I left India to join my husband in Bahrain many years ago. So many years ago that letters, actual letters or snail mail as they are called now, were the common means of staying in touch with family back home.
It is very difficult for my children to comprehend how one functioned before the age of e-mail. Specially when phone calls were reserved for special occasions and emergencies and it took weeks before one received a letter in response.
When we moved to Canada 20 years ago, I had a ton of letters to write. Family and friends in India and friends and ex-colleagues in the Persian Gulf were eager for news of our new home.
Remember, again, this was before every home had a computer, when every letter had to be written by hand and not as an e-mail copied to everyone on the mailing list. Coming to think of it, I’m beginning to wonder how I managed before computers!
Anyway, to get back to my letters. I took several days to write all the letters by hand. Then I went to the nearby mall that had a postal outlet in a store to mail them. The cost of mailing – significantly higher than what I paid in Bahrain – came as a shock.
Then I had an idea. In my stack of letters, I also had a few birthday and anniversary cards to mail.
I asked the young girl at the counter if I could send them by ‘Book Post’ as we used to do in India.
She looked totally blank.
“You wanna mail a book?” she asked, doubtfully.
“No, mail the cards by book post,” I tried again. “You know, book post? When you leave the envelope open?”
“You can leave the envelope unsealed if you wish,” she said, looking desperately over her shoulder for her supervisor. “But why would you want to do that?”
Because it cost less to do so, I explained, enunciating everything slowly and carefully, to help the poor girl understand.
By this time she had obviously decided that I was the one that needed help and excused herself to go fetch her supervisor.
I was flustered by this time and probably not too coherent, but her supervisor came, gave me a patient hearing and then explained that such a service was not available in Canada.
The cost of postage for all international mail under a certain weight – to any country – was the same.
Now I appreciate the simplicity of the process, but I have still to get used to the higher cost of mailing.
– ARTI KUKKARNI
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