Pristine Glory of Post Office
Here’s a nostalgic journey to relive some of my life’s rare moments and emotions that lie hidden behind the post cards, inland letters, money-orders and telegrams. I pay my tribute to the messenger and the institution on the World Post Day.
"Can you take this to heaven for my dad's birthday, thanks."
This is what a 7-year old boy wrote to the Royal Mail Service in England hoping that the post office would deliver the birthday card to his dad. But the letter was only half the story. It was, in fact, the response from the UK’s Royal Mail to the boy that went viral on social media.
The reply read, “This was a difficult challenge avoiding stars and other galactic objects on route to heaven. However, please be assured that this particular important item of mail has been delivered." The letter was signed by the assistant delivery office manager with Royal Mail.
No doubt, it’s the kindness of such people in the world that makes our life worth living. I just could not think of a more compelling story than this when I thought of paying my tribute to the great institution of post office on the World Post Day.
Thinking about the post office, I was immediately transported to my growing up days when the postman was an integral part of our life. Every member in every family would know the postman and he would also know almost everyone in the locality. He was respected for the important role that he played. People looked upon him as a messenger of important and critical events and happenings. It was a common sight those days to see people waiting outside their home around the time when the postman would visit. More so, the elders in the beginning of every month would wait anxiously for the money-orders from their children working in other cities. Some would rightly refer to the postmen as their lucky mascot.
I can never forget the day when our postman rang the bell in that torrid summer. My father opened the door. The next thing I heard was a loud cheer. My mother immediately went to the puja room. My sisters started calling our friends and relatives. The postman had just delivered my life’s first appointment letter. Everyone in the family was thanking the postman. He was not only offered sweets but baksheesh as well. Understandably, our bonding with him only grew with time. I would make it a point to meet him whenever I visited home even after I started working. I say this with a sense of justifiable pride that my father remembered to invite him to my wedding.
A lot more used to happen in our life through these letters. My first ‘letter to editor’ that got published in a local daily when I was in school, was despatched through post. I learnt about my selection in my city’s ‘under-15’ cricket team through a letter despatched by the state cricket association. Most of the time, the happy news of any outstation relative visiting our home would be broken through letters only. And, how can I forget my frequent visits to the post office in my anxiety to enquire about admit cards for appearing in different competitive examinations.
Those who have grown during the 70s and 80s would fondly recall the popularity of musical programmes on radio stations especially Radio Ceylon and Vividh Bharati. The requests for songs on most programmes on radio stations would be mostly sent through post cards. Listening to these programmes, one would always hear a name Jhumri Telaiya, the place in Jharkhand, which is known for sending the largest number of requests for film songs. The entire city was obsessed with sending post cards requesting for songs to radio programmes. The folklore says that the postmen were bribed by the residents of Jhumri Telaiya to post only their letters sent to the radio shows. Surabhi was another programme on Doordarshan which would mandate responses to different contests on post cards only.
Flipping through the old files, I found some rare letters written to me by my grandfather. We have preserved these letters as our treasure trove. The sensory touch of the letters brought back the memories of the time we spent with our grandparents. Each word in the letter was dipped in the ink of love and affection.
The corner of the house where we would keep all the letters is today empty. But the place still holds a special significance. I take this opportunity to spare a thought for the postmen and women, who were the messenger of these letters. I sincerely thank these silent sentinels who even today go far and wide to deliver messages that mean so much in people’s lives.
Finally, before I end the letter let me share some of the titbits about the post office which is not just about letters. Do you know that the Post Office savings bank is the oldest and by far the largest banking system in the country? And, do you know that an Indian post office was once situated at Dakshin Gangotri in Antarctica? The current Indian post office in Antarctica is situated at Maitri, where the country’s current research station is also situated. And, do you know that even today there are millions of people who still send post cards and inland letters as they continue to be the cheapest ways of communication.
To the people born in the modern era of e-mails, Facebook and WhatsApp, these stories may sound from another planet.