Today is World Post Day. Its purpose is to remind the world about the Post's role in the everyday lives of people and businesses and its contribution to global social and economic development. This was mooted by an Indian, Anand Mohan Narula, in 1969 at a Universal Postal Union Congress held in Tokyo. Since then, World Post Day has been celebrated on October 9.
I had never heard of it before, but I am all in favour of the day. A celebration to commemorate India Post and honour its indefatigable postmen. There was a time when the postman was my friend. I was in my teens and had 33 penpals from different parts of the country. The postman came twice a day, at 8.30 am, and 2.30 pm. I used to wait for the sound of the curtains rustling as he pushed the mail in through the letter slot of our door. The soft 'plop' it made as it fell onto the floor was the highlight of my day.
I would spend a few luxurious moments guessing where the letters were from. The beautiful Bengali girl studying in Santiniketan? Or the rugged Nepali from the old Ghoom Monastery in Darjeeling? Maybe it was from Madras, Raipur, Meerut, Jammu, Bhopal, or even Jhumri Telaiya that was originally in Bihar and is now in Jharkhand. I had pen pals my age, of both sexes, with whom I would shyly share the fantasies of youth, and boldly exchange black-and-white photos taken on Agfa and Kodak gravure cameras. The postman was the go-between. Our friendly neighbourhood messenger.
Nobody I knew, got packages in the mail, nor money. Telegrams, by some strange design, only arrived in the dead of night.
At Diwali and Christmas, the postman would knock on the door grinning in greeting. It was customary to give him what was known as baksheesh. He would be accompanied by the postmen who did the VVP (Value Payable Post) a.k.a the Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and Snapdeal of those days, and do the Money Order rounds. The fellow who cycled up in a tearing hurry with telegrams that only carried news of death from faraway places also came along those days. We only saw these postmen on festive occasions.
Nobody I knew, got packages in the mail, nor money. Telegrams, by some strange design, only arrived in the dead of night. And nobody grudged these postmen their baksheesh.
Today's generation will not know the romance of receiving mail through the post.
That was then. I haven't seen the postman in ages. I understand he mainly delivers government documents such as passports, driving licenses and Aadhar cards now. Instead, the courier man comes at odd hours with mail. I wake up every morning to find my Gmail inbox flooded with correspondence. The ping on my cell phone announces the arrival of a message on SMS or Whatsapp that beats the Express Telegram. So I wonder who uses India Post today.
I still look for its familiar squat red post-box patiently standing on street corners. Its mouth yawning wide and waiting for mail to be fed in. And then I am dismayed to see its stomach hollow and gaping open because some vagrant or druggie has cruelly broken its door to sell as scrap metal. I feel a twinge of regret and sadness. Today's generation will not know the romance of receiving mail through the post. Or the nail-biting anxiety of the school exam results coming home at the end of the summer vacation.
Everything is done online or sent by email. But in cities like London and New York, I find post-boxes gaily painted in red and blue, which tells me the Post Office is active there. I take pictures with them like they are old friends. When I can, I buy attractive postcards and mail them to myself. Just for the thrill of hearing the curtains rustle again back home, as the postman drops the mail in through the letter-slot that will fall with a soft 'plop' on the floor.
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