The Letter Manhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/the-letter-man/

The Letter Man

Balkrishna Anant Kalyankar keeps the old art of letter-writing alive with his unique collection of hand-made and hand-painted postcards

Suchi Adhikari

Balkrishna Anant Kalyankar is a man of few words and many letters. In the age of instant messaging and emails,Kalyankar is keeping the dying art of letter-writing alive with his huge collection of hand-made and hand-painted postcards. The postcards – of which he has made about 17,000 to date — combine his love for two arts — letter-writing and painting. While his paintings appear in the background of the postcards,the letters appear on the foreground,written in a poetic and artistic form to convey best wishes and mark special occasions in a person’s life.

“The message and the picture in the postcard depend on the occasion. I use water colours to paint and I write the letters in Marathi,” informs the artist. Ranging from Gudi Padwa to conveying good luck wishes for an examination,each postcard is one-of-a-kind,with a unique message and different painted motifs depending on the theme and subject of the letter. In a letter addressed to his dear friend,Raja bhau,the artist drew the famous kings symbol portrayed in a deck of cards to artistically symbolise his friend. Common themes explored in his postcards depict scenic views of nature,books used as a tool for enlightenment,and important structural buildings such as Shaniwar Wada,amongst others. In a candid confession,he shares,“I maintain a catalogue of my paintings with a record of the sender’s details for each painting so as to avoid resending them the same postcard again.”

Speaking on the significance of letter-writing and personalising messages,he emphasises,“Letters allow us the scope to express our feelings and they remain as evergreen memories of a person throughout our life. Also,the sheer joy of receiving a letter is simply unbeatable and cannot be replaced by a phone conversation or the whims of modern technology.” He fondly reminisces the old days when he received over 20 letters in a month and attributes the widespread use of mobile phones to the decline in letter-writing.

Born in Solapur,the artist was brought up in Pune and has been pursuing this hobby for over 50 years. “I started at the age of 15,and the idea of capturing a piece of my imagination and expressing it in words and pictures still fascinates me and makes for an extraordinary letter,” he says. Walking down the memory lane,he recalls the time when he was over-charged for his artistic postcards as the post-office considered it to be a work of such finesse that the item was deemed printed. “It compelled me to seal my postcards with the message: This card is not printed; made by hand. It is only after my postcards were sealed with this disclaimer that I was not overcharged,” shared the artist.