From the vault: Postman and the Essence of a Letter

Tabish Khan

Srinagar: Bashir Ahmad is a 55-year-old postman at General Post Office, Srinagar. He has been working at the department for the last 32 years and was appointed as a postman of his village in Shopian after passing matriculation, with a starting monthly salary of 200 rupees.

Bashir Ahmad

“During those days, the position of a postman was considered to be a reputed one. My parents were proud of me as I got a good government job,”
“In my village, I was treated with utmost respect as during those days, after doctor, it was a postman who was allowed to enter any house without restrictions.”

In early ‘90s, Bashir got married to Sajida Begum from his own village and is now blessed with three children.
“Though my salary was little but in our village, father of almost every girl wanted me as his son-in-law: reason that I was a postman,” Bashir said. “Now everything has changed. People don’t write letters as messages are sent through emails, Whats App and other internet applications.”

Bashir has never sent an email as he doesn’t know how to use technology for communication or any other purpose. “I was provided with a smartphone from office as government wants to make everything digital, but I don’t know how to use it,” he said.

Postmen at GPO Srinagar

“Due to internet, many professions, including that of a postman, which once acquired importance in the society, witnessed a gradual disappearance. Now people are very busy in their lives; they make use of technology at every step.”

Bashir said the image of a man with a khaki-clad scalp carrying a jute bag that used to come to one’s in mind while imagining a postman, has vanished. “Now, a postman can only be found in history books. To see a khaki-wearing postman has remained a dream for those who used to be associated with the letter-writing.”

“In the past, my bag used to be heavy, but now I don’t even carry it. These days, a postman doesn’t require a bag, as he can place those five or ten documents in his pocket.”

Bashir said two decades ago, people used to sit on verandah, waiting for a postman to come. “There was a beauty in that wait. Hearts used to throb. Hopes were kindled. People used to wait eagerly for the news about their loved ones posted faraway or a photograph they had longed to have a glimpse of.”

Post man, compiling letters at GPO Srinagar…

“The new generation hardly knows the priceless value of a handwritten letter. The words and even the feel of the paper has become part of a person’s fond memories and would go on to become a heritage,” Bashir remarked.

He said since past few years, not a single postman has been appointed at GPO Srinagar as the department is aware that the job of a postman has been overtaken by technology. “Only 9 veteran postmen are working in the department. Now postman’s role is to only transport some official documents and parcels. Nobody writes letters or sends money orders through post office.”

“In fact, the department has hired young outside workers, who have their vehicles for transporting parcels and all. The postman’s role is diminishing with each passing day,” Bashir said.
GhulamNabi Khan, 80, from Soura, Srinagar said the technology is boon as well as bane for the society. He believes the entire dependence on technology is “somehow keeping our young generation away from their culture and tradition”.

“Years ago, every second week, I used to wait for my son’s letter who was outside the state and that waiting had its own charm. As the postman used to hand over the letter, there was a unique feeling of joy and ecstasy and nervousness as well. The recipients would keep their fingers crossed while the envelope was torn open. Then a letter popped out, revealing the news – about the well-being, success or failure. The postman used to wait along with his bicycle until the letter was read, and consequently shared the sorrow or happiness with the recipient(s), whatever the letter came along with it,” Ghulam said. “The technology has made the present generation impatient.”

Voicing his opinion, a 24-year-old Shahid Nazir from Hawal said, “Writing a letter and then posting it is time consuming. Also one is not even sure whether the letter will reach to the recipient or not.”
Shahid studies B.Tech at SRM University, Delhi and is usually away from home. “Whenever I miss my parents, I make a video call. This ease is possible only through technology. For students like me, writing a letter is not feasible,” Shahid said.

Zahoor Ahmad Mir, a senior postman at GPO Srinagar, also shares his experience: “In 1981, during my training at Delhi, every Saturday my eyes were at door waiting for a postman. The handwritten letters have their own flavor which one cannot find in SMSs and WhatsApp texts. The handwritten letters also improved our handwriting, spelling and grammar, which is missing now, as we use short texts and symbols.”

“During our youthful days, we used to have pen friends. I also had one from Bangalore with whom I used to share glittery letters. No matter how much busy we used to be, we always found time to write letters for our friends and relatives,” Zahoor recollects.

“I still have those letters. Whenever I get time, I read them and relive my childhood. The messaging applications the technology has brought cannot invoke in you the same feelings and emotions which a handwritten letter has the power to do.”



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