Sunday, March 28, 2010

Communication breakdown..

Goofy Mumma`s post 'Connected or Stressed?' set me thinking.
A few days back, someone gasped at the lengths of my emails. He said it was unnatural because he had gotten so used to brief, to-the-point messages. My emails made him uncomfortable, as did my thoughts. I couldn't get over it. It bothered me.
How can communicating be a bad thing?
In long ago lifetimes, I remember how I would run out of the girls` hostel, clutching a letter in my hand. I would drive to my favorite spot near college, a lone banyan tree on an abandoned hillock(also called LBT by AFMCites!), curl up underneath and devour the thick wad of paper full of gossip and news! Letters from home, from my sister. I would sit alone with the letter in my hand and weep some. And then I would begin to write..When Dad passed away last April, we had to go through his personal stuff. And there, wrapped up in a plastic bag, now crinkled over time, were all those letters I had written years ago, sitting alone under the tree. He had saved every single one of them.
I still have letters written by some of my closest friends in school. I love to hold them, to read them from time to time. It smells of History; my history and those who were a part of it. I saved each little note, each letter, so I could read them silently to myself on warm summer afternoons or a lonely winter day. I read the letters over and over, so as to remember those who were a part of my life once but not anymore. I read,so as not to let the words slip from my as never to forget.
A piece of paper conveying diverse sentiments, ranging from fear to love to warm hand clasps and big hugs..sometimes even anger, across distant souls. Some are brief. Some are piquant. Some loving. And some plain caustic. But all are heartfelt. All are earnest, unfeigned emotions that I had managed to evoke in someone; emotions strong enough to warrant an unbridled, unchecked expression of thoughts through a letter.
It never ceases to fascinated me.
A few years back when I was in the Army, I used to write long letters back home and to my friends. There was no cell phone connectivity along the LOC and landlines were unreliable. We had to go through 2 army exchanges to connect to a regular PCO. And then wait for days before there was a connection home. And so I wrote. I wrote every single day and like there`s no tomorrow. All that I had was my heart written out in pieces of paper. It was a life line; the only thread that kept me bound to the world outside; the only honest expression that told me I was still in the same world, still under the same sky, still breathed the same air. Everything else was surreal..
I still check my letter box everyday, but no one writes to me anymore. And so,like everyone else, I stick to emails too, though I have never seen it as any different from a letter, hand-written. What better way to put your thoughts and feelings across than by writing. It is gratifying. It pleases me. Satisfies my soul. Yes, Emails definitely help to keep in touch.But communicating? That`s a whole new ball game.
Consider this.
After a couple of long emails discussing Ayn Rand, I got a two-liner reply back from a "friend", stating how we should meet up over elaborate drinking sessions to chat up. I took that seriously. I was excited at the prospect of making a friend(God knows I needed one!). And I wrote back some more.. Only later did I learn it the hard way that sometimes people write two-liners for the heck of it. Yes, emails have made it easier to evade, to palter,to fool..And yet, despite the realization, when I dont get a response,it makes me guilty. It makes me sad. But most of all, it troubles me. Have I just ended up making a fool of myself? Has it been misconstrued as too eager or too desperate or too jobless. Why would someone avoid a coversation by sending back one-liner scraps/replies and sometimes not even that?! How can responding to an email be a bad thing? Or is this simply about not responding to my email?
In a world swamped by technology, everywhere I go, I find my personal space invaded. And it is at such times when I long to receive a letter, all gooey, gushy, maudlin..filled with words carefully chosen and eternal, meant for no one but me.. And yes, I have written such letters too - with no reply, thank you very much! Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic, or just downright old-fashioned.
In today`s world, where sentimentality is ridiculed and friendships have become a matter of convenience rather than need; where there is a growing apathy amongst men and urban alienation continues to take new forms, I cant help wondering..
Has interpersonal communication really gotten easier?
Or has it simply broken down..

"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more.
People talking without speaking..
People hearing without listening..
People writing songs that voices never shared.
No one dared disturb the sound of silence.."


Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

It's Time my friend. We're all too pressed for time. We're always in a hurry and are so stressed all the time, we don't even have the time to stop and say hello. We can't even be bothered to type out whole words and have invented a whole new horrendous language called SMS-ese to get our points across, so forget about letter-writing!

I think it's a shame and like you, I still have so many of my letters from my hostel days. They are brimming over with love and sentiment.

Sigh! What I wouldn't do for an envelope of happiness today :-)

Passionate Goof said...

It is convenience, its the lack of wanting to make an effort, and a million other things put together, that leads us to this point. Additionally, all this technology, has lead to quantum leaps in quantity, and exponential drop in quality of communication. I rarely even get personal e-mails now, they are mostly forwards, or notices from the social networking sites, or some site I might have subscribed to. Just feels great to see a personal e-mail in the box at times.

Sraboney said...

Piper, you are always welcome to write to me...

I miss snail mail...I haven't received one in eons...It's so bad that my husband of 9 years asked me the other day "I didn't know your handwriting was so slanted..."

Jira said...

Oh! Hostel and letters....I remember how my roommates used to stare in jealousy, at the bundles of paper I received from my sister! From TV serial plots, to family gossip they carried everything :)That was a decade ago!

The last letter I wrote was to my grandfather (about five years ago). But I never got a chance to finish it. The half written letter waited on my desk for months, but the news of his death reached me before I could complete it. I still have that letter serving as a reminder of the habit I had long lost and of my laziness...

Nowadays e-mails are so short coz u can send one everyday. Not like the letters that took weeks or a month to reach the destination that you have cram so much info in them. Communication is fast in pace with our fast-paced lives. I doubt whether people even remember to write these days....

Anonymous said...

I guess there are two sides of the coin. The new methods of communicating may have both advantages, and disadvantages.

Also consider this, that some people are very good with words. They can express their thoughts, and opinions beautifully. While others may not be able to express themselves that well.

Piper .. said...

M4: Hey..I completely agree. It is Time..or the lack of it - so much so that we actually converse in 'SMS' language, like you say! Sad, but true.. So good to see you here! I hope you`re doing a lil better..

Goof: Same here, Goof! It feels great to see a personal email, doesn't it? And I agree - technology is here to stay - only with a dwindling quality of communication..

Sraboney: Thanks for the offer - I will take it up :):) And yes, I so understand what you mean! I didnt know what The G`s handwriting looked like, till after a year of marriage, when I moved in with him!

Jira: Hey.. so sorry about the letter you never got to send.. I wish you had, though.. :( And yes, emails definitely are more convenient that way. I for one, stick to emails, rather than making personal calls. But I guess, it`s all about writing, about putting your thoughts in print, that makes a difference..

Anonymous: There are two sides, like you say. And I presented just half of one side, while giving examples. One reason for not receiving replies the way I would want is perhaps the fact that sometimes I get carried away and write utter trash - and so my emails dont warrant a reply at all.That said, let me also add that it doesn't matter how well or how badly you write, as long as there continues to be some amount of understanding or connection.. Do you really think it would matter to me or to anybody else if I get a letter/email that is completely heartfelt and meant just for me, but written in a grammatically poor language? Do you really think it matters?
P.S -It`s nice of you to comment on my post. Makes me happy :) Keep visiting!

Indyeah said...

I have saved each and everyone of the precious letters from loved ones Piper.
Those from dad when he was posted in Kupwara and wrote to us little kids separately and then to mom(all mushy I am sure which she has preserved):)
Bro too wrote tomes from IMA ...
Same was and is the case with school friends and their letters.
the letters are such a joy to read! such a!
And now I write long rambles to PM at which he shakes his head and smiles:)
but I know he is carefully preserving all of them too:)


Amrita said...

