Santoshi and I had visited the post office as one of the activities during Summer.
Since most of our mails are paperless, the number of physical mail that we receive is abysmally low. Neither do we send snail mail out. So, a trip to the post office became more of a fun activity, rather than a necessity. Not to mention that my grandfather worked as a post master in a tiny village and the post office was a small room in his house. So, there was also a telephone at home (I am talking about 1970’s to 1980’s when telephone connections were a rarity in villages). As a child, I had spent most of my summer holidays at my grandparents’ house and it used to be so much fun to see people come home to buy stamps, my grandfather keeping a record, neighbours getting phone calls from their relatives using this phone, etc.
Now, swinging back to 2017, we live quite close to the post office which is also the head post office for the area. As Santoshi and I walked in, we saw a few of the mail vans driving out of the post office. I told her that these vans were full of letters and parcels which need to be delivered to different places – some within the city, some outside the city but within India and some outside India. We also noticed a few big parcels being packed in water-proof material. Post boxes located near the gate fascinated Santoshi and she tried to read the label on each of them – “any post anywhere”, “within Chennai”, “Tamil Nadu”, etc. I explained to her that normal mails (letters or documents inside an envelope) could be put in the appropriate boxes (depending on their destination) after paying the postage (in the form of stamps).
Santoshi had written two letters – one for each cousin who live in San Jose, CA. Along with each letter was a drawing that she had made. We bought an envelope (A4 size) and placed the letters and drawings inside and showed it to the officer at the counter to ensure that we were sending only ‘documents’.
She weighed the envelope and told us to pay INR 44 as postage (roughly USD 0.70). We got 3 stamps – 2 of value INR 20 each and the other of value INR 4. We added the postage to the top, right corner, wrote the address in the centre of the envelope and took it to another counter.
This counter was part of the sorting facility. They had racks with codes labelled for each of them and the officer manning this counter was putting the mails in the respective racks, depending on destination and priority (business mail, speed post, etc.). He told us that it would take about a week to ten days for the letter to reach Santoshi’s cousins. We waited until he placed the envelope in one of the racks (hoping that it was the right rack).
This being the head post office, the building also offered services like savings accounts, time deposits, pension disbursements, etc. After telling Santoshi about these auxillary functions of a post office, we went home.
The mail reached her cousins in about ten days and both of them were delighted to see a mail from Santoshi, all the way from India.