Just been to Ottapalam post office. What a bloody palaver!
First, I wanted to post a letter by a fast service and I thought that ‘speedpost’ would be the best service. It is in terms of speed but I didn’t know about the minimum charge of 795 rupees (over 10 pounds) per item sent to the UK. ‘Registered airmail’ cost 39 rupees and should only take a week.
Then I had a bag of stuff to post home. At or near other post-offices, someone makes a living (I hope) sewing packages into parcels, sealing them and making them look very nice. Not here, despite the office looking very modern and computerised. Also, I’m not sure I liked the questions about what was in the parcel I was sending. I asked if I could buy a cardboard box or maybe a padded envelope: someone brought me a battered cardboard box and some clear parcel tape which we munged into a facsimile of a parcel, all the while being advise by one of his colleagues and watched by the Postmaster who had ordered this chap to find me a box. I was then given some newspaper to wrap around it – again using clear parcel tape to try to hold it together. (I was being helped a lot but I don’t think it actually helped in the production of a good parcel.)
Then I was given a purple water-based marker pen, a sheet of white paper and a clear plastic bag and was told to write the sender’s and receiver’s addresses on the paper and slide it into the bag. A middle-ranking(?) post-worker then stapled this to the parcel and we used more parcel tape to cover the staples. He then asked me what service I’d like to use. I asked about prices first and so his colleague weighed the parcel (the scales were in a back office) and looked up prices on her PC. Once I’d chosen sea-mail (because it cost 523 rupees and would take a month, while other services would cost double that for not much better service), he tried to use the marker pen to write this on the plastic bag.
This, er, wasn’t as successful as he’d have liked so he procured another bag and sheet of paper, wrote the service on this new sheet, put it in its bag and then stapled and taped this to the side of the parcel. Finally his colleague entered the address details into her computer, attached a bar-code sticker (which she read with a modern ‘wand’) and printed a receipt. All of this was a lot of fun and I cracked up several times. My former colleagues, in particular, will know what this is like.
Moral: if you’re posting parcel from India, be ready to buy your own packing materials and wrap your own parcels. I’m amazed by the help the postal workers gave me but I think I could have done a better job on my own. Having said that, when parcels have been sewn into bags and then sealed, they look brilliant and have all arrived perfectly intact, within a not-too-distressing time of posting.
BTW, LJ’s spelling-checker suggested ‘Oedipal’ for ‘Ottapalam’.