Stacks of coloured paper, boxes filled with sketch pens, stickers in pastel shades, small crayons and roller stamp pens were strewn across the table while everyone introduced themselves, picked a request and began writing. It started when Nivendra who was doing a Masters in Counselling Psychology, spent all his free time leaving short notes of encouragement and letters of happiness around campus. When the little envelopes began spreading smiles, he decided to create a community fuelled by the love for letter writing.
Having received over 150 letter requests for the letter writing circles across Dubai, Colombo and Sydney, Letter Earthlings has conducted over 7 events in Bangalore this year. Collaborating with The Goodwill Tribe, started by Sonia Parekh and Chandni Sawlani in 2013, the two teams come together to connect people with kindness and love. From stalls with upcycled products and regular food donation drives, the Goodwill Tribe also conducted a Dance for Kindness on World Kindness Day.
The association was natural as both teams work towards bringing joy across the world. “Words are powerful and when we write letters, we are able to strongly connect to the person,” Sonia Parekh says. The only rules to the circle are to avoid imposing religious and political beliefs. “We believe there isn’t much difference in the letter writing circles held anywhere in the world,” Sonia adds. However, there are different energies in circles around the world. While the circles at Bangalore end with book chains, Dubai has a space for sharing and reading.
Nisha Ravi, Astha Dugar and Soumya John are at the forefront of the team in Bangalore. All letters include hashtags #LetterEarthlings and #KindnessBangalore which has made it possible to connect with receivers of letters. “I’ve got a letter stashed away in my cupboard’s comfort drawer, colourful envelopes that I run between my fingers as I allow myself a tiny smile,” they tell us about Rahul Nair’s response to his surprise envelopes.
The letters act as symbols of happiness and have continued touching people around the world. “I’ve had the joy of receiving and writing letters via the community. It’s an effective way to show someone that you care,” Bhavani Madan, who has been on both ends of the circle, adds.
The art of letter writing is not disappearing, and it seems to be a rare symbol of the intimacy of human relationships in a world filled with rapid responses and small devices. The letter-writing circle is not only a way to spread compassion, but also a medium to unwind from routine digital interactions, and for many a therapeutic release. At the end of each event, decorated envelopes line up ready to be posted as writers leave with an inspiring quote, a handwritten note and a book to read and pass on. Amidst the goodbye hugs, there is a silent acknowledgement that the circle of letter writing is one that just keeps going.