Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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Letters after my name

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It was yet another very ordinary day in school. I was in class VII. It was lunch break time. When my class teacher asked me to go collect a letter that had come in my name,my excitement just grew beyond what I could handle. Food was not what was important. I ran into the Staff Room.

Alas, it was just a post card. It was a returned letter. Damn you!, Manorama year book. How could the French Consulate’s Chennai address given in it be wrong? My post card asking for tourist brochures and such colorful sheets for a Social Studies project boomeranged. Ya, I know that a boomerang *reaches* the target and then returns,whatever.

The US Consultate address in the year book was not wrong. They sent me loads of information. Yes, loads of information indeed. On history,politics,the presidential campaign(Bill Clinton was running for POTUS then), maps and lots more. That was the time when I learnt that mailing embassies and consulates was the easiest way to handle these school projects.

Those were the days when postcards meant the 15ps ones and not the Rs 2 worth Competition Post Cards. Like many others of my generation, I did play a huge part in the introduction of Competition Post Cards. Who can blame us for sending replies to Siddharth Kak and Renuka Shahane,every week,without fail.

This is much after I started writing letters to companies, and responding to all the contests that came in newspapers and magazines.

Respond to every single contest that comes my way be it in a newspaper or on a product wrapper. Not just contests, I was slightly overboard about writing letters to these companies.
My ideas as a kid was, oh-my-god-my-name-has-reached-[any City]. So, I replied to contests; my name went to Madras,Bombay,New Delhi and beyond. Some sent token gifts like key chains,caps and such.
There used to be this puzzle that came as a newspaper insert. An easy puzzle for any school going kid. Many boxes, many numbers. Fill in to make the sum same diagonally, row/column-wise etc. The prize for this one came by VPP, I never accepted that. Oh yes, it used to be a TV but had to pay some ‘nominal charges’ to receive the prize. That would have been a huge box with trash, I am sure. The prize came from Ahmedabad.
How can I forget those Otto Burlington magazines which had suggest friends [Addresee Pays] cards and I could easily make Otto Burlington send those magazines to all my cousins and neighbours. ;)

And those Reader’s Digest forms. Suggest 20(?) more people and get a Handbook of Word Origins for free, or one of such books. Again, many neighbors actually fell for the letters that read “N Narayanan has suggested your name” and subscribred to RD hoping to win prizes. The prizes were blocks of gold. All you need to subscribe to RD was to stick that *Yes* stamp and send the letter back. VPP was RD’s favorite too.

The earliest of such letters was to Home Lites. They were the ones who brought out huge match boxes, twice as big as a pencil box. I somehow felt their match sticks sparked before they lit up. I was in class III then. I told this to dad. He asked me to write a letter to them. I did. I distinctly remember the four-lined-note book, the Class Work as they used to call then. I tore a sheet from that to send a letter to an adddress that had Wimco Matches and Ballard Estate in that. No, I did not Google this now. :) Did I say that I wrote the letter with pencil? They never replied.

I was always curious to know the “Made in” and manufacturing and expiry dates of products. That I still do. It was when I noticed that a biscuit pack had manufacturing date from the future, I realized that the whole point of dates were idiotic. I don’t recollect the brand; was that Bakeman? It was during the Mahabharata days and this brand’s TVC had Gufi Paintal in it as Shakuni. I remember writing to them. Completely forgot if they replied or not.

Then, that Maggi Club membership I managed after sending a few wrappers. The Candico guys who wished me on my birthday and asked me for suggestions. No body told me they were surveys. The hundreds of contests in Balarama and Tinkle…Learning the word ‘early bird’ from these contests…The card that Eveready sent me with autographs of the Indian team sometime around the B&H World cup ’92…

Talking about contests, how can forget the H,M,T and dots on Re1 coins. You collect 1 each of H,M andT and 2 coins with dots to win an HMT watch. Not sure if someone ever won a watch. The exchange 5 empty (Milma) milk packets for a lucky draw coupon to win a truck load of gold offer,aah!. The immense effort in convincing mom to chuck Kannan Devan and buy AVT Tea for the Swarnadhara Coupons inside. The surprise element in opening the packet. The discount of Rs 2 or 5 that I eventually ended up with. Those days. :|

I kept writing letters. Letters to newspapers and magazines. Some were published. Some weren’t worthy of.

