Dak Ghar (The Post Office)

Achan (father) and I have a wonderful relationship. We both get along well even with all our differences of opinion we have on various matters. Our temperaments match. Something I am not very proud of. We both take decisions within fraction of seconds unlike our respective spouses. Not that we don’t apply our mind before reaching the final decision. Just that we don’t linger on with situations like many others. It’s either a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. There’s never a ‘May be’ or ‘May be not’. And we stick to our decision irrespective of the consequences and wholeheartedly accept whatever the outcome is.

Achan happens to be my most favourite partner for a morning walk. On this short trip to Ramgarh, Acha and I went on a walk around the village while everyone else waited at the restaurant for the breakfast that was getting ready. We both can’t sit idle. If we have ten minutes to ourselves, we will either be found cleaning something/some place or walking or reading. It’s on a similar morning walk back from the temple some sixteen years ago that I had informed Dad about the Man’s proposal. That was the morning when I had thought that I had lost him and his unconditional love forever. Thanks to the Almighty that things improved for us with time. I can’t bear to lose him ever. He’s my bestest buddy.

This is the Dak Ghar at Malla Ramgarh (Upper Ramgarh). Dak Ghar is nothing but the local Post Office. Coming from the National Capital Territory where the Postal Services are now rarely heard of and are almost lost amidst the many courier and door-to-door delivery services, this building caught my attention. Why? Because we used to have a Post Office back home in Kerala inside our house.  The post office for Pin Code number 679522, Cherukkattupulam, Kerala, used to run from a small cottage within our compound. We had leased the space to the Government of India for the Post Office at rupees twenty-five per month. Just for rupees 25. That used to be the daily milk expense at our place. And I used to tease my Ammamma (grandmother) every time she signed on the revenue stamp to collect the twenty-five rupees.

This Post Office brought back all the lovely memories I had of the Cherukkattupulam Post Office.

As mentioned earlier, ours was a highly orthodox and conservative family and even eggs were not allowed inside our compound. Muthacha (grandfather) who hailed from Kunnissery in Palakkad district used to bring along chicken fry or boiled Duck eggs for us on his way back from his hometown. He can’t enter the compound with any of this as Ammamma wouldn’t allow it at all. He used to be fun to be around. He would call us from outside the gate and take us to the post office in the evening hours when it was closed for the day. We would be made to sit on the cemented railings of the verandah (roofed, open-air gallery or porch) of the post office. He would lovingly feed us and tell us how we will become stronger and stronger after eating chicken and eggs . Once finished, he would make us wash ourselves with the water from the hand pump. And then we will go home. He would tease Ammamma saying we have entered with the chicken and eggs and will ask her if she would now throw us out of the house. And the entire evening would be one joyful one where Ammamma would keep repeating the same thing again and again lying on her bed till Muthacha made his false promise of not repeating it again. I am sure Ammamma would have missed his false promises and those pranks just like I missed them.

There was a red Hibiscus plant inside the post office and I had hidden a hundred thousand complaint chits underneath it. I would write all that had hurt me during the day and bury it under the tree so that no one found it ever. So many letters that I had not sent to Acha were also buried underneath this plant. I was sure nobody would ever be able to reach it.

There used to be a drunk old man who used to sleepover at the post office verandah in the nights. He was called Koppa. He would leave the place early in the morning before Govindankutty Mama reached from Trichur and he would be back at the same place as dusk fell. I used to be terribly scared of that bearded old man who smelled of only dirt and kallu (alcohol). Evenings were still okay as everyone was awake and around. At nights, as he sang some silly songs, I used to shiver with fear. And when Ammamma or Muthacha noticed my sobs or tears on my pillow, they would scream at the top of their voice in the middle of the night and ask Koppa to stop singing and go to sleep. I used to think they disliked him but the very next day I would see Muthacha or Ammamma asking the house help to provide him some food and water. When it used to rain, Muthacha would personally go and deliver a blanket to him.

That reminded me of Chettiyar. Chettiyar was also an old man who would come around afternoons asking for food. Mema (maternal aunt) would give him a bowl full of kanjhi (rice porridge) or vella-choru (fermented rice). Ammamma and Muthacha would scold her for giving him so much but she ignored them and would fill his bowl. He would sit on the front yard and eat till he burped. He rarely spoke. I don’t remember listening to his voice ever. Mema had told me that he was a rich man who was cheated by his friends or family. He was given some drug which made him lose his senses. He wasn’t clean. He carried dirty rugs. Yet I used to wait for him. I had a soft corner for him. I used to feel good seeing Mema give him the kanjhi and the way he ate it peacefully. I am sure if he was alive, he would have blessed Mema to relieve her of all her pains and agonies.

This post office was extremely special to me as I would run up to the boundary wall around 1 p.m. when the Post Master would call out the names on the letters and deliver it to the people who were present there at that moment. I would reach much earlier than anyone else and waited for her (we had a female post master) to pick up an Airmail envelope or an Aerogram. These are some of the things that this generation might never understand. The joy of waiting. Hoping against hope. And the breaking of heart every time there was no letter for me. The Post Master would then walk around the village to the various houses to deliver the letters to the sendees (a person to whom something is sent). Letter or no letter, she would drop at our place just to visit Ammamma who hadn’t stepped out of the house in ages owing to her terribly curved spine. I haven’t seen her upright ever. Those were the days when neighbours and fellow villagers were kind and courteous enough to come and check about the well-beings of all the elders and even spend a night or two at your place for help when someone was terribly ill.

