The heyday of snail mail

The heyday of snail mail

Representative image/iStock

In the present age of internet and instant communication, the post office seems to have no major role to play in our daily lives. There was, however, a time when postmen and post offices held a prominent position in society.

The postman used to reach our residential area only in the afternoon and as soon as he announced his presence with his cycle bell, the children would vie with the elders to reach him first. The first thing we did on receiving a cover was to check whether any stamp had escaped cancellation by the post office and if so, remove it carefully to be reused without feeling any guilt. As stamp collection was a popular hobby, the other stamps would be added to the collection.

If an important letter was expected, I used to go to the post office in the morning and wait along with a horde of others for the postman to come out carrying his mailbag. Most households used to receive money orders from their kin and the payee was expected to tip the postman. He would always keep enough low denomination currency notes with him to outmanoeuvre those who feigned a lack of change.

He was also expected to be tipped handsomely during the festive season to avoid unregistered letters going ‘missing’ or the delivery of letters getting delayed. For many, letter writing started with love letters at school. Most films of that period also had their heroes and heroines exchanging letters, that culminated in marriages or broken hearts. Many a marriage was shown to have ended disastrously when either of the spouses came across an old love letter or when the spurned lover graciously forwarded the old letters to the newly-wed husband or wife.

Just like today’s tax-payers waiting anxiously for the finance minister to reach the portion dealing with income tax in his or her budget speech, people used to be eager to know whether postal rates would be hiked. If even a slight increase was proposed, there would be a hue and cry in the house, followed by an angry reaction in the media for days to come.

The finance minister would then reduce the hike a little and everybody would be happy. I miss the beautiful greeting cards on my birthdays and festivals and it seems I am stuck with the bland messages on Twitter, Facebook and the like.