Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On
The decline in mail through the Post Office (PO) was inevitable. With the internet and email, all "mail" now zooms to its destination in the blink of an eye and you can get a reply instantly.
The PO, now fondly referred to as "snail mail", sad to say, when compared to technology, was destined to die a slow death. And may I add that the art of "penning" letters may also be dying a slow death.
Sometime ago I had an interview with Fiji TV on the issue of writing letters, and I received a lot of pleasant responses. And yes, before you ask, I still have all the love letters that my best friend (now my wife) and I wrote to each other way back in the early 80s. The strings are still attached to my heart.
But back to the art of writing. Before the Internet one had to use one's imagination to write a good letter, And it was only yours if you didn't get help from someone else. Though I doubt that if it was a love letter, you'd ask a friend for advice. Today's young people can just do a search online on the internet and can copy the contents of a letter. Only if the receiver is eagle-eyed can he or she recognize it as plagiarised.
Writing is an art, and if one has good handwriting it is more than an art. In this day and age, I still receive a few letters in the mail. The senders usually do not have a computer or they do like the Internet and Internet Cafes. It takes lots of writing paper and time to write and the care put into the letter is often known from its length.
I remember the days when the postman would come around to our area in Samabula North, Suva. We would hear the "tring-tring" of his bicycle bell and my elder cousins would rush out to see if they had received a letter. Or if the letter they had written to a cousin, aunt or boy friend had been answered.We all knew the postman personally and if he brought lots of letters to our home, he was invited in for a cup of tea and a cookie or a cold drink.
When my female cousins received a letter from a boyfriend, their squeals would bring the neighbours running out to see if someone had been hurt. The squeals of delight would often be followed by sighs of relief all round. Then they would retire to their secluded corner to open it in private and I would hear sighs and aaarrs and ooooooos, Being so young and curious, I would sometimes wander their way only to get a glare that would have turned back the Third Reich.
I have many memories like this because I lived in an extended family who wrote many letters. The house would smell like a perfume factory after one of my female cousins wrote a letter, put her lip print on it and sprayed it with perfume.And the trip to the post office was like an expedition to deliver important papers to the Queen. Such was the delight, love and care that was put into the writing and delivery of the letter.
Do you remember the old movies of soldiers serving in the frontline? The mail man was the most loved person second only to the cook.When he came around to the trenches with bullets and mortars exploding in the distance, mud and sweat stained faces would look expectantly at him to see if someone from back home had written. For the soldiers who received mail, it was like heaven had been sent to them.The letters would be read over and over again, kissed, hugged and neatly folded and tucked away somewhere safe to be read over and over again in time. For the soldier who didn't receive any letters, he would clamber up the fox hole, put on a brave face and with a tear rolling down his eye, point his .303 bolt action rifle towards the enemy and wait. To comfort himself he would read the last letter he got from home or a girl friend. Letters were reassurance that the people back at home were thinking of them.
And back home to receive a letter from a son, dad, husband, boyfriend or cousin that was slightly covered in mud, was like manna from heaven. It indicated their man was still alive. Many of the old folk still have in their possession fountain pens and writing pads that they used to write letters. Many are now safely placed in sideboards to remind them of the days gone by.
Today we see emails from young people who use abbreviated language. I frown on it but accept that times have changed.
As for the slow demise of the postal industry, may I suggest that Post Fiji together with the Ministry of Education set up competitions on letter writing between schools similar to the oratory contests and debates. Participants would come in to a hall, sit at a desk that has a writing pad and pen a subject given to them right there and then and be given a time limit to write their letter. Letters could vary from 50 to 500 words. Part of the prize would be for the winners to work in the Post Office for a week to see what it's like.
I remember the days when I had penfriends and it was such a delight to write to Africa, New Zealand and Australia and find out about life over there. And all the mail went through the Post Office. Alas, all that is gone. But we should revive the art of letter writing so that the skill is not lost. A word-abbreviated email cannot compete with a romantic letter.
And may I ask, does the Postman always ring twice?