Paromita Vohra Column: The P.S. types

There are two types of people. Those who write P.S. in their emails. And those who wonder why people write P.S. in their emails when they could insert it in the body copy.

P.S. belongs to letter writing, something that was an important part of my summer vacations as a teenager. Afternoons were spent writing long descriptions of my days. Minor gossip about various crushes, pretentious wondering about the state of the world and neatly transcribed sheets of poems I had discovered, song lyrics that had blown my mind or passages I couldn’t stop re-reading, were poured onto beautiful stationery and sent off to friends.

But even after two sides of several pages were filled up, there would always be that P.S — post script for the non-letter writing generation of which there is certainly one now. The P.S. was the one bit you forgot to write when you wrote it all. Some letters had a P.P.S — post- post script and a P.P.P.S in extreme situations.

For P.S. types, communication is its own reward, a communion of sorts with self and others. P.S types sit at the table talking, long after lunch is eaten, their hands still dirty, as food congeals on plates. They are the ones with the long goodbyes at the door– always one more last thing to say, who press the lift button and come running back with “Arre, I forgot to tell you something.” And then send you an SMS from the cab home.
Technically one wrote P.S. because in a hand-written or typed out letter, one could not insert a forgotten bit after signing it. So it had to come below the main body. Why, when one can now insert a missed fact easily, would people do it, ask genuinely puzzled functional types.

It’s not because they’re bringing useless habits of another time into the electronic era. The P.S. is a delightful means of acknowledging that communication is not only functional, but spills over the functional into the emotional, the aesthetic and intellectual all the time. It serves as implication and ornamentation, invitation and indication.

The P.S. is a symbol of things do not fit in neat categories, that there is meaning in the miscellaneous. It may not directly be in the flow of information in the main body. Yet it is important. Like a seed for a new conversation, an observation that will unveil a rich vein of gossip, it concludes communication not with finality, but with an invitation to more.

It can be an artful flourish. Its most popular example would be The Beatles’ song “P.S. I love you” — saying the thing that is being said in every line, almost as an afterthought, to underline that it is the central point of the letter; like a thrilling whisper made while passing each other in a crowd.

Some P.S. can also be BS (yaniki, bullshit), written to generate false naturalness. Recently a colleague wrote an email full of decisive instructions on a work group, and ended with suggesting another colleague carry out her stellar strategy. In a P.S. she explained why she couldn’t do it, as if this was all earnest utterance and not the performance of superiority or a perplexing way to provoke annoyance. No one responded. Yaniki when you provide an invitation to read between the lines, people will, na?

People love to bemoan the passing of eras and the loss of certain ways of being. But the thing is eras do pass, and as people pass through them, they take along the old things that serve continuing human needs in new times.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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