Reading Shalini’s comment on my previous post on letter writing and her reminiscences about missing the feel and texture of good quality stationary [A weakness I confess to, it was my first splurge at Muji over 13 years ago] – particularly fine onion paper for air mail letters – brought it all back to mind for me.
During the 30 days of November 1983, I have somewhere in my mother’s attic, 22 letters exchanged between the girl’s hostel at Miranda House, Delhi University Campus [I lasted 5 months before dropping out] and the boy’s hostel at IIT Kharagpur just outside of Calcutta.
Posted in prepaid Rs 2 envelopes, these letters crossed the breadth of India within three days – often, if you posted it on Sunday evening or early Monday it would arrive at its destination on Wednesday the same week. Remember the Inland letter card for 50 paise each? I would buy them in sets of 10 and few of the Aerogrammes.
This was [and probably is, would anyone have a clue what it’s like in India right now?] the level of performance demonstrated by the Indian Postal Service – one of the few services in India that I do not recall ever being reviled for bureaucracy, corruption or lack of performance.
Having travelled on trains, buses, the back of a fishing village’s community truck, mopeds, bicycles [as a passenger up front ] et al in India, its mind boggling how India Post manages to meet these schedules and times. Agreed, this is service between the major metros of Calcutta and New Delhi, not some remote village in Himachal but still this was the level of performance 24 years ago before the "IT"fication of the nation’s services.
When I first moved to the US, I was surprised that the postal service was considered unreliable and untimely. Today I know better… having lost "checks in the mail" – yes, they were sent, not promised.