Lost Connections (Image Credit: Reena Kapoor)

I am old enough to remember the era when we eagerly awaited snail mail! I grew up in places spread all across India, going to eight schools in almost as many cities. So for me, letters, postcards, even curiosities like telegrams and inland letters held a special place – instruments for and witnesses to connections displaced by time and space. The daily arrival of the “postman” meant something. I loved tearing open envelopes to devour letters, messages, and if we got lucky photos, especially in December/January when friends and family felt obligated to send annual missives letting us know where they were and how they were faring.

Today, most greetings arrive online and in the last few years, even those have declined. My own theory (viruses aside) is that as we went social-media-hysterical, oversharing and hyper-performing our perfectly coiffed and filtered selves in every season, there remained very little left to share at year-end! So while I don’t exactly miss paper in my mailbox, a recent nostalgia for ye olde letters from years past surprised me. With that came the poem above – a throwback to the time of the postman who brought such gifts, news of love or its possibility, as well as long-awaited connections to our door.

THE POSTMAN

Even now I sense a gentle flutter, 

mild anticipation

at the mailbox, 

my earnest sentry that stands

a hollowed out box 

of lost connection

affronting the house 

in precarious quixotic stance. 

Even as these days 

colorful papers arrive

to deliver nothing 

to tear open and read

No long awaited letters 

delivering dreams or love

Reassurances on a postcard 

from a traveling friend

Tall claims with pictures of vistas 

that fade memories before the ink

No telegram with congratulations 

or even a birthday wish!

As if the world ghosted us 

before that was even a thing!

Mostly I march arriving sheaf of papers 

straight to the recycle bin

I wonder if the mailman watches me 

make this rude terminal jaunt 

to promptly dump what he delivered 

for shredding and pulping this load 

however it is they recycle these days, 

inventing new uses and wants

Some say recycling does nothing — 

they don’t even sort the paper from plastic!

Yet I choose to imagine the paper is rebirthed 

with loftier ambition, transformed 

into kites drifting skyward carrying dreams, 

or earthly bags to ferry our loads

or covers for earnest journals we write in

when we tire from punching keyboards

I remember a time our handwriting

an extension of our talents and foibles

was something we self-consciously owned

a hearkening to the days when 

our fingers etched in ink and lead

papered spaces for our lonely souls!

Remember the time you and I wrote endless pages, 

streams we let flow across the seas

envelopes sealed and delivered by the “postman” 

grandly British in his designated title

Sometimes arriving once a month 

and if our luck held, maybe twice

yours articulately stamped “By Airmail” 

intrepid musafirs* on his Hero bicycle

transmitting long accounts of our days apart 

so I could know what it was like, as could you

the restless grayness of our hours, faded colors 

that only our reunion could paint afresh.

A life together we sketched on those pages, 

engraved, entwined; no one divining the hearts enclosed.

So when he arrived on Holi & Diwali for a baksheesh**, 

I weighed in: his demand is entirely well earned!

How we laughed on our wedding day at the telegram 

that arrived with a “massage” of love? 

Was it the sender’s folly, misspelling or 

perhaps a diligent postal clerk determined 

the “message” demands a robust transcription

for a whole sensation for love?

In these ambitious times, does the mailman yearn 

to bring a long awaited transmission?

I wonder as the trees on my street age and sigh

despite gratitude for what came to be

sometimes an ache for those days of letters, 

while love still arrives in texts and memes.

Yet surprises do come, but differently: 

for a few months it was a mailwoman plying my street

What a curiosity she would have been for the world 

of my childhood; lugging mail on a “ladies” bicycle!

Those months she tries hard to befriend Dishoom***

who has no use for her delivery routine

“Threat Level 2!” he’d shout to me daily, 

forever on his barking guard

Persistently, but in vain, 

and as testimony to good intentions, 

she’d leave him a cookie or two.

I wondered at her benevolent overtures

Was it her way of trying regretfully

to make some human connection,

knowing the load she must deliver – 

that inert pile of paper – couldn’t possibly make!

— Reena | Dec 15, 2021

I would love to hear if my poem evoked any memories or nostalgia for you. Your attention is always a gift.

INDEX

*Musafir: traveler in Urdu.

**Baksheesh: tip or bonus payment in Urdu.

***Dishoom: our 5-year-old Labradoodle who lives up to his name, a comical sound effect like a pow/kapow from fight sequences in stereotypical Bollywood films.


Reena Kapoor grew up an “army brat” living all over India. Her debut poetry collection Arrivals & Departures reflects that wandering sensibility. Her work has appeared in Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Visible Magazine, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and India Currents. EnActe Arts has produced four of her plays. Subscribe to Reena’s blog at https://arrivalsanddepartures.substack.com/.