Pen Pal

About the Author

       G.Srinivas Rao, a famous teacher, was born at Hanam Konda in Andhra Pradesh in 1928. He is a retired teacher. He would teach English and Economics. He began to write in English when he was in teens. He has written over 150 articles. Most of his articles belong to places and people. The story, Pen Pal was published in original in Los Angeles Times, an American paper on 10th March, 1980. 
This story was published in condensed form also in The Reader’s Digest in May 1982.

About The Story

      This Story belongs to the author’s life. It is true story. Life is full of experiences both pleasant as well as unpleasant. The author was twenty one years old when he was a college student. Having a pen was the fashion of the day. The author was also keen in having a pen pal. He became a pen pal of an American old lady Alice H. She did not disclose her identify of her age. The author asked her picture so that he might guess her age. He got her picture after twenty years with a sad news of Alice’s death. Then he came to know that she was 78 years old kind hearted lady.
      How often small beginnings grow into great experiences! This truth was revealed to me in a lesson of life that took 20 Years to unfold.
      It began one morning when I, a 21-year-old college student, came across a page in a popular Bombay magazine that printed addresses of young people form all over the world who sought pen pals in India. I had seen boys and girls of my own class receiving fat airmail envelopes form unseen folks. It was the rage of the day. Why shouldn’t I also try?
      So I picked out the address of one Alice H. in Los Angeles and bought an expensive writing pad. A girl from my class had once given me a clue to a women’s heart when she confessed that she loved reading letters on pink sheets. Yes, I too, must address Alice on a pink sheet.
      “Dear Pen Pal,” I began, as nervous as a schoolboy taking his very first exam. There wasn’t much to say, and the pen moved very slowly, when it did at all. Dropping the letter into the post box, I felt as if I were facing the enemy’s bullet.
      The reply from far away California came sooner than I expected. “I wonder how my address got the pen pals coloum in your country, more so because I heaven’t asked for a friend,” Alice wrote. “But it’s so nice hearing from somebody unseen and unheard of. Anyway, you want me as a pen pal and here I am.”
      I don’t know how many time I read that short note. I had all the music of life, and I felt, I was careful in my correspondence, and wrote nothing that might upset an unknown American girl. English came naturally to Alice, whereas for me it wasa foreign language, acquired with great pain. I was very sentimental, even shy, in my words and pharses, but hidden somewhere in the corner of my heart was sense of romance that I dared not express. Alice wrote long letters in her balanced longhand, yet revealed little of herself.
      Big envelopes containing books and magazines, as well as small keepsakes, came my way across thousands of miles. I had no doubt that Alice was an affluent America, and that she was as beautiful as her gracious gifts and that our pen friendship was a success.
     However, one question kept hammering at my brain. It would be impolite to ask a girl her age, but where’s the herm if I asked for her picture? So I wrote the request and at last came the reply. Alice said simply that she had no pictures just then, but that she might send me one some day. She addes that “an average American girl” was morechic than she.
Was this a game of hide and seek? Oh, these feminine wiles!
      Years rolled by. My correspondence with Alice became less exciting, more irregular, but not extinct. I kept sending “get-well” messages whenever she fell ill, Christmass cards and, in my own humble way, random gifts. Meanwhile, I became a man of the world, grew older, got a job, a wife and children. I showed Alice’s letters to my wife. The thought of meeting Alice was always there for me, and for my family, too.
      Then, one day I received a large packed that bore new, unmistakably feminine hadwriting. It came by airmail from dear old America, from the hometown of Alice. Who was this new pen friend, I wondered as I unwrapped the package.
       It contained a few magazines and a short note. “As a close friend of Alice H., whom you knew so well, I’m sorry to inform you that she died in a car accident last Sunday, while returning home from church with a few purchases. Being very old she was 78 last April she couldn’t see the fast-speeding car. Alice would often tell me how happy she was hearing from you. A lone bird, helping others was a passion to her, both seen and unseen, far and near.”
      The writer concluded with a request that I accept the enclosed photograph of Alice, who had wanted it sent to me only after her death.
      It is a face of beauty and compassion; It is a face I would have cherished even when I was a shy college boy and she was already old.

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