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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Villagers Still Swear by the Written Word

Postal services may have lost their relevance in urban areas, but in rural Tamil Nadu they continue to play a vital role, with the postman perhaps the only one who knows everyone in his ‘beat’. Many middle-aged people in villages are nostalgic about their memorable moments associated with letters, money orders, greeting cards and other articles the postal services offered on a daily basis.
People in those days sent festival greetings to friends and relatives and even exchanged love letters through the postal department. Some middle-aged people in rural areas still preserve the love letters and Pongal greeting cards they had received from their loved ones.
“When I was doing my ITI course, I stayed in a hostel. During those days, communication was possible only through post cards. We wrote post cards to parents asking them to send money through money order. But present day students send text messages or call their parents through cell phones and ask them to deposit money in their bank accounts,” recalls K Velmurugan of Andimadam.
“Think about the wonderful feeling of a wife in a village 20 years ago, receiving a letter from her husband, who worked in a foreign country. Cell phones can never create that magic,” he says.
“When I was a college student, I used to write post cards or inland letters to my dad. On my trip to home during holidays, my father would share his editing - spelling and errors clearly marked – of the letters. He would then advise me not to repeat the mistakes. That is one reason why I write Tamil clearly and fluently without mistakes now,” says Rajan, who runs a grocery shop.

What has made the postman relevant in rural pockets is that courier companies do not such reach. Kannadhasan, a teacher, says: “Private courier services do not have a home delivery mechanism in far-flung rural areas. When I get letters through courier, I get a call from the private courier service’s office in the nearby town, asking me to come and collect the letter. But if the letter is sent through the postal department, the postman delivers it to me even if I am in my agriculture field at my village.”
Besides, many daily wagers and poor youngsters in villages can’t quite afford to spend `25-30 to send letters or application forms through courier. They prefer the postal service since it costs just `4-5, he added.
According to a postmaster working in Ariyalur district, “more women than men in villages make post office deposits. They invest in small savings or recurring deposit schemes, like depositing `100 or more for five years. They spend the savings on their children’s studies or to buy jewellery for their daughters. That is something that needs to be encouraged and incentivised.” Well said.

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