Thursday, July 28, 2011

Post Office

The picture I have in my head of a post office is due to that specimen that I frequented for the entire part of my life before email came into the picture.

This post office was tiny, dark and dingy. A creaking brown fan rotated half-heartedly over the head of the postal clerk, who sat behind a counter with an old peeling sign that said "ST MPS.". His eyes looked frighteningly large behind inch thick glasses as he paused from his painstaking stamping to look up and ask you what you wanted. He then weighed your letter on an ancient balance and tore off stamps with grubby, shaking fingers.

You paid him, took the stamps and turned around, only to bump into a shaky wooden plank that clung loosely to a wall. About half a dozen people usually jostled each other around this one square metre of sticky wood, trying to paste their stamps on their envelopes using the glue placed on that table. This glue, contained in a blue plastic bowl, now black because of dirt congealed on old glue, looked exactly like snot. Somebody would have invariably appropriated the single brush in the bowl, so you had to bite back your nausea, stick your finger into the "glue" and try to paste your stamps onto your envelope. The stamp liked your finger more and preferred to stick to it, though. Finally, after achieving your purpose, you had to step out of the post office door (two paces from the ST MPS counter,) and drop your letter into the rattling red post box outside the door and go your way.

This was, like I said, about fifteen years ago, before the advent of email. I cannot believe it myself, but I don't remember having stepped into any post office in all those years (other than to accompany my grandfather once) and so I was in for a shock when I had to avail the services of a post office today (not the one of my childhood, though.)

I stepped in, and then stepped back out because I thought I had entered a check in area of the airport. Then, ascertaining that it was indeed the neighbourhood post office, I stepped back in, and went to the stamps counter, where a smiling man weighed my letter on a digital scale, took the requisite number of stamps from his desk, produced a Fevi Stik, pasted the stamps neatly and handed it to me. Dazed, I gave the letter to Puttachi who wanted to drop it in the box. We went out of the post office, and there was only one box there which looked nothing at all like the red cylindrical post box I had in my head. The steel cube sitting smartly there was much too swanky to be an ordinary post box, or so I thought. I hung around for a while until some one else dropped their letter into it, after which I gave Puttachi, who had been insisting all along that it was indeed a post box, permission to follow suit.

I am yet to get over the shock.


Ananda_KMR said...

may be slow in our country but.... change is constant and inevitable.

parijata said...

A change for the better, eh?
We are changing in many ways, hope a large percentage of that turns out to be for better.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Can so completely relate to this.

BTW, the first part of this post is begging to be in a story.


Manish'sMom said...

Hahaha! It is precisely this shock that makes me go back again and again to the post office! It took me a couple of years to come to terms with the new and renewed friendly neighborhood PO. I love it now :)

M S Raghunandan said...

beautiful post. i do miss the old dingy post office, though.

PeeVee said...

Brilliant post!! :D And I couldn't agree more with ano. The first part does beg to be in a story :) And needless to say, the post beautifully brought back memories of that very post office and our discussions on the snot-like glue :D

austere said...

I know that first post office!
or perhaps they were generic, no matter where in the country.

Yes, the first part of this in a story, please.

Nishant said...

Like the way you write...

Shruthi said...

Anand, Parijata, change, yes, and for the better, definitely, at least here in the post office! Elsewhere too, hopefully.

Ano, heh heh, perhaps you're right :)

Manish's Mom - I remembered you so much while writing this post! You are the only one I know who still uses the post office regularly, and I find that so cool! :D

Raghu Mama, thank you so much. At some level, I miss it too. After writing this post, I feel like going to that post office to find out how it is now.

Peevee, yeah, and you were so delighted to make me even nauseous by describing how they might have obtained that snot-like glue.. heh heh :D

Austere, you're right. I remember some more post offices like that at about that time. And yes, it'll probably eventually end up in a story some time :)

Nishant, thank you!

Manish'sMom said...

There is something very comforting and soothing, when you actually sit down and put pen to paper. And going to the PO to actually put a stamp on an envelop is even more re-assuring that perhaps all hasn't changed in this mad world. That there are still somethings left of your childhood :) I remember my grandparents writing to me without fail every month. We used to wait by the Postbox for that familiar inland letter :)

Maitreya J A said...

If you want one of the old POs, come to ashoknagar where i stay.. you can find the sleepy man behind the counter, snot glue and an old box hanging on a piece of wire on a telephone pole outside.. Things dont change everywhere!

- -