Heart to Heart

Shrikant Mundade had always understood matters of the heart better than others; while his peers would struggle to understand their own convoluted emotions, Mundade would put it all in words, in prose and verse. As teenagers and young adults, his college mates at BMCC would be tongue-tied in their interactions with the opposite sex while Mundade would smoothly craft shining admiration and affection into a love letter. It wasn't long before his friends realised he had a way with words and they would often entreat him to write love letters to their beloved. At 52 years, Mundade is now a practising naturopathic doctor but he still hasn't lost his connection with the heart. For the past 27 years, he has been organising love letter-writing competitions in the city to encourage the art.

"In my college days, we were very shy to even talk to a girl. We didn't have mobile phone or internet and email. We used to call on the landline number but what if the girl's dad picks up? Letters were the only way to convey what was in our hearts," says Mundade. His friends would feel woefully inadequate when it came to girls, he says, and they would lure him with treats at Vaishali on Fergusson College Road so he would write letters for them. When he hosted the first-ever love letter-writing competition in the country at Fergusson College in 1985, 220 people turned up for the contest, some of them over 60 years old. The best entries were then compiled and published as 'Heart to Heart: A collection of love letters', to serve as a guide for modern lovebirds.

"The competition created such mayhem; nothing like it had ever happened before," he says. While national publications raved on about it, local extremist groups expressed severe objections. "In those days, love letters were seen as something ugly, or vulgar. But a love letter is just a way to express beautiful emotions like love, respect, fondness. It is a reflection of not only how you feel about someone, but also the kind of person you are," explains Mundade. Love letters were the main catalyst even in Mundade's personal life. When he met his wife, Rita at a convention more than 25 years ago, he fell in love with her and began to write to her regularly. "There was a lot of excitement and anticipation before every letter and I remember the long wait between letters. Those letters really helped our love and relationship progress," says Rita Mundade. The couple will celebrate their 25th anniversary next year.

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