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Why have I given up on the post office? Today’s fun outing! July 19, 2012

I visited the post office today. I must have entered one after years and years. I used to get sent for errands to the post office and the bank during my teenage years in Lucknow. We lived in a campus out of the city and there were a finite number of families there. Strolls in the heat to converse with the dull inhabitants of these institutions was not my idea of how to spend a summer holiday, but you just did what your parents asked you to back then!

So its ironic that when we were married, we chose to put the modest bounty we had collected in cheques from friends, relatives and well wishers into a post office investment scheme! Well, we pretty much locked the money away there and forgot about it. Recently, we’ve been trying to figure out how much is in there and how we could retrieve it etc.

Anyway, I climb up a flight of stairs of a private residence to get to the Kailash Colony post office. It used to be elsewhere before, in a dark and terrible dusty property and this was quite an improvement. The employees were really sweet to me, despite my total clue-lessness! As usual, some of the work got done, and more paperwork is needed to complete it, but it was all very good-natured.

What struck me there was the pace of things. The post office, despite its new branding as India Post, is frozen in a previous time. There seems to be no hurry at all. Everyone knows what to do, how to do it, there is very little noise and employees do not look hassled. They actually smile at you!

Observation no.2. Senior citizens love the post office. I saw three seniors come in, get their work done and leave satisfied. They confidently marched up to the man who owned the only desk in the place, presumably the manager there. They sat in a chair, filled the required forms, they got great service, they even made polite conversation, and then they left.

Despite the really thin paper with poor quality print that you see on withdrawal and deposit forms, passbooks etc (now we’ve got used to private banking, with its jazzy paraphernalia!), things worked around here. I compared my experience with others, and both my mother and my mother in law told me the local post office near our home was equally relaxed, with pleasant staff.

So, why have I given up on the post office? Because I don’t write to anyone in physical form any more, because I think the courier is a superior option even when there is no real reason to spend more on a communication; because I have lost faith in any service the government provides and assume the private sector is more efficient. That isn’t true in this context. I have chased enough misplaced couriers in my life to know that!

I resolved to see the positives in everything on this blog recently. The post office experience showed me a positive side to India, and I am proud and humbled as well.

Udai’s class recently did an exercise in which they wrote a letter to someone, figured out the address to send it to, acquired postage stamps etc and now those letters are on their way! I thought it a quaint activity at that time, but am glad they did it. It’s unfair to give up on systems that actually work!

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