The Streets Of Desire – Old Delhi’s subversive love-letter manuals


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The old world charm of love letters.

The blurb on its rear cover read: “Mann mein meethi meethi gudgudiyan uthati hain, panne par panne fatte jate hain par prem patra nahin likha jata” (Our mind is tickled by sweet desires, and pages and pages keep getting torn, and yet no love letter gets written). Inside were sample letters for a wide range of possible amorous situations, along with practical advice on how to write letters to potential lovers. I found other similar books too, with their contents categorised by various romantic situations in which one might find oneself, with sample letters for each. In one book, the table of contents listed “Tanu’s letter to Shailesh after his lover goes astray,” “A flirt writes to her ex-lover,” “A middle-aged man’s love letter to a nurse,” “Steno-typist’s love letter,” and more along these lines. The titles alone were poignant, full of yearning, and frequently ridiculous.

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Kanupriya Dhingra — The Caravan

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