It's not always bad

Most of us often blame government departments for their tardy functioning and the endless red tape; and this may be true in some cases. But I have had some very pleasant experiences over many decades.

During the 1965 war, at about 2 pm on September 19, a Sunday, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs surprised me in the Sialkot sector, 1,300 km away from home, with an inland letter from my father posted at 5.45 pm the previous day in Trichy. For a homesick and war-weary young man of 23, what could be a better treat! And while that had taken only 20 hours, a letter I wrote to my wife during the 1971 war took 36 days to be delivered.

In 1972, I had taken a ‘weekend leave’ on 15-16 January. I had called my wife, then living in Dehradun with her parents, to come over with our daughter to Pathankot, 160 km away from Chhamb sector, to our vacant house. We were talking about the war when a postman delivered a Forces Letter from me addressed to my wife, which had been re-directed from Dehradun. Seeing the postmark of December 10, 1971, I snatched the letter as I didn’t want her to read it then. That had been almost like my ‘last letter’ to her!

On the day I wrote it, many of us in the sector had given up hopes of returning alive, based on (false) information about enemy tanks outflanking us. I had written that in the event of my unfortunate death, she should not remain single but must remarry as she was only about 26 years old and our daughter, just 18 months old then. I had mentioned the meagre bank-balance I had but also assured her that the government would give her a life-long pension, etc.

Seeing my startled reaction, my wife insisted that I give her the letter. I acquiesced. She began crying after reading it and asked why I had written such a letter. She calmed down after I explained the situation. It so happens that she had received a couple of other letters that I had written and posted to her after December 10, but just not this ‘last letter’. Well, in retrospect, it seems good that it was delayed by 36 days.

On June 25, 1977, I was returning to Rajasthan via Delhi, after being on a month’s leave to look after my ailing father at Trichy. At the halt in Vijayawada station, a co-passenger informed me that my name and seat number had been announced over the system asking me to meet the station master. I guessed why.

Just then two railway staff rushed in, picked up my luggage, thrust a platform ticket into my hand and hurried me to the Ganga-Cauvery Express on the adjacent platform, while instructing the catering staff to deliver my food to my seat. They asked me to explain my situation and present the platform ticket as proof of purchasing a ticket to Madras from the TTE. I learnt from him later that the train had been delayed by a few minutes for me. How sweet of them, indeed!

On June 13, 2016, at 10.40 am, I entered the RTO Office in Indiranagar for a renewal of my driving licence. I had to visit five counters, including one for a mugshot, but everything was over in 15 minutes! How one wishes all government departments worked so smoothly at all times.

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It's not always bad

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