My friend Sowmya has a habit of leaving a handwritten note (with her feedback) in any novel she reads to surprise the next reader who borrows the same book to read. Personally I prefer that any books I read be not marred with any scribbling or graffiti of any kind but leaving a separate handwritten note on a paper does not constitute vandalism towards books so we can excuse her eccentricity and indulge her by crediting it to a quaint habit of connecting with readers of the same taste. But this made me think, when was the last time you found a hand written note in your book? For me it would have to be in my long gone school days. But before I come to that story, let me recall my long association with handwritten notes.
When i was young the letters we wrote (handwritten of course, for e-mail was not yet widely used) comprised of two special categories- leave letters and love letters. I must have written dozens of leave letters in my life, but only a few warrant special mentions, as I will share with you later on in this post. But let us first turn to the fascinating topic of writing love letters and leaving them secretly in others books. In my long and distinguished career as a man of words, i have been fortunate to assist in the writing of many love letters, some successful but mostly tragic. This never palled my attraction in continuing to write for i have never looked down in the face of a challenge but continued to produce purple prose involving roses, violets, clouds and assorted animals like deer and rabbits (whichever rhymed when needed) whenever a love letter needed to be produced at short notice, say like the fifteen minute mid-morning break in a school day.
Now let me confess dear reader that though i have written many, many love letters in my career, I have not had the opportunity to write a single love letter for myself. If you read (carefully) between the lines of the previous line, you might chance upon the information that I did write a great many number of love letters, but tragically (for me) all those love letters were for friends and fellow students who weren’t literate enough to write their own version of their love story. A small and undeserved reputation for being good with rhyming words drew a lot of the romantic clientèle towards me to write their love letters for them. For the sake of world peace and universal love, i obliged my fellow classmates and friends by putting my romantic thoughts on paper and passing it on to the boys who passed it on to the love of their lives (for the day) as their original work
The hardest part of writing a love letter at short notice is the difficulty in finding enough romantic words which rhyme together. English is a hard language when it comes to writing on love; there is only the word “love” to describe a whole lot of emotions unlike other regional languages with their fair richer romantic vocabularies. A lot of time was spent on samosas and tea at the canteen trying to find words which match love, dove, stove, now ( you cow) etc. Fortunately (for me) though I was given full poetic license to use all these fanciful expressions of love, the end result (success or failure) was not mine to agonize over because the persons who commissioned me to write these love letters did not even bother to read them over once before handing them over to the girls they fancied. They were just in too much of a hurry (running against time) to hand over the letter to the girl before break time was over and we all had to troop back into class. Or alternatively to go hide the letters in the record books before the girl came to her desk after the break
Likewise the girls who got these lovey dovey letters never bothered to read them too, for they were too busy tearing them up and throwing them right in front of the guys face to show that they did not care for them. So all my masterpieces in love letter writing had no readers- a fact which filled me with sadness at first and then with glee when I realized all the opportunity this afforded me to have fun at others expense. Pretty soon I was throwing in a few words here and there about how the girl looked like a monkey’s offspring and how the guy loved her even then and passed it off with a straight face to the guy who gives them to the girl who in turn tears the letter to pieces without reading. I became so reckless that once or twice just on a whim i used to sign my own name in the love letter written for other guys and he in turn passing it on to his girl. Thankfully the girls, who got those letters with proof of my audacity, must have torn them up without reading, for no girl ever came to me and pulled my leg by saying “i accept”.
Well those are about the love letters I wrote. Now to move on to a related topic – the ones which I received. Just like my friend Sowmya who leaves notes in others books, the girls of my acquaintance (in my younger days) were experts in leaving little love notes inside the boys books for them to read and tear their hair out wondering which one was the one who was in love with him. I remember finding one such little love note in my Biology record returning after lunch break. At first i thought it was my undigested lunch which was making me hallucinate. But the proof was solid in my hand. Someone had gone and done a “me” on me. Used my own trick on me. Who could it be who had so shyly (but in such passionate words) confessed their love for me just when we were about to break up for the study holidays before our final school leaving exams after which we will all drift off to different directions in life?
(Please return tomorrow for Part 2 of this story)