I was rummaging through the old drawer in search of a lost novel, when I hit  upon a neat stack of letters at the bottom. There were multi coloured envelopes, affixed with quaint little stamps of USA. It has almost been a decade now. I fell into a retrospective mood…

The letters were from my ex pen pal – Erin Noble hailing from Illinois, US.I was in high school, when I received the first letter of its kind. I was truly on cloud nine. In those days when getting a personal letter itself was a matter of much pride, receiving one from an alien friend from another part of the world, called for an extreme case of vanity.

This pen-pal ship was initiated through an exchange program by 'Young World'. The acquaintance soon blossomed into a wonderful friendship through a series of letters. Each letter was eagerly awaited; read & re read a zillion times; showcased around to poor buddies(poor = no pen pals) & finally a lengthy reply drafted.

Like many contemporaries, Erin Noble’s India represented a land of tigers & snake charmers. Probably, Americans watched too much of Discovery Channel. It must have been real hard on Erin’s part, to believe, that I didn’t live in a tree house , surrounded by dense rain forest, crawling with snakes & tigers

To make matters worst, I was unofficially declared as their mentor/guide for summer project, which involved a study of tigers. I didn’t have the heart to tell that, the only tigers I have seen are the ones in zoos & the only fact I know is they are India’s national animal. So the next 2 days, I sweated it out in the library, trying my hands on translation work of a Malayalam book “ tigers of India”.

We exchanged cards on all occasions. Once I received a pink envelope, scribbled with “don’t open before 14th ”. For an uninitiated gal to whom Valentines Day existed only in the pages of the novels she read, it was a pleasant surprise. Thus Erin Noble became my first ever Valentine at the tender age of 13.

Then, there were 2 other pals, rather e-pals: Heron El Khwaja from Egypt & Jung Hwa from Korea.

Heron El Khwaja is an engineer from Cairo, Egypt.. After exchanging a few mails , it suddenly dawned on me that El Khwaja rhymed with Al Quaida & timely ended what I believed was a disastrous friendship. Another result of my “ chronic suspicion syndrome”:)

Jung Hwa is a fiery young gal from Korea, pursuing her studies in medicine. Being a Korean, English language was never one of her finer points. But her communication skills were excellent to an extend, where I could imagine the beauty of her vivid descriptions. I still remember her descriptions of her winter music camp, where they huddled around a campfire in the picturesque woods singing, when gentle snowflakes danced all around them. She is an excellent example of how language can never be a barrier to effective communication