Lakshmi Pratury: What Can We Gain By Writing A Letter By Hand? Lakshmi Pratury reflects on the dozens of letters she received from her father, while he was alive, and on the painstaking time it takes to pen a letter.
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What Can We Gain By Writing A Letter By Hand?

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What Can We Gain By Writing A Letter By Hand?

What Can We Gain By Writing A Letter By Hand?

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

And that hat, by the way, could be especially useful if you're as busy as Lakshmi Pratury.

LAKSHMI PRATURY: I go back and forth between the Bay Area and Bangalore.

RAZ: Lakshmi works in the Bay Area a lot. But she's still got family back in India, where she runs a big conference every year.

How long is that flight?

PRATURY: Twenty-four hours.

RAZ: (Laughter) All right, OK.

PRATURY: Give or take (laughter). Give or take.

RAZ: It would be better if it was faster, wouldn't it?

PRATURY: I don't know. I know sometimes I enjoy my quiet time on the plane. For those 24 hours, I don't talk to anybody. Nobody can call me. I can't call anyone. And it sort of separates me from all the crazy rush, rush, rush, stuff that we do all the time.

RAZ: Another way Lakshmi likes to slow down, by writing letters.

PRATURY: As I write, I feel like there's an artwork happening on this piece of paper. Nobody else writes like that. It's nobody else's signature. It's only mine.

RAZ: Now, Lakshmi didn't always feel this way. Back when she was in college, her father would send her letters every week.

PRATURY: Oh, yeah, you know, he would mail them regularly to me. I mean, I lived in America. My dad lived in India. And every week he'd write a letter to me, I mean, without fail.

But I was in my busy life, working, et cetera. And I would see this letter and I'd go, OK, he wrote a letter. I'd just skim through it and put it away and - but never really read them.

RAZ: Yeah.

PRATURY: It was like, oh, OK, Dad. He writes every week. And someday I'll catch up with it.

RAZ: Lakshmi did eventually catch up with all those letters from her father. But it wasn't until many years later after he passed away. And that's when she came to really understand what they meant. Lakshmi explains more in her short TED Talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

PRATURY: My father left me a legacy of his handwriting through letters and a notebook. In the last two years of his life, when he was sick, he filled a notebook with his thoughts about me. He wrote about my strengths, weaknesses and gentle suggestions for improvement...

(LAUGHTER)

PRATURY: ...Quoting specific incidents and held a mirror to my life. After he died, I realized that no one writes to me anymore.

Handwriting is a disappearing art. I'm all for email and thinking while typing. But why give up old habits for new? Why can't we have letter writing and email exchange in our lives?

There are times when I want to trade all those years that I was too busy to sit with my dad and chat with him - and trade all those years for one hug. But too late - that's when I take out his letters. And I read them. And the paper touched his hand is in mine. And I feel connected to him.

So maybe we all need to leave our children with a value legacy and not a financial one - a value for things with a personal touch, an autograph book, a soul-searching letter. So what do I plan to leave for my son? My own notebook.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: Your talk is really kind of a parable for the lost art of writing by hand - right? - because we have to move so quickly - right? People send us emails and just expect to receive a response right away, very, very quickly.

PRATURY: Right, right.

RAZ: And yet, there's something lost about immediate responses. There's something that we lose when we don't have time to reflect on what it is we want to say and what meaning we want to give to the words that we commit to an email.

PRATURY: Yes. And also, there is something about just waiting. You know, it's painful. But also there is something absolutely beautiful about not knowing when that letter is going to come and that excitement when you receive it. I think when you get things too easy, too quick, your expectations become more.

You know, of course, I do think sometimes that I've been fed too much of Indian movies. So I have this sense of romance, this sense of waiting and longing, et cetera. But I just feel there's something magical about it, to just wonder meanwhile - I wonder what that person is thinking. I wonder what's happening. Will I get this letter?

And by writing, it's just to show that I have taken the time to write to you, which is somehow very, very beautiful.

RAZ: Lakshmi Pratury, she's the CEO of INK Conferences. You can see her entire talk at ted.com.

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