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How Do I Greet Thee? Let Me Count The Ways...

23/12/2015 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Homemade greeting cards, downtown Phnom Penh

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Time flows in strange ways. Sometimes years pass by at the blink of an eyelid, and at other times, even a week lingers for months. The amazing part is that for the years that pass by too soon, we wish they hadn't, while those that don't seem to have long outstayed their welcome. This year has passed too quickly too: wasn't it January only the other day? And are we already planning our year-end breaks?

The passage of the year usually bring a certain amount of gloom with it, exacerbated perhaps by the foggy days and misty nights. But it also carries with it the hope of a new beginning, the cheer of a new year. And with this time of year comes the joy of writing New Year greetings.

I would put my share of the cards on a soft-board, along with the birthday greetings I'd received, and was super-proud of my enviable collection.

My earliest memory of writing a New Year card dates to almost 25 years ago. We were in Allahabad at that time and my father had a big network of friends and acquaintances. We had yet to graduate to a personal phone and made do with letters or PP numbers. And on occasions like New Year and Christmas, we sent our people cards, lovely little greeting cards. Sometimes mother painted them with her deft brush strokes, sometimes father brought them from the market with his and mother's name printed on it, but each year end in our small-town India of the 80s came with small folded pieces of paper, which carried our fond greetings to our loved ones wherever they might be.

It was a ritual, a part of our New Year and Christmas celebration, to make a long list of people to send the cards to: family, relatives, family friends and our pals too. As young as we were, it was our job to look up the addresses in the diary, write the cards, put the stamp, mark them as "Book Post" and finally post them.

Sending the cards, however, was only half the fun - even more rewarding was receiving them: the joy of discovering an envelope in the letterbox, the anticipation of tearing it open, the thrill of finding one from that special friend (and sliding it into a book). Weeks were spent in opening, reading, counting and displaying the cards. Some liked to put them up in their showcases, some would display them on the top of their refrigerators and some, who had far too many, would string them together on a ribbon and hang them about. I would put my share of the cards on a soft-board, along with the birthday greetings I'd received, and was super-proud of my enviable collection.

[N]one of these -- the telephone, the mobile phone, FB, WhatsApp -- can take away the gloom of another year end like the folded piece of paper could.

Then, somewhere along the line, we got the telephone. We could now talk to whoever we liked, so what if we had to wait until 11pm for the pulse rates to go down? Calling a loved one, listening to his voice, and wishing him personally was far more gratifying than writing and waiting for a response (the telephone exchange even replaced the dial tone with "Happy New Year" on New Year's Day).

When mobiles came in, the calls were replaced by SMSs: it was far more convenient to write a message -- or copy someone else's -- and send to a bunch of people at once rather than calling everyone. There was no need to peep into our letterboxes anymore; the love and wishes were now delivered directly into our inboxes. And now we have Facebook and WhatsApp.

But none of these -- the telephone, the mobile phone, FB, WhatsApp -- can take away the gloom of another year end like the folded piece of paper could. And that is why, every year end, I still write the card, with love and respect, to all those who mean anything to me. It not only cheers me up, but also takes me back to the good old days of my childhood, even if only for a few days.

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