“Tring Tring”. No. This was not the sound we used to eagerly wait when we were growing up. Actually, I hated the sound of the phone ringing. I don’t know about my sister, but I always thought of the phone as an intrusion of privacy, then and even now. Back in the day, there used to be one phone for a neighborhood, gradually evolving into one per house and now one per hand.
I hope the innovation stops here without further evolving into one per finger!
Anyway, this article is not about the phone: that big red phone which took forever to dial a number. 9 was the worst. I just could not wait for that spring dial to return to its position. The “tring tring” sound which my sister and I used to eagerly wait was the sound of something which has become extinct now, the sound which brought hope to many and despair to some, the sound which brought joy to many, agony to some.
Yes, for people before the mobile and internet revolution- yes! you guessed it right- The postman and his bicycle.
For those who have their first picture taken with a mobile camera, back in the day or till the late ’90s, all those bills, magazines, postcards, letters, birthday greetings, festive greetings, money orders, etc. which come to your “inbox” were carried by a gentleman in a cycle- “the postman”.
Every day, at 1 pm, we would hear the sweet sound of that bicycle bell. Back then, I did not get any mail, but the excitement of who was going to collect it, was something different and yes, seems foolish now. All we were interested in, were those stamps. However, that very foolishness has given me some fond memories. What looks foolish now, has left unerasable imprints in those ridges of my brain.
During my childhood, mom usually called us for lunch between 1 and 1:10 pm- that was standard and the postman came before we sat down for lunch. As soon as we heard the sweet sound of that bicycle bell, we dashed from wherever we were towards the front door. I can still remember his face and his playful manners.
He kept the excitement going. Alighting from his bicycle in a seemingly fluid motion of lifting his right leg from the right pedal, and then his whole body onto the left side of the bicycle, precariously balancing his whole body weight on the left pedal, he quickly braked and landed with his right foot, before taking three quick cushioning hops to stop right where we were. He had his mails carefully wrapped in his nice red-colored leather case, which I think he brought with his own money. Looking at us, quarreling over something so mundane, must have been encouraging for him and must have been satisfying. He picked up the mail meant for us and distributed it between me and my sister. She usually got bigger books like local religious publications, whereas I got the bills.
“Anil, you take this,” he would say, before handing some bigger ones to my sister.
“Tomorrow you get the bigger ones”. He smiled and with the same moves, but in the reverse, hopped on his cycle and whizzed past the main gate. He hardly stayed for a minute, as he had to spread this joy to many homes in the village.
Christmas was the time when there were loads of greetings that we collected from the postman. Diwali greetings were plentiful too. The time when the first week of December was spent in stationery and greeting shops is long gone. WhatsApp and Facebook greetings have bulldozed this amazing tradition of holiday cards. It has been more than 15 years since I have sent out Christmas cards. My mom used to neatly write down the names and addresses of everyone who had sent cards. It was a way of updating addresses and phone numbers.
The number of cards received back home have now trickled down to 1 or 2 a year. Well, it is good to know that there are a few old uncles and aunts who still take the trouble of finding the post office and sticking stamps to greeting cards.
Times have changed. The postman now is no longer friendly and the bicycle has made way to a brand new moped. The postman simply puts, whatever little mail we have in the pipe fixed at the gate. The industry of mail has completely changed. There is absolutely no personal touch in the mail industry anymore. I think we are the ones to blame as even we have lost that personal touch in greeting people anymore.
What has happened to the good old inland letters, which for a good part of my childhood I thought were England letters? What happened to those postcards? What happened to those stamps which we used to carefully scrape from the postcards and place it inside the dairy?
Gone are the days when the postman used to join people in their celebrations- birthdays, festivals, and sometimes just a Saturday. Gone are the days when the postman used to discuss and advise people on money matters. Gone are the days, when the postman lent his strong shoulders for people to cry on. Gone are the days.
Gone is my postman too!