This post office was also my secret hideout from Amma’s uncle, Govindankutty Mama. I used to hate the commotion in the house as he prepared to leave to Trichur by the 6 p.m. Sridevi bus only to return the very next morning by the 7.30 a.m. Raj bus. Yes. Small towns only have a few buses running on their routes and are identified by their name and not by any number. The bus stop was right in front of our gate and all the drivers were well-acquainted with Muthachan and everyone else in the family. If they happened to not see Muthachan around for over a week, they would stop by to enquire about his health. 

Such simple people. Such simple lives they had. So much kindness. So much compassion. So much empathy. People enjoyed the joy of giving more than complaining about what they didn’t have. So much we learned from our surroundings and our elders. That indeed was a golden era and I regret that my children would never get to know that there was a period in history like that.

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24 Replies to “Dak Ghar (The Post Office)”

    1. Absolutely! There are days when I realize I haven’t had my breakfast only around evening. There’s no time. We are not living. We are just running. There’s no time to pause and reflect. When this thought troubles me beyond my limit, I just switch off. Though I am an advocate of technology, I do feel that excess of it has left to a downward trend in emotional quotient in us.

  1. Simplicity in those days and it brought so much joy about loving, longing and waiting in anticipation for the dak babu delivering hand written letters. The narration is heart rendering and touching the heart pretty much like the simplicity of those days, Rekha.

    1. Life has become a never-ending race and competitiveness has restricted us from enjoying the present moment. We need to pause and take a deep breath to enjoy life. I have consciously started stepping back and take time to be present in every moment rather than running ahead and trying to be everywhere. Sometimes all this stress just gets into my head and I feel like I am choking. Thank you for reading, Vishal! Your kind words make me want to share more and more such moments from the past.

      1. Unfortunately, this mad rush makes us losing our identity and follow other. It gets too competitive where we forget the simple joys. Agree it get suffocating and u should share such moments in life. I am always here to read and share 🙂

  2. What a lovely post Rekha. I loved reading about your childhood days and the way you have described each and every character, their routine, their personalities and how you reacted to it all – brilliant read on a tuesday morning with my tea!! How I wish for those days to return when life was simple and not rushed. There was more care and less worries in the world! Thank you for taking me back there, even if only for a bit! 🙂

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    1. How I wish!!! Today with all the luxuries of modern life we still can’t find that kind of peace or joy. We are always and always rushing towards something or the other. Everybody is struggling to achieve more and more. And there’s no end to it. I wish we took time to pause and take a moment to enjoy what we have rather than running behind what we don’t have. Sometimes the stress becomes so unbearable that I just wish I had an escape route for myself. Thank you and glad that you enjoyed your morning tea with this post of mine, Shalz!

  3. Rekha, keep penning down such beautiful posts about your past rich with treasures of your memories and your children will definitely know their past. This is such a lovely write up. I shared a similar bond with my dad ♡. Your words transported me to your home and introduced me to all the people you interacted with in your childhood. I think having a post office in your compound is so cool. I could see a little girl burying pieces of papers under the red hibiscus plant. Koppa and Chettiyar sound like interesting characters who can be main protagonists in a novel 🙂 Thank you for warming the cockles of my heart with your spellbinding storytelling.

    1. There have been so many characters from those days who can make me write multiple stories on them. And sometimes I wonder how I remember each one of them so precisely while I find it difficult to remember the people I meet these days. I am so glad that you enjoyed those days with me. Thank you for all the appreciation! 🙂

  4. Your post read like a page of RK Narayan’s novel. The memories flowed so beautifully it felt like you were talking to me, like I was sitting outside that post office watching you eat up that chicken or waiting for a letter. Your daughters are lucky they have you as a storyteller.

    1. Thank you, Tulika! I try to share with them anecdotes like these to make them understand how lucky they are to have all that they have and why they must value these. They love listening to the stories from our childhood and we both are more than happy to share it with them. Gives us some bonding time as well in the otherwise busy lives.

  5. You really are a wonderful storyteller, Rekha. All those lovely memories are fascinating. And I am so happy that you share such a beautiful bond with your dad. You know I still go to the post office in my neighbourhood though it is a small building. I mostly go for Speed Post but I always take in the quaint queues, the red postboxes and the blue gum box that is still there. Lovely memories those.

    1. Oh yes! I do remember that blue gum bottle. My visits are very rare now but every time I see a post box it makes me happy. I have so many memories associated with it. As a child I used to believe that if I screamed into the post box my Dad would be able to hear me on the other end in Saudi Arabia. Have done that quite a number of times. 🙂

  6. As we we are connecting more and more with distant people through social media, we are losing the hearty touch with people near us. Relationships are becoming shallow. That is a sad reality.
    It was nostalgic to go through your post.

    1. Very well said! Today we have hundreds and thousands of virtual friends yet we are all almost lonely at one time or the other. That physical bonding is not there and hence the emotional connect is missing.

  7. Your writings have such an old world feel to it. Like a fond memory that we want to cherish again and again. Life was simple back then… And the bonds made were strong, not be broken by petty fights. Love the way you endearingly write these little incidents.

  8. Thank you for letting me feel your childhood memories. I felt I was all along with you on those cemented tiles and walking to reach the dak ghar. I agree that your kids wouldn’t experience this in particular but I believe they are making their own. Their own summer afternoon with you and V. Their chance to fight and notice love in the House.
    Beautifully written!

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