Society

Meet the postman who walked through forests and tunnels to deliver posts

File photo of D Sivan waking along the NMR train track near Marapallam to deliver letters

File photo of D Sivan waking along the NMR train track near Marapallam to deliver letters   | Photo Credit: M Sathyamoorthy

Postman D Sivan found himself face-to-face with a herd of wild elephants one day.

He waited patiently for them to trudge away — he knew that they can detect even the tiniest movement by a human being — and then carried on along the forest path, with his bag of letters slung across his shoulders.

Coonoor-based Sivan rose to fame for his service, since he crossed lonely forests and threatening mountain terrain every day to deliver post. The 66-year-old is now a social media sensation: he went viral last week when the news of his retirement, which was in March, broke.

“I started as a stamp vendor at the Wellington Post Office in 1985,” recalls Sivan, speaking over phone. In 2010, he was transferred to the Hillgrove Post Office in Coonoor. This tenure would make him famous, but Sivan approached it rather matter-of-factly. “I was a mail deliverer by then, and the RS Post Office, 10 kilometres away from Hillgrove, was the main branch from which I collected all my letters and parcels to be delivered,” he explains.

Man versus wild

With his precious cargo strapped on him, Sivan had to cover six kilometres of forest every day. “It was a lonely, dark stretch,” he remembers. “The forest was thick and the path was trodden by animals such as elephants, gaur, bears, and snakes.”

Sivan walked briskly with a heightened sense of awarneness. He knew the dangers of the land, but was used to its workings. Eventually, he says, he was even on nodding terms with some of the animals.

“There was a particular fig tree that I stopped by at noon to eat the fruit. A bear too regularly came there to snack,” he says. “But it never hurt me; it got used to my presence.”

Once the forest path ended, he had to walk for 40 minutes along a train track. “People at the station would warn me if a train was coming, and I stepped away 10 minutes ahead of the expected time,” he adds.

File photo of D Sivan waking along the NMR train track near Marapallam to deliver letters

File photo of D Sivan waking along the NMR train track near Marapallam to deliver letters   | Photo Credit: M Sathyamoorthy

Then, there was one more obstacle he had to face before he started delivering letters, perhaps the most unnerving of them all: two tunnels, each two kilometres long. “It was pitch dark inside, and sometimes, elephants came to rest there after a water break in the summer,” says Sivan.

Sivan then arrived at his destination: Vadugan Thottam. “This is where I started delivering letters, money orders, and registered post,” he explains, adding that he also serviced tribal hamlets such as Kurumbadi, where people trusted him with money to be deposited in their post office account, and their passbook.

“A lot of people there work at tea and coffee estates, and will not be home on most occasions,” he recalls.

In that case, he tracked them down to hand over their letter or money.

He once took a bus all the way to Coimbatore to deliver an old-age pension to a lady who was by herself at the Government Hospital. “I knew how badly she needed the money,” he explains, adding, “A lot of people I serviced depended solely on me for their communication. I decided it was not a bad thing to take some extra effort.”

Sivan did not have the heart to tell any of them that he was retiring.

“On my last day, I mentioned this to an old lady and she started crying. I didn’t know what to do! I just left without a word.”

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 12:12:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/old-man-and-the-mountain/article32122988.ece

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