You’ve Got Mail!

in Life Beyond Medicine by

I loved collecting stamps when I was a kid! I had three albums chock-full of stamps. But then, life happened, and somehow, I kind of drifted away, and ended up not visiting the albums forever. But, I guess the nerdy liking of stamps never really went away. So, when I was in Europe last year, and in the flea market of Amsterdam I saw a shop dedicated wholly to selling stamps, I was ecstatic. For the throwaway price of 7 Euros, I picked up a pack of stamps. I could not help but keep geeking over them for quite a while. Unfortunately, when I came back home, I could not find the three albums and ended up having to re-seal the packs so that the stamps would not get lost.

Not long after, I chanced upon a website, called Postcrossing. It is a community of people who like to exchange handwritten postcards… which means a supply of stamps from across the world! I had signed up for the website and sent out my full quota of postcards, but unfortunately, they took weeks and weeks to reach, and as is inevitable, my interest started to fizzle out. Towards the beginning, I would check in to see whether my cards had reached their destinations… but they were always on the “traveling” page. In fact, the site has a policy of declaring cards to be outdated or expired if they have not reached their destination in 60 days. My first batch of five cards actually all expired. I was a bit crestfallen and despite the initial distrust in the Indian Post system and cursing myself for hoping that they would reach their destinations, I decided to send another batch of five postcards. Once your “traveling” cards have been traveling for more than 60 days, their slots are freed up and one can send in more cards.

Postcrossing
Postcrossing

The Postcrossing process has been quite eloquently explained in the process diagram shared on their “about” page.

You've got mail!
You’ve got mail!

Once again, there was a prolonged lull after the second batch of five postcards were despatched, and I was kind of apprehensive that they had met with the same fate as their predecessors. However, when I had quit the idea of following through with the Postcrossing idea, I suddenly received an email, intimating me that one of my cards had reached its destination… almost three and a half months after I had posted it! I felt the sparks of a happiness that I used to enjoy as a kid, and waited with bated breath as the site assured me that now that I was a bona fide postcard despatcher, I would soon be in line to receive some for myself.

It was not before the passage of yet another month, that yesterday evening, after coming home from work, I discovered that I had received two postcards – one from the Netherlands, and another from Germany. They were both pretty nice, albeit a little worse for the wear they had to tolerate on their way home. I excitedly tweeted about it… and when I returned home after work today, I discovered another postcard from Kyiv, Ukraine. I felt pretty happy and ended up smashing out this blog post!

Here are the pictures of the cards I received:

The card I sent was actually crafted by myself. It contained a photograph of a cheetah I had taken the year before the last during my trip to South Africa:

A cheetah on the trail in Kruger National Park, South Africa
A cheetah on the trail in Kruger National Park, South Africa

In an age when Instant Messaging, WhatsApp pings, Emoji texts and email blasts are satisfying our need to connect almost instantaneously, writing a letter, or a postcard, seems like something that is drastically out of tune. Yet, it is this very deviation from the beaten track that makes this such a worthwhile endeavor. The thrill of receiving a handwritten letter, with the frailties and foibles of being human embedded within the lines, is an experience in itself.

Skeptic Oslerphile, Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting! I feel happy that in this day and age of instant messaging there are still people who have the patience to send postcards and wait for them. May be I should try out Postcrossing.

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