Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Where have all the cards gone?

‘Twas the night before Christmas. When all through the house, not a creature was stirring…

…Except my cell phone!

It beeped, it rang and very nearly leapt off the table in excitement. It jiggled its way through Christmas day and by the end of it, had rung in some 43 text messages and over a dozen calls from friends scattered across the world. A parallel stream of emails and e-cards was also pouring in. One was happily inundated with wishes of every kind… Except the ones that are delivered by the friendly neighbourhood postman!

I was struck by the complete absence of Christmas cards this year. Sure, there was the small stack sent by relatives, but oddly, none from friends. There were virtual greetings aplenty, but how in the name of Dancer, Prancer and Rudolph are you going to string them over the fireplace? (No fireplace here, but isn’t wishful thinking permitted at Christmastime?)

It set me thinking: Have people given up on the simple thrill of a greeting card? The rush of excitement at seeing one’s name on the envelope? The faint suspense until the cover is torn open? And then the unbridled delight? Compare this with an email which says, ‘xyz has sent you an e-card. To view it, copy and paste this hotchpotch of letters, numbers and signs, that in some way, which you won’t care to understand, will lead you to a grotty card, which will try your patience as it downloads…..’

For me, greeting cards have always been the harbinger of things special. They made the agonising wait for the birthday a little sweeter. They brought in the festive cheer. They even gave you a heady sense of your own popularity. I remember being over the moon in College one year, when I received 23 birthday cards! With messages ranging from corny (‘Roses are red, cookies are chewy… another year of your life, just went ka-blooey’!) to schmaltzy (‘It’s a good thing you can’t put a price tag on friendship… coz I could never afford a friend like you!’) to downright wicked (Heard you like sex on you birthday?... That’s strange, most people like it more often!!!)

I still have a sizeable collection of most of the cards I’ve received, the earliest dating back to my 5th birthday. A few years ago, I discovered a hitherto latent calligraphy skill, and combined with a whit of wit, set about making my own cards for family and friends. I still indulge in it whenever I can. Still it was very heartening to receive a hand-made birthday card this year from my ‘bess frend’ Alison. What looked like different coloured pens being tried out was actually her message, ‘Dear Leela, I love you lots. The end. Alison’.

It’s going to take Alison and me a while to revive the heading-for-extinction greeting card industry, but hey, we’ll get there.