Monday, December 11

Lamentations of a Post Card

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Lamentations of a Post card

I am sure you would have heard of me. You used me long long ago. But then what has happened now? Ignoring me completely, like an unwanted cat, you have gone into the camp of a writing media called “e-mail” ! I know it is cheaper than me in cost. But should you discard an old faithful like me and treat me as if I was yesterday’s newspaper?

Do remember that I was introduced in the year 1879 by the British government and I had served the Indian population famously well. I was a villager’s delight and his popular writing material as well. I used to cost just three paisa in that era. Want me to tell you how much is three paisa? It was also known as a quarter anna. An anna was equal to twelve paisa; an Indian rupee was equal to 192 paisa.

Every Finance Minister took credit at keeping me alive at a constantly low cost stating that a villager would die if he had to pay more than three paisa to write a letter to his daughter who lived in a village some 100 miles away. I was always grateful to the concerned Finance Minister for his kind thought.

Then around the year 1950, the price was raised to One anna. This was too much of a jump, I agree. But the village folk could afford it since his income had also gone up several times. But the tragedy was that the rich people and the city dwellers also started using me. I was wild but I could do nothing about it and turned to the FM.

He scratched his head to do something about it . Around 1985 or so, he gave a severe blow to these non-village people. The city based citizens used me by typing out their contents such as acknowledgement, invitation matters and also as greeting cards instead of writing with a pen. The FM caught them. If a PC was typewritten, he charged the user Fifty paisa; otherwise it cost them Fifteen paise only. By that time the country had gone over to the decimal system of currency.

Then the TV channels began to conduct a number of competitions and they asked the participants to send their reply in a post card. The reason was, it was easy to collate the information from post cards than from an envelope or even an Indian letter. One angry FM charged such competition post cards Rupees ten. Oh, was I happy and wasn’t I honoured by this seven hundred percent raise. I was laughing in my sleeves and said ‘boo’ to all the participants of quiz competition.

While I was I sympathizing with them the TV channels completely stopped all their contests because very few TV viewers partook in these games due to the high cost of a competition post card.. All at once I became unpopular and unwanted. The Ten rupee thing however stayed and wasn’t withdrawn. The dual pricing of fifty paisa and ten rupees stuck on. But TV channels were knocked off their competition mode.
Even today I am priced Fifty paise. But the government doesn’t print many cards of 5 inches by 3 ½ inches light yellow coloured cards because there are no buyers. E-mail had thrown me out of the market. True it is much cheaper and you hardly spent any money for sending an e-mail. So, I find myself in cold storage as of now..

Do you know what happened the other day? A village man visited Chennai city and he wanted to correspond with his wife who was some 100 KM away. Standing at the counter of one of the small city post offices he said, “Sir, give one post card.”

The counter clerk suddenly sprang up. “What? What? What did you ask for?”

The villager repeated his request in a softer voice. “I want a post card,Sir.”

“Post card? What is it? He turned to the Savings bank clerk. “You know what a post card is, Mr. Srinivasan?” The young man tightened his forehead trying to remember what he learnt in school about the Indian postal system. Craning his neck he asked the Post master. “Sir, this man wants a post card. Any idea what it is, Sir?”

The Post master too tapped his head. “Post card, Post card….?” he mumbled. “Give him a five rupee stamp and tell him to write a letter. OK?”

By then the customer had left the post office and gone to the nearest telephone booth to speak to his dear wife.

That’s my fate, dear reader. Why shouldn’t I cry and howl at my great down fall?

“Now, you tell me Mister Reader, shouldn’t I cry and howl over my great down fall? The Indian people don’t even remember who I am !”

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