Monday, May 11, 2009

The Postcard

I found this postcard dated 2 December 1935 addressed to my grandfather.
It has been years since I sent anything by snail mail. I check the India Post site and find that the postcard is now priced at 50 paise but yet it costs the Postal Department more than Rs 6-00 to deliver it to the destination! There is also another one priced at 25 paise, but with an advertisement on the reverse, which means that there is just one side to write on.

This would have upset my grandfather a great deal.

Postcards and inland letters were very much the way by which we kept in touch . I can remember the postcard being priced at 10 paise . It seems strange to think that it did not really matter that the information communicated was there for everyone to read. No user name, no password!

One person who really used the postcard and got value for money was my maternal grandfather. No inch of space would be left unused on the card. He had learnt the art of writing in legible but what could be described as a 4 point font size!! At times the space above the address was used for a hasty post script despite strict instructions that said 'address only'. The addresse (quite a few times it was us) paid the penalty of 20 ps - twice the cost of the postcard.
My grandpa (Ajja) as we addressed him, would set off each day in the morning by 9. An umbrella in hand serving as protection from sun or rain. He was a popular figure in the little town. Always involved in either trying to get a youth a job in the bank or indulge in some match-making. He would trudge back home at lunch time armed with goodies that he would have picked up. After the meal he would retire to his room with the pet dog - Moti, close the door and sit at his old writing desk. At least 4-5 postcards would be written in the tiny scrawl he had mastered so well. During the course of letter writing, both he and Moti would devour some forbidden sweets and fruits behind closed doors ( he was a diabetic). After a short nap, he would set off to drop the letters in the red post-box, in time for the last clearance.

Almost every third day, this little yellow card would be delivered at our doorstep by the postman. My mother would get an update of all the news in the family and neighbourhood. His letters always started with .. I received your letter dated .....and in case you did not date the letter, the opening line would then be ... I received your undated letter. He was very particular about letter-writing etiquette.

I guess the popularity of emails has sounded the death knell for the snail mail. I wonder if Ajja would have been upset. Maybe he would have adapted to this as well. He could have started a matrimonial site, a job portal, a travel blog ( there were times he set off in the morning only to return after 10 days as he would have been roped in as a guide by some tour operator, and this at the age of 70!)

I can well imagine how popular he would have been on a social network site of our times!


  1. It feels like it was not so long ago that I used to use postcards a lot to keep in touch with my friends from a remote place modinagar, I used to live there 14 years ago. Technology has caught up so fast into everybody's life we already tend to forget about little things like postcards...really nice!

  2. Nice one ma!!! BTW, what are the details of the postcard?

  3. This reminds me soo much of my grandpa too. A self taught man with excellent command over English and other Indian languages. A very similar deep felt sincerity towards writing in time. This also reminds me of an episode that my parents retold many a times over. When I was probably Ani's age, 3, the mail received at home starting doubling in volume. This went on for a few months. I apparently was the culprit. Every morning I would wake up religiously pick up all the old (received) mail at home, open the front yard gate, cross over a rather busy street, struggle hard to climb over a red mail box on the other side of the street, drop off all the mail and come back in satisfaction. My grandfather could not understand why people were sending him the same mail twice. Soon the post man also by now got to know about me and my notoreity spread far and wide (amongst the neighbors that is).He would simply open the mailbox do his initial sorting right there pick up all the old mail drop it home and come back later with the real mail for the day. I was probably his biggest career challenge.

  4. Deepak, that is a really amusing story.

  5. Interesting post.
    I was always hesitant to write letters and never preserved any that I received. So I was so very glad when emails arrived.
    Keep them coming.

  6. Ah the joys of writing and receiving letters - emails can never compete!


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