Latest Posts


Monday, July 22, 2013

The Post Office does not live here anymore

One of the oldest shops in Defence Colony Market, Delhi, the Post Office, is finally about to shut down. Way back in the late '50s and well into the '60s, it functioned also as a "poste restante" for a large number of zero-restart post partition faujis, many of whom had no "permanent address".
In front of it was the only restaurant in DefCol market those days, a small tandoor run by a '47 widow, in the park. You could bring your own atta, nicely made into smooth balls with a wee bit of ghee on each, and pay for them to be roasted in the tandoor.
Or you could buy her rotis - if you bought her rotis, then daal was free.

One day I saw a fight between her and the other widow lady who had the same business in Lajpat Nagar-III, in the park behind Moolchand Hospital. Much shouting and knocking of tandoor, sparks flying,chimta raised. Then it was suddenly over. After the fight, both wept and hugged each other, and then the Lajpat Nagar lady helped the DefCol lady rebuild her tandoor.

I learnt about dispute resolution that day and saw this globally, like when we took American Aid wheat to Vietnam right after the Umrikan Army left. Or how the Portugese returned to help out in Mozambique,

So, Post Offices, where were we? Oh yes. Decades ago. They were the hubs of our existence. The Post Offices and the libraries. There was one in Defence Colony Market, there were two in Lajpat Nagar Central Market, there was one in Lajpat Bhavan, and every now and then the Mobile Library came and parked itself in Andrews Ganj.

You could borrow and return books by Post too. Sometimes we did. Sometimes the postman read it too.

The bigger post-offices in Lajpat Nagar (110024) and Andrews Ganj had not come up as yet, everything depended on JungPura, where we went to collect registered letters which had been sent back since addressee was not at home - home was for some time an empty plot then with a small hut made of unsecured bricks and a roof of asbestos sheets held down by heavy stones, and electricity from a power wire drawn from the neighbours which we had to hide whenever the DESU guys came visiting.

DefCol Post Office was also the first "all woman" Post Office in India, way back in the '60s. They would put up a small notice a few days before a First Day Cover was to be issued, and we would then nominate one person who could go to GPO at Patel Chowk to buy those stamps-which meant a delegation going to subject nominee's parents and seeking permission to go by bus, on route 5 or 22. (5 was more fun, trailer double decker, running up and down the stairs)

One of the trailer double deckers was DLP-1947 and we would regularly see it stopped in front of Lajpat Bhavan, on duty for special functions, where it would be decorated with marigolds. One day an elderly gentleman stopped some of us from running up and down the stairs and said that we are the future generation, he hoped we would behave ourselves, we should go and sit down peacefully, which we did not understand but did anyways. For a short time.

There was always hope. You, gentle reader, need to understand how much hope we had in the New India that was being built. Regardless of shortages and difficulties.
And I get the gut feeling when I walk the roads in the morning, there is suddenly a lot more hope. The old is giving way to the new, again.

Now there is a small printout on the wall of the DefCol PO. That it is being shut down and that they are looking for new premises. Symbol of Hope?

No comments:

Post a Comment