In a world where connections are made and broken in a matter of seconds, an artist is trying to keep the art of communication through letters alive.
The joy of receiving a letter is something that most of us find unimaginable, owing to the fact that communication has now been reduced to text messages over the phone. Postcards from travels are reduced to tags on social media and handwritten notes are almost unheard of. Even in the age of connections that are endless and boundless, communication has been reduced to cold, mundane and excessive alphabets staring at us from screens, which are often impersonal in nature. In such a time, artist Sumedha Sah, is, in her own way, striving to keep the charm of handwritten communication alive, through the Snail Mail Project.
The Snail Mail Project, born from the idea of exchange of letters, thoughts, objects, was started in 2015 by Sah, who is an architect by profession, when she moved to the western Indian city of Mumbai. Operating through the Tumblr blogging platform initially, the first person to respond to Sah’s idea was someone from Poland. Describing her love for the medium, Sah said, “I initiated this project as I am a lover of letters, and writing inspires me. Perhaps the feeling of receiving something tangible from someone else’s world or the deeply humane emotion that surfaces when one reads another’s words, carefully written in ink, is what is so special about letters for me. It was some sort of a spiritual experience for me when I received my first letter – I had put out a thought in the universe and someone wrote to me!”
The project involves the sender, as Sah states, taking out the time to write a letter that isn’t a formal exercise in introduction, take it to the post office, have it stamped, and sent to her address. In exchange for this, the sender receives a beautiful work of art by the self-taught artist, who grew up with numerous artists in Nainital located in the northern Indian state of Uttarkhand. Sah, who now lives in Mumbai with her husband and cat Yogi, manages time from her busy schedule of working as an architect, illustrator and artist to respond to letters from as far as the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (US), Singapore and Hong Kong, among other places, apart from India. Sah works with mediums such as water colour, ink, acrylic and oil. Through dedicated pages on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, additional to her personal page called The Umbrella Bar, Sah uses the digital space to keep the realm of paper and ink alive.
Art bringing people closer
In a world that is fast-paced and tangible objects to keep as souvenirs of memorable exchanges are fading away, Sah says, “I sometimes feel like the digital form of communication is not precious in the way a personal letter is. We are increasingly disconnecting from our own selves, turning outward and have reached a point where a beautiful handwriting is a rarity. What’s special about such an exchange is being able to think about the communication, to keep it as a memory and also the ability to brood over it!”
Snail Mail Project is an unique initiative that is attractive to art lovers, those hoping to indulge in a bit of nostalgia and even the lonely souls for whom communicating with someone unknown can be liberating. Sah, committed to the cause of the project, that has been receiving numerous enquiries of late, ends on a determined note. She says, “I do not intend to end this project, I see it growing as I myself grow.”