On World Postcard Day today, meet the women who go beyond WhatsApp chats and Insta DMs and have not given up on this quaint mode of communication
When most people were tired of social distancing during the lockdown, Disha Shah sat for long hours writing postcards to her loved ones. “I realised that most of them didn’t even know where the nearest post offices are. That’s when I got the idea to revive the culture of sending postcards,” says the Ahmedabad-based enthusiast, who recently started writepostcard.com, a service that sends personalised and curated postcards on behalf of individuals.
In July, Rohini Kejriwal, founder of the Alipore Post, started off a pen pal programme. “Chitthi Exchange came about when my intern, Tanishka Pandey, was keen to work on a community-based activity to help people connect with strangers and forge new friendships. We keep it simple: those interested filled in a Google Form, with an intuitive pairing done by me,” says Kejriwal, who has now connected almost 1,500 pen pals (750 pairs) across India and the world.
Not just a hobby
While men like Vishnu Ravishankar (@zoro_pc), Ludhiana-based Pulkit Kochhar (@swap_it_india), and Coimbatore-based Viknesh Kumar (@vikki56pc) do actively contribute to the community, women seem to be a dominant presence in the postcard community. Even before the pandemic, Bengaluru-based Anupama Gummaraju has been writing postcards to people across the world for more than a year now. “However brief the interaction may be [because of the limited space], I’ve had glimpses of people’s lives that really drive home the point that we are all just humans navigating this world as best as we can,” says the co-owner of an educational initiative, Tide Learning.
Both adults and kids can learn a lot about the world through postcards, she says. “Kindergarten and primary grade schoolteachers in the UK and the US carry out projects where they receive postcards from different countries. Parents who home-school their kids often swap postcards to educate their kids about history, geography, cultures, food, and habits from around the world,” Gummaraju explains, adding, “I’m 48 now — it’s never too late to start.”
Onam Girls by S Padma Malini
An undying faith
In the last two years, Pune-based Anushka Sawarkar has exchanged more than 1,500 postcards with people from almost 80 countries. Apart from meeting a few of her pen pals in real life, she has also got to know her local postal workers. “I have a great rapport with them and they absolutely love seeing the different postcards I receive from around the world,” she says. For Chennai-based artist S Padma Malini, postcards are her canvas. The 38-year-old artist took time during the lockdown to create a social media page dedicated to her work (@theplainpaperspage on Instagram). “MF Husain used to travel with 100 postcards to draw his artwork. The day I got to learn this, I was inspired to do the same,” says Malini.
Mumbai-based medical student, Bhumika Sunil Israni, who has been sending and receiving snail mail for the past two and a half years says that the lockdown was harder with no postcards to look forward to. “An empty mailbox did make me feel sad, but then I decided to reread the ones I already had. Unlike emails or phone messages, this was like a journey in the better past. The postcards started pouring in from June onwards, when postal services resumed,” she says. Israni now knows people living in more than 100 countries. “My family says that wherever I end up in the world, I will always have someone to shelter me,” she concludes with a laugh.
Art on your mail
These artists are sharing their art on postcards on Instagram.
Deepti Ahluwalia Sinha – @purplepirateco
Gurgaon-based Deepti Ahluwalia Sinha, a mother of one, says that her postcards are an ode to India Post workers, who have worked relentlessly during the pandemic to ensure that the mail reaches their home. @purplepirateco on Instagram
Shikha Nambiar – @chicabeingme
Pune-based Shikha Nambiar, 34, says, “The fact that a little piece of paper travels so many miles to reach my mailbox is just fascinating.” @chicabeingme on Instagram
Kodhai Narayanan – @artbykodhai
Bengaluru-based Kodhai Narayanan, 20, says, “Capturing fleeting moments and places in a postcard is like giving a memory a physical form, so that it can be transported to anyone in any part of the world.” @artbykodhai on Instagram
Shuruti Vengatesh – @make.mail
When Coimbatore-based Shuruti Vengatesh received cards from her grandfather on her birthdays, she was over the moon. “That’s where my love for writing letters and postcards comes from,” she says. @make.mail on Instagram.
Tulika Saxena – @embroid
Tulika Saxena, who is currently studying textile design from NID, says, “I was at home in Varanasi, and it was during the lockdown that I saw my grandfather’s postcard collection. I wanted to reinvent the yellow cards into something soothing (hence embroidery) and add visuals of local trees and flowers that remind us of home.” @embroid on Instagram.