Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Last Post

Dear Comrades,

This is a fine article regarding the importance and value of a Postman, written by one jug suraiya from Timesgroup, Times of India.

How the person who brought your mail came to be an extinct species.

There are only some 1,440 tigers left in India, presumably including the CWG mascot, Shera. Clearly the Indian tiger is an endangered species, and we must do all we can to save it. But while we are trying to save the tiger, let's spare a thought for a species that is not just endangered but extinct: the postman.

Remember the postman? He was the guy - though it may well have been a gal, the erstwhile postal department having been an equal-opportunity institution - who left mail for you in your letter box. Postmen - postpeople, if you prefer - were like Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy: you never saw them but you found evidence that they'd been there by what they left behind - letters, bills, junk mail, what have you. No, it's not quite true that you never saw postpeople. You did see your postperson, once a year. On the dot of Diwali your postperson would turn up on your doorstep for the annual Diwali mubarak baksheesh that all postpeople were entitled to by tradition, if not by their official terms of employment.

Over the years, i'd got to know my postperson quite well, thanks to our once-a-year meetings on Diwali. We'd become pretty pally, enquiring after each other's families, and discussing Haryana politics, and speculating as to when and where the next scam was going to strike and whom it would involve.

Then Diwali before last, my postperson didn't turn up. Had my postperson forgotten? Unlikely. Postpeople had to have powerful memories, capable of remembering all those addresses and where exactly each one was on their beats. A good memory was a professional requirement if you were a postperson. So why had my postperson not kept our Diwali rendezvous?

Then I begun to come across people, friends and neighbours, whose postpeople had also not turned up for their Diwali baksheesh. Why this sudden paucity of postpeople? That's when the ominous thought struck me: were postpeople becoming - or had already become - an extinct species, along with the dodo, the typewriter and telephones which had dials instead of pushbuttons?

And the chilling answer seemed to be 'yes'. Along with the dodo, the typewriter and phones with dials, evolution had bypassed the postperson. With the advent of internet and e-mail people not only stopped using 'snail mail' to correspond with each other, but they also stopped writing letters at all to each other. Instead, they tweeted each other, or sent each other SMSs: Hw r u?

OK, so people stopped writing letters. But what about bills, junk mail, pizza delivery offers (If It's Not Hot/Our Bandha Can Be Shot), and all that other stuff? If there were no more postpeople - because people had stopped writing letters - who was going to deliver all the other mail? The answer, of course, was couriers, a vast army of which appeared overnight.

Unlike postpeople whom you never saw, save on Diwali, you see couriers every day, several of them every day. When the doorbell rings you always know it's the courier come calling. How do you know this? Because experience has taught you that couriers, all couriers, have an uncanny psychic ability by which they know exactly when to ring the doorbell while you are in the middle of performing an intimate function which requires your total concentration, like using the loo, or trimming your toenails, or dealing with the blackhead that's suddenly appeared on the tip of your nose. You're just about to squeeze the damn thing out when ... Ring! It's the courier. With an invitation to an ikebana exhibition organised by the Indo-Japanese Friendship League, or the exciting book launch of the Greater Noida Telephone Directory.

This Diwali the doorbell rang. I wasn't in the loo, or the shower. So it couldn't be the courier. Could it be my postperson, come back to life? It wasn't. It was the courier. Demanding Diwali baksheesh. I gave it too. As a bribe. Not to make sure the courier kept coming to deliver my mail. But to make sure the courier stopped coming to deliver my mail.
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