Today we ventured out with our driver to find the nearest post office. We located the nearest on Google Maps and headed off. The driver stopped twice to ask directions as he wasn’t convinced Google was telling us the nearest post office. Following directions we finally drove down quite an empty road, at about 5mph, looking at every shop and doorway. It was not obvious where this post office was and yet Google Maps was telling us we were there. Finally Zahra shouts “There!”. The driver stopped and we looked across. “Where?” I asked. Zahra pointed to a shop. “It doesn’t look like a post office” I said, “and it’s shut”. “Not there mummy – there!” And pointed to the basement. Sure enough, there was the post office. The driver had to lean across to see it as well. “Aha!” He said and jumped out of the car to open the door for us- we had to jump over quite a big puddle to get to the ‘path’ in front of the post office.
We went inside and there were quite a few people at two different counters. It wasn’t obvious where we should be so we just stood at one counter to one side. The post office space was quite large and under used. There were two people in there and after a while we established the lady was an assistant giving out forms and helping with enquiries and the man was the post master, dealing with all the post requests and payments.
After a while when various people had been given forms and assistance the lady asked what we wanted. I explained we wanted to post some letters to the UK and she waved us to the counter to the right of where we were standing, to the postmaster. People who had arrived after us and were waiting immediately moved out of the way to give us priority recognising we were there first. I thanked them – it was unexpected politeness.
The man in front of us was posting a parcel. After he had stamped and paid the postmaster took the parcel and threw it over his shoulder without looking and it landed on the floor with a thud. The man just walked away so I assume that’s a normal treatment of a parcel. Good to note for future reference – don’t send anything fragile and pack and wrap parcels well – they are going to be thrown around.
The postmaster got to us and glancing at the letters asked Zahra what she wanted. She immediately went shy and hid her face! I asked to post the letters to the UK and he asked if we wanted normal mail or speed mail. I asked what the difference was. He asked if they needed to be there by a certain date and I said no – normal mail it is he said. He weighed the letters. I asked what the difference was and he explained that speed mail was effectively a courier service. Normal mail cost INR 25 (25p) per letter and speed mail cost INR 600 (£6) per letter. We’ll stick with normal mail then!
He got the stamps out of a huge safe at the back of the room using the longest key I have ever seen – it seemed to be twice the length of a long safe key in the UK. He got the stamps and gave them to us, with a glue stick, and told us which stamps to stick on each letter. Whilst we were gluing on stamps he was sorting my change (rather complicated by the fact I gave him INR 500 for INR 75 bill) – I don’t think they hold a large amount of change.
He asked Zahra what her name was and whether she was writing to her friends and this time she was brave enough to answer and say thank you in Hindi (shukriya).
We gave the stamped letters back to the postmaster to post as there was no post box here.
On the way out we saw this sign:
Anyway, Zahra’s letters are on their way to the UK and now we know where the post office is we can send more. That will all change of course when we move but at least we know what the system is now.