#PenFriends: It Just Can’t Get Better Than This

Penfriends
Penfriends - Sylvia Meyer & Manish Khadilkar

 

There was a point in time when communication between friends happened only through physical letters being written and sent to each other. This gave way to the rare landline phone calls till the significant game changer stepped in…

With the World-Wide-Web and the ushering in of technology and social media, communication got reduced to an electronic greeting or at best a mobile message.

What was lost forever was the sheer beauty of written communication and personalised letters to friends. Pen friends morphed into FB contacts and Whatsapp Groups that one rarely knew anything about. The emotion was lost forever…

Or so we believed, till we met with this city corporate professional who (hold your breath!) has been writing letters to his pen friend for the past three decades! And interestingly they have not met even once…

Manish Khadilkar, a resident of Pune saw a mention in The Limca Book Of World Records 2001 for having received and sent more than a hundred letters that he wrote to communicate with a pen friend living in Germany with whom he had never met or spoken to.

Manish wrote his first letter in the year 1987 when he was in BCom 1st year and has, for the past 30 years, communicating with his friend through letters.

Since my childhood I was fond of writing letters and communicating with people.

“Back in those days, the concept of pen friendship was new on the horizon. A couple of my friends had multiple pen friends from different countries. Since I was very interested in this concept, I asked one of my friend to get me the details of people living overseas, who are interested in having a pen friend.

I wanted to have only one friend with whom I could communicate frequently…

“A couple of days later, my friend handed me a 50 page list of people looking for a pen friend from different nations. It was a rather tough job scanning through that list of names and finding someone who was equally interested. Since I didn’t want anyone from the States, I decided on a name, Crysta Miller, who belonged to Germany.

Penfriends

“I then wrote to Crysta, in March 1987 and gave her my entire information. I also mentioned that she could write to me back if she desired to have me as her penfriend. Days later, she replied to my letter stating that she was very much interested in having a pal in India. So, that is how it started with Crysta Miller in 1987, when I was merely 18.”

Slowly, the frequency of the letters from Crysta was reduced to a letter once in two months, says Manish. But then, he received a letter in March 1988 and that came as a shock…

Penfriends
Sylvia Watter Meyer and Family

“The letter was from Sylvia Watter Meyer and not Crysta Miller. Sylvia was Crysta’s cousin who took notice of my unattended letters and wrote to me and since that day, it has been 30 years now, that we have been communicating.

It didn’t bother to me if it was Sylvia, or Crysta, as long as I had a friend who was equally passionate about staying in touch.  We spoke about our respective countries, cities, weather, culture, religion, families, rituals, culture among other topics.

“After a while, we stared sharing pictures and exchanged gifts too on special occasions,” he adds. Over the years, their friendship has turned into a family affair.

“Our friendship is not hidden from our families. Everyone, right from our parents to my wife and kids know about our pen friendship.

Sylvia’s entire family wishes me on my birthday every year by signing on the birthday cards and so do we. Christmas and New Years are those times of the year when we exchange gifts not only for each other, but our families as well.

“Wherever she goes, she makes it a point to send me postcards, with little details of their trip. Such things mean a lot to me. Over time, we have developed a very close bond.”

Manish Khadilkar and Family

When asked if they were now in touch also on social media, Manish responded, “Unfortunately, Sylvia is not on social media.

But yes, just two years ago we spoke on the phone for the first time. She was speechless and just kept laughing with joy.

“Sometime back, when my friends went to Germany, I gave them her number and requested them to contact her and luckily they connected with her. She was really thrilled that my friends from India has called her.”

Manish shifted to his new house in Kothrud a few years ago and since then he has been facing troubles in receiving letters from her.

Since I shifted to my new house, it has been very difficult to trace the letters. For the last couple of years, it has been quite irregular. The letters were undelivered and the parcels remain lying in the post office, due to faulty and delayed delivery. Yet, we still try and keep in touch,” he adds.

He read us a few letters out of the 300 letters he received from Sylvia, that reflected her dedication of being connected with a friend. This is despite her difficulty in writing in English. He has an album of photographs of Sylvia and her family and an entire cupboard full of surprises from her.

With an earnest hope to meet Sylvia personally someday, he signs off with a warm smile.

Loveleen Kaur

Loveleen Kaur

She loves travelling, dogs, sarcasm, humour and anything that spells F O O D, in that order. A writer on a journey to make positive stories a morning ritual and give society what it needs the most - optimism !!

Reach her at loveleen@pune365.com or tweet @KaurKaur18
Loveleen Kaur

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