherwise that his breath reeked of fish stink and he used to mumble in sleep each time he drank.

The second one was to my mom, again in ACJ. Funnily, this was a postal mail sent purely for selfish reasons. It was was my second month in ACJ and i saw those kids getting fat parcels from home with all sorts of goodies and affectation which made me feel horribly jealous and greedy but most importantly I wanted the warden to pass by my room and for once call out my name to hand me over "the parcel". Anyway, so I wrote to mom telling her about all the nice stuff that Chennai was all about which predictably ended in less than a page. So it was mostly about the assignments and grades and the false responsible talk. With my luck, all that mail returned me was a frantic, agitated phone call to which i remember replying "Yes, I am fine. I am not lonely... i am not going through racism here... No, I wouldn't entertain the idea of returning home without finishing the course".

The third one went to a friend in U.K. She and I have shared a great wordy relationship all through our graduation years. It was effortless to to open up to her mostly because she shares my aquarian quirks. those very quirks probably explains the drifting away over time. Neither of us made the initiative to remain in contact years after she moved out. She's a fine resilient soul, i bet she's doing wonders for herself.

Anyway, these are some of my favourite letters I've found online 

Famous love letter by Lewis Carroll

 Christ Church, Oxford, October 28, 1876

My Dearest Gertrude:
My Dearest Gertrude:

You will be sorry, and surprised, and puzzled, to hear what a queer illness I have had ever since you went. I sent for the doctor, and said, "Give me some medicine. for I'm tired." He said, "Nonsense and stuff! You don't want medicine: go to bed!"

I said, "No; it isn't the sort of tiredness that wants bed. I'm tired in the face." He looked a little grave, and said, "Oh, it's your nose that's tired: a person often talks too much when he thinks he knows a
great deal." I said, "No, it isn't the nose. Perhaps it's the hair." Then he looked rather grave, and said, "Now I understand: you've been playing too many hairs on the pianoforte."

"No, indeed I haven't!" I said, "and it isn't exactly the hair: it's more about the nose and chin." Then he looked a good deal graver, and said, "Have you been walking much on your chin lately?" I said, "No." "Well!" he said, "it puzzles me very much.

Do you think it's in the lips?" "Of course!" I said. "That's exactly what it is!"

Then he looked very grave indeed, and said, "I think you must have been giving too many kisses." "Well," I said, "I did give one kiss to a baby child, a little friend of mine."

"Think again," he said; "are you sure it was only one?" I thought again, and said, "Perhaps it was eleven times." Then the doctor said, "You must not give her any more till your lips are quite rested
again." "But what am I to do?" I said, "because you see, I owe her a hundred and eighty-two more." Then he looked so grave that tears ran down his cheeks, and he said, "You may send them to her in a box."

Then I remembered a little box that I once bought at Dover, and thought I would someday give it to some little girl or other. So I have packed them all in it very carefully. Tell me if they come safe or if any are lost on the way."

Lewis Carrol

Writing advice from C.S. Lewis to a young American fan named Joan Lancaster:
The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
26 June 1956
Dear Joan–
Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same. His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.
About amn’t Iaren’t I and am I not, of course there are no right or wrong answers about language in the sense in which there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. “Good English” is whatever educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be so in another. Amn’t I was good 50 years ago in the North of Ireland where I was brought up, but bad in Southern EnglandAren’t I would have been hideously bad in Ireland but very good in England. And of course I just don’t know which (if either) is good in modern Florida. Don’t take any notice of teachers and textbooks in such matters. Nor of logic. It is good to say “more than one passenger was hurt,” although more than one equals at least two and therefore logically the verb ought to be plural were not singular was!
What really matters is:–
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’timplement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.
With love
C.S. Lewis
 Maurice Sendak to a young fan

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim: I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”


Dear Amy,
I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works.
With love from,
Roald Dahl

After reading Yann Martel’s book Life of Pi with his daughter, a fan sat down to write this short note of thanks.
Mr. Martel —
My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals.
It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.
Thank you.
(Signed, ‘Barack Obama’)


Famous love letter by Napolean Bonaparte

Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire


  1. Roald Dahl IS delightful. You should read the BFG, cool book about a giant that helps people dream. Kind of similar to Ink.

  2. it's one of Roald Dahl's books - big friendly giant.

    but they do have a gun in doom called the bfg -- b for big, g for gun. i'll leave you to figure out what f stands for (hint: it's not "friendly")