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15 Apr 2024, Edition - 3198, Monday

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Remembering a world of letters

Jiji Ann Cherian


Kochi: Letter-writing is all but a dead ‘art’ today. That romance of waiting for and the joy of writing and receiving letters are lost in today’s digital world, and Pius Scaria Pottamkulam’s documentary ‘Red Box’, which gained entry into the Shorts festival in Delhi, looks at this old-world communication before it all but disappears.

“Letters always had an emotional value. But the onslaught of time has wiped out the very idea of writing letters and the red letter box stood as a silent witness to it,” says Pius.

The 13.5 minute documentary is divided into three parts. The first takes a nostalgic look at the glorious past of the postal service, when letters were part and parcel of our life. The second segment talks about the history of communication, while the third takes a look at the present plight of the postal department and the dwindling habit of letter writing.

The film was inspired by a 2007 newspaper report, about a post office at Vembanad Lake in central Kottayam district, perhaps the only one in the country that covers a lake.

Pius also takes us through R Block, a scenic island in Alappuzha, where ED clerk VP Seethamani, has been manning a post office and delivering letters for the past 27 years. Even after serving the islanders for nearly three decades, she remains a clerk on a temporary grade.

And a 1,450 acre scenic island, which once used to be a flourishing tourist spot with swaying palms, has now been left ignored with brackish water destroying all the trees and leaving it unsuitable for agriculture. The island housed 5,000 families earlier, but now has only 100 families left. “I have used the medium of film to not only highlight the plight of the postal service, but also of the residents of R Block who have been denied even basic necessities like potable water and power supply,” says Pius who is glad that his first attempt at documentary has won recognition.

Red Box concludes with a glimpse at Seethamani’s long-cherished desire to don a government uniform one day.

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