“If you wonder about the result of your everyday efforts, think of yourself a few years earlier. Do you now see in your life the impact of those efforts? The reason seasons and processes take time is so we understand ourselves and others better, empathize better. If we get somewhere quickly, we won’t have respect for the person who built the road for us, who guided us when we got lost, who offered us water. We won’t respect and know anything about the journey of others either. It’s the difference between when you’re born with money and when you earn your first salary with your hard work. I think you know what I mean. “
Ankita Anand: Letter Writer, “Letter From A Stranger, India.”
I must confess that I read this letter at least 10 times a day. It is just so amazing that these words made me calm during the chaos. I received this letter at a perfect time when I was draining in too many emotions but the moment I first read it, it felt okay. I understand that it’s a part of me moving forward to find another new part of my life. Thank you.
Anonymous: Letter Receiver
In an age of instant gratifications, we have lost the art of waiting. With the advent of social media and instant messaging apps, everything moves at the speed of light. Relationships fly at the momentum of right and left swipes. Everything has to be served now. Waiting is seen as old, archaic. Our day to day lives are constantly documented on social media. After the trend of funeral selfies and post-sex selfies, anything is hardly left for imagination. We are constantly in touch with anyone we wish to. But as many researches say, loneliness is one of the growing diseases. With our smartphones in our hands we have become individuals with choices, preferences and opinions. But we are somewhere losing the sense of community. So, to rebuild the connection one more time, Paromita Bardoloi has begun her initiative “Letter From A Stranger, India,” where anyone can request a letter and a stranger will reply.
Why This Initiative?
The Logical Indian spoke to Paromita Bardoloi. She says, “Letters have always been an integral part of my life. I had pen friends to begin with, and then when post-college, friends moved to a different part of the world, letters kept us closer. The idea of this initiative came into my life when I was going through a deep emotional crisis. Writing long letters and receiving back from friends truly helped me. That was when I realized that just by writing and receiving written letters can heal us.” This April, she asked only 5 friends on social media if they wanted to write letters to strangers. 37 turned up in just 2 hours. Rest as they say is history.
How Does It Work?
This initiative has a community on Facebook by the same name, “Letter From A Stranger, India.” Every two months the form for writers and requesters are put up. Once the data is collected, the letters are distributed to the writers who in turn respond back. This initiative is a completely volunteers driven platform. No one is paid or asked to pay. Each month, 30 volunteers who are women or anyone who identifies themselves with the female gender signs up to write. And at least 35 requests are taken up. Though Paromita says that the tribe would love to take up more, it has to be proportional to the ratio of volunteers.
Though everyone is free to write what they please, but there are some rules for every writer. The first rule is to write with empathy and not judgment. The writers don’t offer solutions but share their own life learning. Till date, the group has sent more than 100 letters across the globe. One of the rules is also that after the first letter, it is the choice of both writers and receiver to keep or shut further communication.
“We only offer one letter from our side; rest is always mutual consent and personal choice. And every writer and receiver has to be above 18. It’s very interesting to note that there has been no trouble when women wrote to each other. Everyone felt supported. But the moment it was open to men, we did have some obnoxious requests. In the last three circles, I have noted that men above 40 (not generalizing) have a trend of asking for a young beautiful woman to write to them. I also read a request where a man wants a beautiful woman to write to him about her sexuality and captivate his mind and heart. Not to say that we don’t address sexuality. A young man of 25 wrote to us saying that he does not know if intimacy equals sexuality in a relationship. One of our writers took it and answered it back. However wanting to know about a woman’s sexual life, who is a stranger, is not acceptable. I write back polite but firm emails. I understand that we are at the public space and extremely inclusive, however not at the cost of our safety and dignity. The ground rules are very clear. Our description itself says we are a safe tribe. The point is we welcome everyone but we don’t tolerate anyone messing around,” Paromita told to The Logical Indian.
The idea is to keep is safe and inclusive. We get so many emails from people whose lives they felt were touched. So the future plan is to publish a book that has a compilation of these immensely wise letters with consent so that it can reach as many as possible, Paromita said, before signing off to read another letter.