Before stepping into Guruvappa Street in Kotturpuram, GopuGovindaraj (56), a postman with 34 years of experience, looks up at the sky and utters a silent prayer. He has been chased by dogs far too many times to keep count.
“It is a daily affair,” he says. “I think my uniform makes me look like a Chennai Corporation dog catcher.” Sometimes, he drops all the letters in his hand and runs. The barking animal, which is also scared by now, runs in the opposite direction. The spectacle plays out almost every day around 2 p.m.
There is also trouble of the bovine kind.
“If I leave my cycle unattended even for a few minutes, stray cows would start eating all the letters,” says Mr. Govindaraj.
“The bull fight that happens in Alanganallur every year is nothing compared to the regular scuffles I have had with cows, while I try to grab money orders from their mouth. The cows especially love thick calendars and books such as Reader’s Digest. Whether the subscriber knows or not, the cows roaming on the street know the exact day of delivery and would be waiting. And if I lose items, I’ll have to pay the penalty,” he adds.
It’s all part of just another day at work for people like Mr. Govindaraj, one of the over 5,000 postmen who roam the streets of Chennai daily, whether it rains or shines.
Nearly half of them are temporary staff, and are called “delivery agents.”
Most deliver about 500 letters on an average every day. Dogs chasing postmen might be a funny sight to most people, but without health benefits, some temporary staffers have even died of dog bites, says Mr. Govindaraj.
Few things have changed in the last 20 years in the way postmen do their jobs. The only major difference is that the department has started computerizing most post offices, which has made sorting easier. Postmen still have the ‘foot beat’ and ‘cycle beat’ system. S. Sadasivam, a postman, says: “During the rainy season, we are still given only an umbrella, a practice which was followed during the British Raj. How can I ride a cycle?”
Since then, there have certainly been some changes. S. Gangadharan, who delivers speed posts, sports sunglasses and drives around only on a motorcycle,.
“I keep running into Blue Dart and Professional Courier guys. They come wearing a tie. I want to show them I can also look tiptop.”
The next time you see a postman/woman… SMILE. Because a SMILE can make their day!
Source : (Excerpts from The Hindu. Jan 20th 2012)