This post ringed a bell, cos i had read something similar in times of india as well. it also hinted how the electronic age made people more attuned to updates through scraps rather than the person they might be living with. for its always easier to turn off the computer rather than shutting the door. so the "real" people are being taken for granted while the "online" ones get more attention.

again i am digressing. even i loved the snail mail age. i think when one writes a handwritten mail, it involves so much effort. not only writing, but posting it, waitin for the acknowledgement that the letter was received, (which would again come in a letter), and then getting the response (again in a letter :) ) since there was so much effort and time involved people never took it for granted. but now its just button clicks are refreshes which can do the trick, the ease of the mechanism takes the pain and feeling away from the whole exercise. hence yea, emails are kinda taken for granted. many a times i write whole long emails to people close to me and i get :) or :x as the response. its easy, but i need words, words to match up with the words i wrote, but i end up getting special characters :(

times are changing piper, :( thats the gist i think. waiseee u can write to meeeee... i would sooo looooove writing back.

Renu said...

even today I have many old letters..written 30 years it depends person tpo person..I love communicating thru written matter, more than even phone, as sometimes we can express better while writing..but one thing is sure whatevr I write or do is genuine, no makeing fool of anyone.

MRC said...


I know what you mean about the long personal emails. Getting one of those just makes my day, mainly because I feel that some one has actually taken the time to think about me and found something to say , other than just a generic "Hi, How are you" . And there's nothing like the let down of excitedly clicking on the "Inbox(1)" tab , only to find a stupid forwarded message!!

Also dropping by to let you know, the seven tag has hit you too,here


moon said...

Oh yes, email instant messaging should increase our communication logically...but itis the reverse...

i still remember the days where i wait eagerly for the postman...

i think we have to accept the change...

i think you shud try to get friends who have similiar wavelength...

nirvana demon said...

dear piper,
I have been reading your blog with interested infrequency over the past few months. and today i come across this line " a lone banyan tree on an abandoned hillock(also called LBT by AFMCites!) "
Predictably, am curious, interested, intrigued, piqued and tickled to see the ole a mat. pop up in this random way.
or is it really that random?
the mind boggles, the pulse races, the heart beats, the prostate contracts.
greetings to u, then, from a juggernaut, batch of 1997.
and keep writing. Sesquipedalian sentences are boring when they are robbed of any true import by the dreariness of over-information, or when they are robbed of artifice by the brusqueness of necessity.
when the mind want to loop, and whorl , and dip and swoop in the warm afternoon air, what better way than words: wonderful, warm, whimsical and witty

Piper .. said...

Nirvana demon: Gasp! %&^%&^%^*????!!!!!! How did you find me???? :):)
And that is what happens when I dont keep my opinions to myself! But I just had to speak up after your post on German Bakery. Too many memories had just gone up in smoke and all that was left were the smudged ashes..That`s how you found me of course!
And for sure, you have even known who I am for the longest time - given the absolute ignorance/imbecility I exhibited by using my name in the URL. Trust me, I had no idea this blog would end up being my very own 'stairway to heaven'..If I had known, I would have maintained anonymity! And so here`s a sincere request, which I hope you will honor. Can this be between the two of us only? Please.. I would like to remain obscure now. Have had too much publicity in the past. Been slashed. Dissected alive, bit by bit. Piece by piece. And nearly left for dead. I`ve been on my feet and running now and hell! I dont want to stop. So I`d really appreciate it if this remains between the two of us. I`d appreciate it if this is not shared.
That said, Thanks a ton for dropping by,ND! I hope life is treating you well..I do get to see snap shots of you and the rest on FB every now and then. And I sit back and smile.. Life has changed so much for all of us, hasnt it? But then again, that`s what`s so comforting.. :)

Anonymous said...

just trawled in here and read the comments, and your response :)
might i waggle eyebrows theatrically and say fear not your secret is safe with me?
(still waggling)

Piper .. said...

ND: *Piper heaves a sigh of relief*(Asha Parikh style, no less!).. and falls flat at Thy Lotus Feet, ND, in eternal gratitude!!

Just kidding...:)