Dying art of sending postcards

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By 2018-01-20

By R.S. Karunaratne

I asked a child attending an international school in the city whether he sends postcards to his friends on their birthdays.

'No,' he said. "I send text messages."

Then I asked him whether he has ever seen a postcard.

'No,' he said. "I've never seen a postcard. Can you show me one?"

In this Digital Age it is not surprising that many people, especially the younger generation, do not send or receive postcards or letters. They send short messages using their mobile phones or send e-mails using their computers.

Before the advent of computers and mobile phones, people used to send and receive postcards. In the good old days, a postcard cost only five cents. Today it has gone up to Rs 8.


As a child I enjoyed sending postcards to my friends wishing them on their birthdays. I was thrilled whenever I received a postcard from somebody. Sometimes I used to cut a piece of thin cardboard to the required size and put a stamp in place and a short message before posting it. After dropping off the postcard into a mailbox I used to return home to peep into the mailbox fixed to the gate to look for new arrivals of letters.

I asked the local postmaster whether people buy postcards these days. He smiled and said, "Not many." Maybe, most people do not want to send postcards because of the delay in delivery. Usually, a postcard will reach the destination in a day or two. If there is a postal strike, it will take more time for delivery.

Whenever, I go to the post office I still buy a couple of postcards out of habit. Even if I send a postcard to a friend, he will not reply in the way I expect. Instead he would call me over the phone to say that he received my postcard!

I cannot help but wonder at the simplicity and novelty of a postcard. Sometimes somebody somewhere in some remote corner of the world would be happy to receive a postcard.

Picture postcards

Whenever, I visited a foreign country I used to buy a packet of picture postcards to be sent to my friends and relatives. I am sure the recipients of such picture postcards would not throw them away. I have a bundle of picture postcards sent to me by my friends.

By sending postcards you can keep alive a vanishing art. As a youth I had a number of "postcard friends". The postcard, I feel, is a personal message as it is usually handwritten. Even a handwritten letter is more valuable than a typed one.

I have listened to one song titled "Postcards from L.A." beautifully sung by Joshua Kadison. Here's that song:

As the picture postcards are somewhat expensive these days, try to send at least ordinary postcards to your friends and
relations and see the reaction.

I'm the piano player down at Eddie's bar
And Rachel, she's the waitress who wants to be a star
She swears she's gonna make it, make it big someday
And she'll send me picture postcards from L.A.
When it's time for closing
I play while Rachel cleans
She listens to my music
And I listen to her dreams
She swears she's gonna make it
She's going all the way
And I say send me picture postcards from L. A.
Send me postcards from L.A.
Signed with love forever more
Picture postcards from L. A.
To hang on my refrigerator door
Rachel, if you find me one
I'd love a picture of the California sun
Rachel shares my pillow
She always asks me things
Like do I really think she's pretty
Do I like the way she sings
I don't know how to answer
So I always smile and say
I say, send me picture postcards from L.A.
Repeat chorus
Sometimes Rachel stands up in the middle of the bar
And does a scene from the late show
We all clap our hands as she put her apron on
She says next week I'm gonna go
She'll even buy a ticket and pack her things to leave
Though we all know the story
We pretend that we believe
But something always comes up
Something always makes her stay
And still no picture postcards from L.A.
Repeat chorus
I'm the piano player down at Eddie's Bar
And Rachel she's the waitress who wants to be a star

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