This postman has been chased by wild elephants. He also comes across sloth bears, gaurs and snakes as he crosses slippery forest streams and waterfalls nimbly to deliver mail to remote settlements in the forests near Singara and Marapallam.
He mostly walks along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway track, trekking from the Hillgrove Post Office near Coonoor, treading railway bridges, the land falling precipitously below, carrying mail or pension to plantation workers who live near forests on the Singara Estate, near Buriliyar, and Marapallam in the midst of disused tea and pepper estates.
When this reporter caught up with D. Sivan, 62, he said he crossed plenty of tunnels too during his 15-km daily journeys. After years of experience he knew where animals congregated and is extra cautious on those stretches.
Mr. Sivan said the number of letters he delivered over the last six years had come down, with many people in the settlements moving to either Coonoor or Mettupalayam. On an average, he said, he delivered three letters a week to each of the settlements near Buriliyar and Marappalam. Three years ago, he used to deliver many more — 10-15 a week per settlement.
S. Sagathevan, a resident of Badugan Thottam at Coonoor, which is inaccessible by road, said Mr. Sivan had even delivered mail to residents who had moved to Mettupalayam and Coonoor. He recalled how a man to whom he was to deliver pension had shifted to Coimbatore and fallen seriously ill, and was badly in need of money. So Mr. Sivan tracked the pensioner down to the hospital he had been admitted to and went there, paying for the trip out of his own pocket, and delivered the pension.
“We always offer him tea, but he declines and offers to buy us some instead,” said Sagathevan.
Mr. Sivan said he was only doing his job, for which he got paid Rs. 12,000 a month. “I have three years left for retirement. I enjoy serving the people, and I will do that till I retire,” he said, resuming his trek.