Friday, August 21, 2009

I posted a letter

I clutched the envelope tight as I drove to office this morning. It must be posted today, I told myself. I couldn't help notice the contrast between the dingy basement room functioning as Kundalahalli Post Office and the steel and glass Cosmos Mall gleaming on the other side of the road. I queued up behind half a dozen people at the counter (wo)manned by a nervous looking fidgety lady alone. It was interesting to see what gets transacted there. A vermilioned lady was getting her Post Office savings bank passbook updated and asking questions nineteen to the dozen. The postmistress violently stamped the receipt and sent her packing. Next, an elderly gentleman wanted to know how much it would cost to send different denominations of money to Pune by Money Order (yes, people still do those, not everyone has access to NEFT). He was given a chit of paper with the different combinations possible and politely asked to rejoin the queue after deciding. A few money orders and speedposts later came my turn. I suddenly realized that I didn't even know what denomination of stamp I needed for my ordinary post letter. Turned out to be Rs 5. I bought four of these so that I don't have to queue up again this decade. Stuck one onto my envelope and sent it snailing towards the Income Tax office in Electronic City. Another study in contrast that. I had to come to a brick and mortar post office for the first time in a couple of years, because I needed to post a receipt generated from filing my Income Tax returns (brace for this) completely electronically over the internet this year!
As I walked back to the car, I wondered when I'd possibly have to visit a post office next. Probably not in a long time. And the reason for the reduced popularity of post offices (at least in urban India) is probably not mainly due to email. I'd guess the handwritten letter was dealt a death blow more by the ubiquitous cellphone. Very few would want to write a letter when they can talk directly. And then for the purposes of sending parcels, the zillions of private couriers probably do a lot better job than IndiaPost.
Ultimately it was enjoyable to actually transact communication the forgotten way. Hope the letter reaches though.