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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Time is Our Wealth, Time is Our Slave • Nivedita Nivasini

Brett Rawson

BY NIVEDITA NIVASINI

This letter, as dated, was written in the late 80s from my grandfather in Hyderabad to my father in Pune (India). In the late 80s, telephone connections took months to be installed, travel in the flights was still exorbitantly expensive and travel by train or a bus from one city to another took at least a day. The intercity telephone call or the STD phone call had to be planned when everybody was at home and the local telephone booth attendant had to be informed in advance to arrange for a telephone call. The arrangement would usually be done when every member of the joint family (i.e. at least two generations of the family living together in the same house) was present. The call would be only to ask about the well-being and each member would talk for 30 seconds to 1 minutes  depending on their relation with the person. 

As such, the emotions were lost in the technicalities of reaching to the members living out of the city or state or country. Hence, letters were the most comfortable option for a middle class person where he or she could pen their thoughts and emotions. The interesting aspect of writing a letter was patiently waiting for the reply of the letter. And, this letter is one such response. 

Due to his profession’s demand, my father, along with me and my mother, left the city of Hyderabad to Pune. Having lived in a joint family, my father obviously missed his parents and the guidance that my grandfather provided. Since letters were the best way of communication, my grandfather and my father communicated often through the same.  

My grandfather was (yes, he passed away in September, 2011) way ahead of his times. He believed in women empowerment, secularism, education, and most importantly, freedom of thought. He never bound any one with his chain of thoughts. He also played a pivotal role in my cousins’ and my life ensuring about our well-being and reprimanding us on our mistakes. His letters reflected his thoughts and responses to my father’s concerns while commencing a new life. He always ensured that the letters addressed everything that was asked. He thus carbon copied each letter. It was a practice he observed till the last letter he wrote in early 2011. 

My grandfather wrote letters to most of my relatives who lived in other cities. When we collected the letters he wrote to my father and presented to each member of our extended family, they mentioned it to us how our grandfather was always concerned about their well-being too. 

I think this inland letter speaks of a generation when emotions, family values, morals and ethics were placed before the concept of individualism. My grandfather always proudly spoke about his many brothers and sisters and the hard ships involved in completing his education. The letter is not only a reminder to us to keep the team or a family above an individualistic goal but also a biography of my grandfather’s generation.  

Hyderabad,
17-March-1989

My dear Srinivas,

Time is our wealth; Time is our slave. There is time for everything we would like to do/achieve provided one has the will to do it. Moods, laziness, procrastination, a feeling of not finding time vanish into thin air. A person with a sound character, leading a disciplined life has time for everything he aspired/wishes to do. He is never ruffled. Calm demeanor and a pleasant behaviour coupled with an enthusiastic and optimistic outlook characterise his activities and dealings. Such a person invariably maintains a fairly good, if not sound, health as well. The proverb, “Healthy mind is a healthy body.” This is the answer to the first part of your letter dated 12/13 March, received today.

Physical distances are insignificant, rather ignorable, as long as oneness is deep-rooted emotionally, psychologically, and wavelength-wise especially between parents and progeny. Broad mindedness, a spirit of give and take, a culture of forget and forgive, overlooking-rather forgetting — differences in views cater to a healthy relationship irrespective of age differences, avocational contrasts and financial disparities and also goals in life if one formulates it. It is the pensive moods that spoil the fun of life. They should not be allowed anywhere near us. I repeat courage and enthusiasm are the pep of life. This is what I have to say reg. the second para of your letter. I have already written to you on these lines – maybe the words and configuration are different.

All of us, we are are all well and cheerful. Everyone is in good spirits. It is for us to generate the requisite environments.

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…. salutory effect on her. She is moving about and cultivating new acquaintances/Today she had been to Nirmala and just returned. They are all well. So too Asha & co. Sridevi & Amita are also well. The only activity is to control Amita which is assuming difficult portions couples with other chores. Sometimes it becomes unbearable. Ramu is slowly getting geared up. Hemalata is well but has to orient to our way although she has adapted to a considerable extent. Adjustment in a new environment naturally requires time esp. where emotional ingredient is involved/Telephone installation has become a hide & seek drama. It is yet to come/I only wonder when N will commence work on our flats. It is an embarrassing situation. Goading is no use, chiding is not possible, questioning much less. Thus there is a stalemate.

Wishing you all the best and wish affection and blessings to both of you and kisses to dear Nivedita.

Yours lovingly,

Satynarayana Rao (signed)


A Hyderabadi at heart, Nivedita N dwells in nostalgia. When not editing, reading or writing, she daydreams and watches the squirrels from the balcony of her house in Wisconsin and hopes to meet the rabbit imprisoned in the moon, someday. 

You can find her work at Nivasini Publishers, follow her on twitter @DivenitaEr, and forthcoming is their new site, The Blue Stencil.