Update: I completely forgot about the Goldspot, Thums Up and Limca bottle cap collections, the collection of plastic animals that came free with Cibaca etc. This post was more like a memory test, and so my failure in recollecting these things are way more than pardonable. :D

PS: Malayala Manorama dated 3rd Jan,2010 printed some words written by me. Online edition

PPS: If numbers matter in this world, then this is published post #200. :)

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28 comments

1 jjNo Gravatar { 01.14.10 at 8:08 pm }

Kollam :) Postal dept survived coz of people like you those days :P.
Sending postcards to Kak and Renuka Sahane… I’ve done that too. Those RD forms were a nuisance.

2 DhanyaNo Gravatar { 01.14.10 at 9:13 pm }

OMG think all the revenue of postal dept came from u.. Did u stop now? They ‘ll soon head to bankruptcy ;)
I also used to sent that RD forms n then got bugged of it n stopped..

3 gNo Gravatar { 01.14.10 at 9:22 pm }

:))

I’d be thrilled to get a letter in my name. I had written to Cadbury’s with some (obviously stupid :P) suggestion when I was little – for some kind of chocolate – and I was so thrilled when they responded.

And then there were those Goldspot “stickers” under the bottlecaps – I meticulously collected them all and got The Jungle Book :)

4 GWBENo Gravatar { 01.14.10 at 9:30 pm }

Was nice to read about your childhood pasttimes :)

I think if you write to companies today, you’ll get a better response rate. ‘Customer Service’, ‘Customer delight’, ‘Customer ecstacy’ – these fancy terms were yet to be born those days.

5 Preeti ShenoyNo Gravatar { 01.15.10 at 10:26 am }

Such a cute post! :) What a clever idea–writing to embassies! Brought back memories of those Internet-less days, Manorama year books and school projects!

6 DeeptiNo Gravatar { 01.15.10 at 11:06 am }

Such a candid and well put post … I remember sending letters to Indian Express … The personal touch of handwritten letters(I hate throwing them) is what i miss the most !!

7 BharatNo Gravatar { 01.15.10 at 12:39 pm }

Good post
But din’t find a mention about the mobile game you played to win a swift car!(Remember ??)

8 VcNo Gravatar { 01.15.10 at 2:00 pm }

I had a H and M, but never got that T :) I did that RD thing so many times :) hehe and ofcourse Goldspot and Tums-up crowns of the Disney Characters ,bikes uff.. those were the days ;)

9 Tweets that mention Letters after my name — Nikhil’s Musings -- Topsy.com { 01.15.10 at 2:20 pm }

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shefaly, DesiPundit. DesiPundit said: Letters after my name http://goo.gl/fb/6lUj […]

10 prernaNo Gravatar { 01.15.10 at 4:25 pm }

Receiving letters used to be such a pleasure!

I remember writing a letter to the editor in HT and waiting for weeks to see if the letter was published.

Loved the post.

11 ShikhaNo Gravatar { 01.15.10 at 8:00 pm }

And I used to wonder who those people were – those who sent letters to these contests, and shows (esp. whenever watching that lucky draw at the end of Chitrageetham, when the anchor used to reach into a mountain of letters and pick one lucky winner out) … and NOW I know. You!! :)

I’ve sent probably just a single letter to exactly one contest, and I dropped the idea as soon as I realized I hadn’t won anything. So much for enthusiasm. But your unquenchable-need-to-write-letters, is sure sweet :).

What I like most about it is the “my name in every part of India” concept. Oh, that has such a prized feeling associated with it, I can just imagine what kept you going :). And now N Narayan’s name in all corners of the world, right?… courtesy twitter and your blog (and manorama) of course ;)

12 Macadamia The NutNo Gravatar { 01.18.10 at 11:47 pm }

Nestle stickers.. Sigh!! I could’ve written a thesis in barter and trade.

13 Vivek MenonNo Gravatar { 01.19.10 at 5:08 pm }

Hmmm MILMA Tick, Maggi Club membership Tick… You forgot all the Fido Dido Campaigns…Cool memories you brought back man…Tell me though what started this chain of memory??

14 RiniNo Gravatar { 01.23.10 at 2:13 pm }

Wow…such enthusiasm right from childhood.
I never cared about social studies projects, except the day before submission when i would frantically copy something from someone..

And i always used to wonder about the letters they get in all these TV shows with requests for songs , i couldn imagine anyone possible jobless/enterprising enough to write to them. Or those ones who took the pain to make people fill up those 20 slots for free reader’s digest books. Or the ones that sent flavours to the Lays favour thing…

It was fun reading this post , keep writing!

