A Job I Want That No Longer Exists: Professional Letter Writer

BBC News talks to Jagdish Chandra Sharma, a man who just might be the last professional letter writer in India:

“People would tell me what they wanted to write, I would hear their stories and then summarise it and write it in my own nice words. Then I would read it back to them and they would be so impressed,” he recalls.

Until a few years ago, Sharma used to be accompanied by several other writers who sat alongside him.

“Every day, long queues would form in front of us and we would write letters, fill up money order or telegram forms, pack parcels and write addresses on them.”

In those days, he says, he would service “70 to 80 customers in a day” and “some days I won’t even find time for lunch”.

Even Sharma hasn’t written a letter in 10 years, thanks in part to rising literacy rates and you know, cell phones. But professional letter writing for the illiterate is a centuries-old tradition in India, one that was formalized in 1854, when the British set up India’s modern postal system.

I think this is my new dream job, that is if I ever time travel back to 19th century India and um, somehow find myself able to read and write Hindi.

Photo: Nivedita Ravishankar