Going to the post office to drop off a letter seems to be completely out of fashion, but postcards continue to be in great demand

They don’t ring at ungodly hours. They don’t burn a hole in your pocket. And it doesn’t get simpler than that. But they work only if what we have to say to each other could wait a while.

Yeah, we are talking about our good, old postcards, which are back and this time, for keeps.

Take some time off that obsessive email checking (well, maybe just a little bit). Forget landlines, cell phones, calling cards, Skype, facebook and more for a while (the options are seemingly endless) and consider this: according to the latest figures from the Royal Mail, Britons are sending about 135 million postcards each year, an increase of 30 million on just five years ago.

Patrick O’Neill, a spokesman for the Royal Mail which released the figures, thinks it is the physical connection with the recipient, unlike a text or e-mail that makes postcards unique. “It requires a certain degree of effort to write a postcard, which means you care enough to do it.”

A senior official of the Head Post Office, Bangalore, says the sale of postcards never really declined. Personal communication through snail mail, he says, has drastically come down in the last few years, but postcards are still the most common means for business communication. He says postcards are also endorsed by the Government now with departments such as Directorate of Home Guards and Civil Defence ordering their special 25 p postcards.

Marketing postcards can be sent to customers as personalised postcards for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays or special offers. And it works against say, an e-mail which gets through the inbox but stands a very realistic chance of getting bulk deleted.

The golden age of the postcard began in 1894 when the General Post Office, the forerunner of the Royal Mail, first approved them for delivery by post.

Lithographed postcards were the earliest and most beautiful cards produced. They were fairly common in the Pioneer period and were frequently imported. They gave way to white border postcards which were developed in 1915 when the First World War prevented the import of cards printed overseas. This style of postcard was in vogue until 1930.

Real photo postcards started around 1900 and have been used continuously to this day. Some were made by individuals while others were made by photographers and sold as souvenirs. With the Internet and mobile phones taking over, the number of people sending postcards dropped for obvious reasons – sending a text is easier and faster.

But this most incredibly effective but under-utilised method for communication has got a new lease of life with people falling all over again for that all-important ‘personal touch’.

Akshata, a final year degree student, agrees, “I still send postcards to my friends from school. I stay in touch with everyone else through emails and facebook, but use postcards for people close to me just to make them feel special.”

Photo-shopped images of famous landmarks or scenic seaside views are not the only things on sale. Jackfruit, a research and design company, offers a collection of reprinted antique postcards of Bangalore with views of commercial areas, government, civil, cultural and religious institutions, parks, lakes and daily life. It is an urban archive of Bangalore as imagined by the British eighty or more years ago.

Gangarams, a book store on M.G. Road, talks about the business part. Joy India foundation and Heritage India cards, which claim to encapsulate the country’s little-known joys, are a major sell-out, says Shiva, a salesman at the store.

He says that around — get prepared to be shocked — 300 to 500 cards are sold every day. Miniature Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings sold on the postcards at Rs. 20 are a hit with the customers.

And the store is not the only one with postcard sales going through the roof. Arokia Seelam of Higgin Bothams, another popular book store, says they sell 300 postcards every day. Beat that.

Keywords: postcardslettersmailpost