Now a dying species, letter writers were a staple of Lahore culture when I was growing; they were literate and multilingual in a society where the majority was illiterate. Despite the competition from technology and literacy, letter writers still survive, offering to fill out government application forms for example.
The letter writers of Lahore sit on the pavement sit outside the GPO, a beautiful terracotta British Raj building on The Mall, the main artery for Lahore’s business and government.
I chose the letter writer who was the first to ask me: “What do you want?”
I sat down on a very low, very small stool and told him I wanted him to write a letter for me to my son Danny, requesting him to come and visit Lahore, my birthplace.
My scribe wrote a dozen lines, reading them to me with only a cursory pause for my approval, folded the page, addressed the front and back of a long buff colored envelope which he sealed without another word–from me or from himself–and handed to me.
One hundred rupees (approximately one USD) he replied when I asked how much I owed him. I walked behind the gates into the cavernous and mostly empty General Post Office, checked at one window to have the envelope stamped and at another to had it over for posting. Postal charge was fifty-five rupees (55c),time to delivery fifteen days, Inshallah, I was told All of that was true. Here’s the letter Danny received, scanned and emailed to me.