Long gone are the days when people used to write handwritten letters to their loved ones. In fact, I wrote my last handwritten letter when I was in school for an English assignment.
Nowadays, WhatsApp messages and emails are the most convenient way to reach out to a person. But, there must be a charm in writing a letter, posting it and waiting for the postman to arrive with a reply to your letter.
Not letting go off this old-world charm, Assam’s Paromita Bardoloi started an initiative called ‘Letter From A Stranger, India’. A content specialist by the day, Bardoloi started this initiative in April 2019 with an idea to connect humans. It is a way to tell people that there is someone to hear them out.
Speaking to Time8, Bardoloi said, “I am your girl next door and I was always a letter writer, since the age of 12. I used to write to friends and strangers alike. In the year 2017, I attended an event where strangers wrote letters to each other. That day I wrote five letters and since then, I kept writing one or two letters every month.”
“Later, this year in the month of April, I came up with this idea and asked a few of my friends to write letters to each other. On Facebook, I asked five friends to do the same and in an hour it was 37. That’s how it all started and rest kept falling in place,” she added.
Bardoloi who is currently staying in Delhi where she works as a content specialist is also the co-founder of a listening circle called ‘The Empathy Circle, India’. She calls Delhi her lover and Assam her home.
“It was in the month of June, that we started getting media attention and it is then I realized we needed a group. I needed to have a structure. Putting it just on my social media did not look great. So I started with a Facebook group. People joined in. And that’s how the community took shape,” Bardoloi said how she shaped the community.
One session is held every two months and two forms are put up. One is for letter writers and the other is for the receivers. The writer is given a total of three weeks’ time to write the letter. If by any chance the writer fails to jot, there is a back group of writers who take the call.
“We get a lot of requests that includes many personal details of the receiver. Every writer is advised not to get into the social media space of the receiver unless they think over time they became friends. Secondly, it’s absolutely fine not being a great writer, but it’s very important to write with empathy and dignity. In our tribe, we don’t judge. Every experience is valid. Everyone is honoured in our circle. And to date I can very proudly say that we had stood up to it, without hearing any complaint from any receiver,” added Bardoloi.
Currently, there are 30 volunteers who work every month and to date, the community has written more than 100 letters. Also, the future plan is to compile all the letters into a book and publish it. “It will be like a handbook which will help people to cruise through life when things hit low,” says Bardoloi.
The initiative also respects the privacy and safety of the letter receivers and no personal details are disclosed to any third party. As 95 percent of the receivers are women, the privacy of their details is well maintained and each request is freshly written by a new writer.
When asked if she had to write a letter to someone, Bardoloi mentioned that she would write to anyone who is struggling with anything in life. It can be a divorce, breakup, finance, health or anything that’s hurting.