A postman and his spear

Happy New Year!

NEXT TO THE POST OFFICE on the corner of Bangalore’s Museum and State Bank of India Roads, there is a recently opened Museum of Communication. Housed in an old-fashioned Bangalorean bungalow, it is effectively a museum of the Indian postal services. This well laid out museum contains a variety of exhibits ranging from postage stamps to large pieces of mechanised equipment. I will describe a few of the many exhibits that interested me.

There is a photograph of the world’s highest post office (somewhere in the Himalayas). There is an enormous piece of equipment, which occupies the whole of a room. It was used for transmission of money orders. Several panels described the history of the Indian freedom struggle and that of the Indian Post.

Outside on the museum’s shady verandah, there is a collection of old letter boxes. They include boxes of various shapes, sizes, and colours. One of them bears the Portuguese words “CAIXA POSTAL”. Once upon a time, it must have been used in one of Portugal’s Indian colonies, but there was no information about its original location.

Outside the museum, and still in use, there is a hexagonal pillar box, very similar to one placed at the Bowring Institute in the late 1880s. Unlike the one at Bowring, which bears the British Indian postal insignia, the box near the museum has been modified to make it look like a post-Independence Indian Post pillar box.

Next to the entrance to the museum, also on the verandah, there is aalifesize model of an Indian postman of yesteryear. Wearing a green and white uniform (including a turban) with some red trim, he has a sack slung over his left shoulder. His right hand is stretche out in front of him. In it he holds a wooden shaft tipped with a sharp metal spear tip. Four small bells are attached to the base of this tip. A lantern hangs from his right wrist.

In the past, the postman mafe his way from village to village along paths through the jungle. The spear tip and its staff were used to ward off wild animals. The lantern was used to light his way, and the bells were rung to alert villagers to his arrival.

Visiting the museum was an interesting experience. Seeing the hardships that postmen used to face should make us pleased that we can now communicate using fax, email, and other modern inventions.

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