No I am not going to write the history of Indian Postal Service! Neither do I want to trace the history of a postcard. You can go and look that up in an Encyclopedia. Wikipedia says that postal service as a public mode of communication in India started with Warren Hastings bringing the reform to make the postal department public. Since then postal services started acquiring the importance which in earlier days pigeons had. Well, in Cuttack there are still trained pigeons who carry highly confidential messages for the Orissa Police. It is perhaps the only place in India which has pigeons to carry messages. Oh wow! Maine Pyar Kiya 🙂 ...
Ahem…no romantic musings 😀 . My purpose here is to dwell on the little emotive values associated with the postcard. Actually, I was dusting my old cupboard and found hoards of postcards, some of them scribbled to God. As a child, Mom used to tell me that He read all postcards, so I made it a point to complain about family, friends and life in general specifically in postcards 🙂 . The postoffice used to be right across the road and I borrowed five rupees everyday from dad for a stack of postcards. They were 15paise at that time…I don’t know how much they cost these days.
I remember one specific postcard which I had posted to Mr. Rajiv Gandhi while in Std-V. I wrote to him requesting him to arrange for my visit to New Delhi and a stay in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. I wrote something as follows (paraphrased here):
I am studying in Std-V. I want to meet you. Please invite me to New Delhi to your house. I want to see New Delhi at least once in my life. But no one takes me there. I want to stay in the Rashtrapati Bhavan .Please sir, I will bring my poems if you call me.
I wish I can rephrase the words exactly as I had written then. Waited for a reply for days to that postcard (may be secretly until the death of Mr. Gandhi). You cannot imagine my enthusiasm when I posted the card. I didn’t even tell about it to parents and after many months disclosed about it to my younger brother. He was so happy that we will go to Delhi that he used to even dream Apu Ghar 🙂 .
I remember writing a lot of such postcards to the tele series Surabhi for Siddharth Kak and Renuka Sahani when a little older. Everytime they would shuffle the postcards to declare the winners, my heart went pounding. But I never won! The address: Andheri, Mumbai Po Box No: “x” still remains engraved in mind. It seemed Andheri was a fairytale place in a “film” like city far-far away from my imagination. I could only imagine Govinda and Mithun Chakraborty (they ruled then) when I thought of Mumbai and could never think that there were any other human souls except the film stars who inhabited Mumbai.
The touch of those yellow coloured postcards, with a restricted space cannot be equalled by any great email service of the present. The joy when one recived such a card is also not to be expressed in words. But postcards, did not merely have an emotive value. Dad tells me that one can file a PIL (Public Litigation) on any postcard and the courts have to accept them. He tells that the postcard shows the power of the average citizen in this country.
But for me, the smell of the fresh postcard and writing on them with awkward childish letters bears more meaning than great literary texts. In fact, in literature there is a specific genre of novel writing which is called the Epistolary novels which were written in the form of letters. The famous English writer Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740s) and Clarissa (1740s) are notable novels of this kind.
I am writing this piece also as a tribute to letter writing and to snail-mail, which these days they call an extinct art…Wish our kids could actually learn the beauty of words in letters…but it is the generation of “hypers”/”speed” with which postcards/letters can hardly compete…