Manas Ranjan Mahapatra, Noida, 8 November 2023
Nobody writes a post card these days. Forget about post card, nobody writes a letter in this electronic age. Gone are the days when our great freedom fighters were used to write letters to people on many issues. Pandit Nehru wrote letters to his daughter Indira and it became a book !
A year ago I was talking to Som Kamei, a young friend of mine who is now the Post Master General, Dimapur. Som was the most illustrious Director of North Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre at Dimapur, Nagaland. He is also a Manipuri Naga. We have been friends for years and share views on many matters.
Som shared the news of the success story of the Department of Posts with their India Post Payments Bank. The news took me back to my school and college days.
My mother and I had Post Office Savings Accounts and for us Post Office was the bank. We had very few banks in Puri those days and those were a bit far from our place. The Post Office was in our vicinity. There was a provision that a school student can open an account on furnishing a certificate from the Headmaster and I did so to open an account in the Station Road Post Office to save my scholarship amount. Later, my mother joined me. I don’t remember if my sister had one.
Those were the days of our courtship in 1981. My fiancee, now my wife, urged that we should have a joint savings account. We first went to the State Bank of India. They wanted several documents which we did not have.
We came back and approached our dear Post Master brother Samanta Chandrasekhar Mahapatra. He was a writer and translator too.’ “Yes”, he said and we opened a joint Post Office Savings Account there. The only rider was you can deposit individually, but withdraw only on joint signature of both in the withdrawal form.
I was an emerging writer and used to get a lot of letters by post in my college days. So, I used to go to the Post Office almost everyday. It was on my way to college. All the Postmen became my intimate friends.
Alas, these days writing a letter has become a dead art form. I developed my skill of Public Relations by meeting numerous people from various walks of life in the post office. In the later years, I opened a Savings Bank Account in a bank. But the type of friendships I developed in the Post Office could not happen in case of the bank. Life was a mechanised one there.
We had a big brother, Budha bhai. He was a clerk in the Office of Senior Superintendent of Post Offices. The tea stall in front of Budha bhai’s office became our ‘Adda’. He had a Bengali Senior Superintendent, a young officer, and he used to join us at times in our ‘Adda’.
Budha bhai’s colleagues got jealous and hatched a conspiracy. The poor fellow was transferred. That ‘Adda’ was continued for years before I left Puri to join as Headmaster in a school at Umerkote.
The school had a few Post Office Savings Bank Accounts too for depositing Government Funds. My bondage with Post Offices continued and I used to go to the Post Office, the small town had only one. The Post Office people soon became my intimate friends. It was on a Sunday night that the Postmaster came to my quarters to deliver the telegram that my mother had passed away.
My habit of collecting letters from Post Offices continued till I was at Lucknow. I used to collect letters of my friends too. But once my colleague, Usha, made a complaint. She did not get an ordinary letter and doubted that I have collected her letter and have not given her. She was a spinster of about forty and possibly it was a love letter. Courier service was not available then. After this incident, I stopped collecting letters from Post Offices!!
Many years later, on the invitation of my friend, Mr. Bisoi, Director, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai National Postal Academy, I interacted there with young probationers of Indian Postal Service. They were amazed to hear my Post Office stories!
Som enjoyed my story of love with Post Offices and craze for post cards. This may be the common story of many of us. Post Offices were a part of our life way back in the 1970s and 1980s. We don’t know where we lost it but would love to regain it. “Please tap people of my age. We will certainly open accounts in the India Post Payments Bank”, I gleefully told Som.