Wednesday, September 21, 2011

the Mail - bharata

There was once a time, eons and eons ago, when we had pens and refills; memos and carbon papers; registers and inter-office communications. Not only did we spend a good part of our lives (read that as classes 6 to 12 in the darn CBSE board) learning to write these letters, we also spent a lot of our salary paying time laughing at life forms that did not know how to draft that perfect letter. (oh! there are specimens that would cause minor heart attacks in language experts)

There were days when we finished one refill after the other, trying to capture all and sundry into words that sounded officious, sometimes intimidating, or knowledgeable and wise. We developed excellent wrist flexor muscles, since we used ample force to make sure the third carbon copy did not eat away half of the message! We also left space very generously for all the "cc"s to sign their acceptance. We really didn't have any "bcc"s - the letter writers of yore had the gumption (Ha! resisted the use of a stronger, more appropriate descriptive noun here!) to let people know who would be reading the nasty message they wrote! Ofcourse, unofficially, all peons, secretaries AND the discretely placed photocopy machine were all "Bcc"s! More on that later.

We used words like "To bring to your kind notice" and "To whoever it may concern". We spent hours wording the words just right so as to come across as a knowledgeable wise-crack with the right amount of wit and sarcasm. Mind you, that was an art not many people succeeded in developing. This gave rise to another phenomenon - the letter / memo / report writers in office. Masterpieces on memo sheets were spoken about for months to come, and the unofficial "bcc"s would be in high demand for the hottest gossip.

The memo / letter would then lovingly be signed by the writer - another art. Signatures occupied a place of pride in the days of the carbon paper! Every piece of paper that exchanged hands had a stamp of approval in the form of an official equivalent of narcissism called a signature. And we loved it! In fact, we had special pens to use only for signatures. Only for signatures! (The cost of the refills of such 'signature' pens could have been the contributing factor). From here emerged the trend of the "see-I-have-a-Sheaffer/Parker/Mont Blanc-in-my-pocket" fashion.

And how could one forget the ever-necessary peon ? The hand delivery of the letters written were the next stage of the office drama, which could be completed only by this important link in communication. The best peon was the one who delivered the letter at the most appropriate time (for the writer of the letter .... but may turn out to be the most inappropriate one for the receiver of such communication. I forget the number of times i have seen movies where a peon enters a room just as the villain is about to do something evil!)

Compare that to today's communication:

"FYI, the last FY did not give us the results we were hoping for. We need to do something. Any ideas?
Am copying Y on this mail. Y, will you sit and work out a plan with X?"

Or, even better:

"Hi all. Attached please find the report."

CC - your boss, my boss, THEIR bosses, the girl who gives me the looks in sales dept., the other cute girl who likes numbers.
BCC -  my friend who needs help drafting important - looking mails such as this

I mean, come on! Where is the drama here? Where is the lovely, sarcastic streak in that note ? Where is the kick below the belt? Morevover, where is that chance to spice up the lives of the gossip circles? And then we claim office is getting boring! Thoughts??


  1. Also whr is the nostalgia you get when u read an old letter written to u by your grandparents or your brother. Mails cannot even deliver half the emotions.

    True story!

  2. @Red Handed... absolutely! not to mention letters from mothers when you live in a hostel, or when you are newly married! priceless!! God... now you've gotten me all nostalagic again! Thanks for commenting!

  3. :) loved it... i used to be the "official" leave letter writer for my brothers and i.. with of course my dad needing to sign it with his special pen... hehe... boyy.. those were the days... was that an art form? remember the "hero" pens which was high in demand (read reward) for marks scored in exams... oh and the leaky ones which used to let everyone know that we had been "studying".. heheh...

  4. Although I've written umpteen emails, writing a letter with a fountain pen has a magic feeling attached to it; especially at the end when you sign your name.

    Fantastic post you've written here, brought back the times when I had to write fake leave letters by the dozen in college for my classmates.

  5. I remember writing a post on this .. the nostalgia of old letter the blue inland ones .. the hand writing the effort taken to do so ...

    We have lost that now with all this ...


  6. @Stanley.... hahaha! yeah I left that one out - the leave letter writing! Thanks.

    @Atrocious .. oh yes!! its been AGES since i last wrote with a fountain pen; and now i have this urge to write with it again! Will hunt out my pen and use it for a few signatures! ;-)

    @Bikram .. Yeah! the blue inland with the tricky folds! loved it when we used to get long letters in that one. Thanks.