15 Arby KNo Gravatar { 01.24.10 at 5:35 pm }

Wow!! That’s a lot of writing. No wonder. I don’t think I ever written anything, till i had fill up forms for MBA admission. btw, abt Reader’s Digest. I have a friend who filled up a Reader’s Digest mailer survey for Whisper and recommended two other friends. (Of course, all three were guys).

16 maddyNo Gravatar { 01.24.10 at 11:42 pm }

keep at it man – you’ll find the holy grail soon…maggi, jackpot, so many of those nostalgic memories

17 SorcererNo Gravatar { 01.27.10 at 4:52 pm }

Good ones dude..
wonderfully written.
Gone are those days..aint it? Now its SMS post cards

18 CrisNo Gravatar { 01.29.10 at 1:20 pm }

Whats a VVP? Gee wish I too sent my name to all places. It shoulda been so easy when you went for an interview to one of those places. “Remember me? I used to write to you with pencil and crayons back in the 90s. Yeah the same person who asked if you allow 12 year olds to work at your company.”

19 jyoti ajayNo Gravatar { 01.29.10 at 7:59 pm }

hi,i m new to ur blog.after reading the post i went to my good old memories.even i went behind collecting the H.M.T coins and 3 dots on re1.i used to send the letters to all tv shows like surabhi (in 90s)in dd national.and the puzzle in the newspaper i got bike i never acceptd.

20 SoliloNo Gravatar { 01.29.10 at 10:02 pm }

Sweet post. I can relate to the things you mentioned.

Once my cousin helped me write a letter in Malayalam to Balarama for Ottippo stickers but sad! :( it reached after we left for Kanpur after Summer vacation and my cousins used it.

I used to have Pen friends. I think it was common then.

21 ShikhaNo Gravatar { 01.31.10 at 10:00 pm }

You are Tagged!! :). 40 questions, over at my blog – pls. oblige. I hope you haven’t done it already though :P

22 hariNo Gravatar { 02.01.10 at 10:34 pm }

excellent one nikhil.

you forgot the big fun chewing gum “runs” or “wickets” – four by kapil or wicket from prabhakar. you could take x number of runs and get a bigfun for free..

23 ShantanuNo Gravatar { 02.07.10 at 8:24 pm }

Came here looking for the RTI post that you had promised, found this instead. And am hit by major nostalgia now. :D

I remember falling for Maggi Club and Fido Dido, Straw goggles and Ninja Turtles merchandise that Limca offered. I remember winning a few Lays competitions too. Cherished those letters from Lays and Cheetos till the knowledge of Mail merge played killjoy.

But my most cherished letter would be a postcard from Raj comics. It had Nagraj on one side and a *real* letter on the other side, typed with a typewriter. I had written a fan mail with sketches of new villains, a mashup of He-man and GiJoe figures to create epic badasses..

Now that I think about it, I never trusted Home Light.. Hmm.. anyway..

Regards,

@tantanoo

24 Swapna Raghu SanandNo Gravatar { 02.10.10 at 2:03 pm }

Hey Nikhil, I was so touched when i read about your enthusiasm and determination in childhood. It speaks volumes about your values, intelligence and personality too. I felt so happy reading this post and wanted to tell you that I think your parents must have been so proud of your efforts. I am sure they still are.

25 Swapna Raghu SanandNo Gravatar { 02.13.10 at 7:30 pm }

There is an award for you, Nikhil. Please accept the award by visiting my blog. Thanks!

26 Vinay RajagopalNo Gravatar { 03.21.10 at 10:55 pm }

Hey Nikhil,
What a nostalgia , I googled for Maggi Club to see if I can find someone who can share that lovely mystery game “Who-Dunn-It” bcoz that was one of my favourite game when I was kid and am trying my best to see if my son can get his hands on it. I request all old Maggi Club memembers to please check and let me know if you guys have it. May be we can recreate it for all our kids.

Please write to me at vinayrajagopal@gmail.com

Cheers,
Vinay

27 telecom bookNo Gravatar { 08.05.10 at 9:07 am }

there were those Goldspot “stickers” under the bottlecaps – I meticulously collected them all and got The Jungle Book

28 PriyaNo Gravatar { 03.05.11 at 9:45 pm }

Recommending friends to Readers Digest issues….Ive done tat….really njoied ur blog…Am new here, pls write more :)

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