As the Department of Posts celebrates National Postal Week from October 9 to 15, S. Theodore Bhaskaran, retired Chief Postmaster General of Tamil Nadu, recalls some memorable moments

It was called ‘Dog fight’ — Indian and Pakistani aircraft chasing each other in the sky. “I have seen two such dog fights while serving in the Postal and Telegraph department in Shillong,” recalls S. Theodore Bhaskaran, retired Chief Postmaster General of Tamil Nadu.

Theodore joined the Indian postal service in 1968 in Trichy and retired in 1998. “Annadurai had taken over as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. As his friends were in the trade union, he paid a visit to my office in Trichy and addressed us. There were no high security arrangements and we just organised a table and a few chairs,” he recalls.

He served as District Superintendent in Vellore and later worked in Meghalaya. “I was deputed as the special officer for war efforts as the Bangladesh war had broken. I was the connecting point between the Army camps and the P&T. Many people dug up trenches around their houses to hide during bomb raids.”

Speaking about his journey in the department, he says: “It is staff oriented. The Postal department was one of the first to be Indianised during British rule.” But, it was not a high-profile department. “Only 20 years ago were we given vehicles. Once, during my posting in Coimbatore, I wanted to have a postal bay at the Erode bus stand as it is a central point that connects places such as Sathyamangalam, Gobichettipalayam, Bhavani and Dharapuram. I wrote to the State Government, but was simply told to take part in the auction along with flower vendors and bid for the space!”

The retired chief postmaster calls the introduction of pin codes in 1978 as a breakthrough for the largest postal department in the world. “In terms of the number of post offices, we are larger than China. Except India, nowhere else in the world can you write a letter at a cost cheaper than a phone call.”

Post offices were once used to stock medicines for cholera and malaria during World War I. In the late 60s, it stocked male contraceptives too. “It was a wonderful scheme where the branch manger could sell the product. But, it faced backlash during the Emergency,” he remembers.

Theodore regrets that despite its omnipresence, the department is largely underutilised. “Go to any remote village and the only presence of the Government is a post office. Now, your money is transferred online and you may not see the post man, but postal traffic continues. A lot of money is pumped in towards training of staff and officers. The staff are more polite now. In villages, postal banking is well received. It’s the post office that still distributes old age pension,” he explains.

As a postal department representative, this film historian, author and wildlife conservationist, criss-crossed the country, served in Kenya and travelled to Russia and Japan. “A five-day week gave me a plenty of time to pursue my other interests. This department is also the least corrupt. In my entire service, I have never been forced to do anything I did not want to,” says Theodore.

Probably why, the one Government servant who is welcome anywhere, any time, at any part of the country and treated with goodwill is the postman, he says.