Home Stamp collecting Please, Mr Postman – The Hindu

Please, Mr Postman – The Hindu


Good and bad news, all came in the form of inner letters, postcards, postal envelopes

Good and bad news, all came in the form of inner letters, postcards, postal envelopes

Lince before the Mavelletes, the Beatles, or the Carpenters sang “Please Mr. Postman,” those three words played silently in lovers’ heads almost daily as they eagerly awaited a letter from their beloved.

This khaki-clad man on the cycle with his signature “tring, tring” bell was a long-awaited visitor to most homes before the advent of email, messaging, WhatsApp and so on.

It wasn’t just lovers who were waiting for the postman. From retirees to parents, from job seekers to janitors, everyone’s hopes or fears depended on what was written in a letter that this daily visitor brought into homes.

Good news, less good news, bad news with surprises at the arrivals and departures of near and dear ones, all this came in the form of internal letters, postcards, postal envelopes or aerogrammes. The mothers left what they were doing and rushed to the gate when they heard the “ring, ring” of the postman. On days when we kids were home, we sprinted to grab the letter first.

I remember my mother frequently writing letters to her mother in Mangaluru and her siblings in different cities and could not wait for their replies. The moment she received the letter, her eyes lit up and standing right next to the door, she opened it to read. In the excitement of reading the letter, she didn’t mind if the meat or vegetables were overcooked!

Conversely, Mom would be anxious if the letters did not arrive regularly. She was irritated and sweating wondering why her relatives had not written. And then, hearing a crow “kaw-kawing” outside, she let out a delicious cry: “Oh, there’s a letter coming!”

For most of us, a week before our birthday was filled with anticipation waiting for cards from friends and relatives. Sometimes we received a telegram to wish us our birthday!

December was when we received most of the cards and letters, the first coming in the first week from an aunt, reporting Yuletide. In the days that followed and even well into the New Year, Mr. Postman continued to shower us with greeting cards.

If a visit from the postman was something to look forward to, a visit to the post office was an equally interesting experience. Some post offices in Bangalore exuded an old-world colonial charm while others were housed in quaint bungalows, notable for the bright red post boxes near the doors. The letter collection time was clearly painted in white letters on the black dot of the red mailboxes.

Inside, you could see the postmen busy sorting the letters in the street before leaving on their rounds, while the counter clerks took care of the customers who came daily to buy stamps, interior letters, envelopes, money orders or send registered letters, parcels etc.

The usual exercise was to apply the glue provided at the post office to the letters and drop them into the mailbox.

The public telephone in a corner of the post office was much sought after for making calls at a time when few homes had telephones.

One of the great things about the pre-internet days was writing letters and actually handwriting. There was a personal touch in these handwritten letters that connected people across cities, states or countries. In some ways, regular letter writing made him creative and expressive, honing his writing skills.

Likewise, the postal era also spawned a curiosity for stamps which in some cases led to the pursuit of stamp collecting as a hobby. We too went through this phase of collecting postage stamps and making a scrapbook but it didn’t last long like so many other hobbies.

Many of my generation will remember the care with which we pulled the stamps. We would carefully cut out the stamp with the envelope, put it in water for a few seconds to let the paper envelope separate from the stamp, and then let the stamp dry.

Alas! All of those memories have been erased by easy phone calls, instant messengers, Facebook, emails and without our knowledge, what else is to come.

Today, spotting a postman is as difficult as finding a sparrow in Bangalore and the few letterboxes on street corners look weathered and neglected.

Fortunately, the memories remain. Happy World Post Day (October 9)!