Yours sincerely, PM

yours sincerely_ Gordon BrownWriting a personal letter (either handwritten or typed as an e-mail) to someone is a ‘labour’ intensive process.  One can be also be ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ at the same time.  If the letter’s contents are meant for 100 people and the address is changed each time, it doesn’t become a personal letter.  Group e-mails are not personal.  A personal letter is specific, unique and is meant only for one addressee.

At first, a letter has to be healthy. Errors of any sort (factual, grammatical, or numerical) in a letter are undesirable in any case and more so when it is official.  If possible, a healthy letter can be neat and clean (no overwriting).  In addition, a neat letter can be beautiful with an artistic handwriting and conceptual cohesion.  So, you see an order here, don’t you?  Health followed by neatness, and then comes beauty.  Although this holds good in most situations, the reverse can happen especially in case of mathematical equations (language) and poetry.  They form an exception rather than the norm.  Strikingly, human body is expected to follow the sequence of health, neatness and beauty as well.

We will stick to the usual case for our discussion.  We are also restricting ourselves to personal letters.  If a recipient of a letter finds some errors in the letter, what should she/he do?  On top of that, if the letter is untidy and illegible, what should s/he do?

If the sender (assuming that it is a ‘he’) is a stupid idiot and has sent a love letter meant for someone else to you (she), then God, save the sender!  The situation will be worse if the letter is badly written and is full of grammatical errors.  It will be even worse if you (she) were under the impression that the sender loved you and the person named in the letter is known to you.  God…run and save yourself!

The same logic doesn’t apply if the sender is the prime minister of a country and he is sending a handwritten personal letter of condolence to a grieving mother, who has lost her soldier son to a war.

A prime minister, with all his responsibilities is not expected to write hand written letters to relatives of every citizen of his country who dies under artificial circumstances.  If he has taken an initiative to address at least a section of them (soldiers, in this case), then it must be treated as a sincere response to a deeply felt sadness.   It does hurt when the recipient sees that the letter is unintelligible and her son’s name is misspelled.  Her despair is justified and she could easily seek a personal apology from the PM.  Instead, if she goes public and chooses to go to a newspaper, which is known to have openly taken a stance against the PM, it reflects bad taste.

Personal letters are always written with a belief and a confidence in the recipient.  A belief, that the recipient will treat them as ‘personal’. If segments of front-line national media misbehave and opportunistically react to a well-intended gesture from a PM, then it must be discouraged.  It is the responsibility of the people and the media to back a PM (who is more or less clean), even when he is perceived to have made a minor mistake and even more so when the country is faced with more important crises.

I think that the post of a prime minister transcends political boundaries.  S/he should and believed to put the nation before self.  Similarly, people and media should not tie a PM’s character to his/her political grave, at least as long as s/he is still in the office.   Although, from this it appears that PM’s personality is crucial and can be subjected to public scrutiny, it should not drag a personal letter of condolence and make a mockery of it.

(Recently, the English prime minister Gordon Brown wrote a personal letter of condolence to a mother who had lost her son to the war on terror.  He has a bad hand writing and the letter also had some errors.  She went to the news paper The Sun, and it made a headline out of it.  When the PM called her to apologize for any unintended mistakes, their conversation was recorded without his knowledge!)

12 thoughts on “Yours sincerely, PM”

  1. I agree that the PM’s intentions were honorable and its not expected that the letter should be used to mock him! Really, who tries to write a proper letter these days? Everyone uses sms lingo even in e-mails. I find it extremely irritating, but I can’t stop anyone from doing so! I haven’t received a personal (hand-written) letter/card from anyone by post in a long time! When people are forgetting the art of writing good letters, the PM’s effort must be lauded! I would forgive his minor errors and feel proud that he took time out to do something like that!

    1. Lekha, you do get personal emails from people, don’t you?
      I prefer an e mail to a telephone call because it is closer to being a proper letter. It has more feelings than a telephone call.
      Although typing an e mail is nothing like inking a letter, one can feel happy to type and receive well written e mails.

      1. I think that feelings, emotions are not expressed better in a letter. Though i agree that personality is expressed better in a letter. The very thing that a reply comes a little delayed (very little) could say a lot about the situation during a telephone call (or should i say a verbal conversation). But the oppurtunity provided to think over and frame a sentence better tells about one’s personality.

      2. I agree Sakshath. When I say letters have more feelings than telephone calls, I should have added that letters stay with you forever. I can read and re-read a letter even after 20 years and it will bring back original feelings, which a telephone call cannot (unless you record and replay). To me, endurance is the ultimate thing.

  2. I was actually wondering all this happened to Dr. Manmohan Singh….but i agree too that PM of any country sending a handwritten note is more important than the mistakes in it…..It is indeed the thought that counts…. The fact that it was used for some temporary publicity just shows the bad taste…esp in a country known for the “sense of honour”…

  3. Liked your analysis of health, neatness and beauty in a letter.
    In times such as these when even people close to us can be uncaring and insensitive, a personal letter of condolence from the PM is definitely a thoughtful gesture. In her place, I would have been touched by the sensitivity.
    Making a media spectacle out of it definitely reflects bad taste.

  4. Whatever one writes is a reflection of one’s self! Why should one be looked upon as a lower being, just because he/she lacks the skill of expressing one’s self via writing… Writing is not everyone’s cup of tea!…What everyone sees and tells you back is just a reflection. It never gives you the complete picture.
    One cannot say anything about anyone based on just one thing…

    1. For a moment I thought that you were commenting on another post…I agree that writing a good novel is not for everyone. At the same time, writing a letter is for everyone. Thasi…you will agree if I say that grammatical errors are ugly in any context. You are so particular about ‘shruthi’ (pitch) when anyone sings, aren’t you? Don’t you criticize/judge musicians when they go out of tune? Ofcourse there is no ‘shruthi’ for speaking. But, speaking is judged on grammar. One cannot accept if a literate uses broken sentences to convey a message in his/her mother tongue.
      Similarly, writing comes in different capacities. Writing a letter is equivalent to speaking. Writing a novel is equivalent to singing. Basic to specialized…
      Judging a PM’s personality based on a letter is not correct. I know. That is what I meant in my article. We should leave a personal letter alone.

  5. When it comes to personal communications of any sort, be it a letter or a verbal conversation, grammatical errors could be forgiven depending on what the recipient expects.

    I think that in the situation of a soldier dying in a war, the letter of grievance from a PM would neither be an official one nor a personal one. It is not official since the very fact that it is just official would make it unimportant in such a situation of grief. It is neither personal since the letter is condolence offered by someone who had taken many responsibilities through a system in place. In case a compensation is to be given, it has to be done by official means and accompanies the emotions.

    Beauty of handwriting does not matter in such a letter. Neatness matters. Grammatical errors donot matter in any letter that has any hint of it being a personal one, unless the recipient expects it and the outcome is to please the recipient. I think that the biggest thing that counts is that it must be legible to the recipient of such a letter from a PM while expressing the helplessness of the authority to restore the life of the soldier and authority’s own feeling of loss.

    1. You are kind Sakshath and I would tend to follow the same principle depending on the circumstances.
      You have a good point , which is generally followed by many. Beauty is not expected in a condolence letter. In fact, people deliberately print remembrance cards in black and white to make them look plain. There is no beauty in grief.
      Grammatical correctness is a sign of responsibility. That is where the personality comes in. It is very important to do the basics right. A recipient will not be pleased to see an error free letter. An error might displease/distract a reader.

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