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

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3 Comments / Post A Comment

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I once had a job writing thank-you and condolence letters for various top administrators at a university. I really enjoyed writing the condolence letters, because it involved researching interesting people’s lives, but the thank-you letters got a bit old. There are only but so many ways to say “Dear very rich person, thank you for increasing the amount of inequality in the world by ensuring that the business students have ever more lavish facilities while the poor suckers over in social work and education continue to be screwed.” Some thank-you letters were fun to write, but in the aggregate they were just depressing.

ShermMcCoy (#3,777)

Actually this does exist – for cover letters. There is a website for those looking to break into big consulting (Mckinsey, etc) that will write you a cover letter for ~$100. I’m sure all the resume assistance services have similar options.

eemusings (#6,021)

I was watching the movie Her last week and it totally made me want to write letters for people like Joaquin Phoenix does.

My husband is job hunting right now and I’m writing all his cover letters – it’s SO much fun! Would be an awesome side hustle.

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