Wednesday, 27 January 2010

An introduction to the Indian postal service

I finally arrived at Prem’s a little bedraggled after my bus journey from Munnar. I’d decided that that afternoon I’d pick up a few souvenirs and lighten the load of my rucksack slightly, by sending a box of stuff home. I spent the next few hours doing deals with various stores selling a massive array of silk items and carpets. I was in a touristy area so it was obviously overpriced but as I had a window of opportunity to send stuff home, I thought I might as well take it and pay over the odds. After a lot of haggling I managed to come away with various silk table placemats, some cushion covers and a random patchwork piece that I’ve yet to decide what to do with.

The following morning I picked up some spices, packed my box and joined the hustle and bustle of the Indian post office system. Fortunately, Prem had forewarned me that I needed to get my parcel covered in material by a tailor beforehand, which I’d duly arranged. The tailor sewed material around the box and then placed a wax seal all down the seams to ensure no one tampered with it.

I arrived at the Post Office and stood in the parcel / speed posting queue. The man behind of the counter had decided long ago that life wasn’t worth rushing so he took his time with every item. The other ladies behind the counter sat twiddling their thumbs and directed everyone who came in towards the parcel queue. In front of me was a tourist who was also sending a box. As I stood behind him in typical Brit style, a couple of local guys came in and just walked to the front of the queue hanging over the tourist’s shoulders to try and get served. The tourist turned to one guy who was being particularly persistent and broadcast loudly that I was next in line.

As the tourist was about to finish being served, I positioned myself in such a way that as soon as he moved I had my box on the counter blocking the persistent queue jumper. I was about to be served when Mr Persistent started trying to wave paperwork in front of the counter guy. A very loud ‘Excuse me. Do you mind? It’s my turned to be served’ soon put him in his place and he shrunk away and stood and waited in line with everyone else.

Whilst I appreciate that queuing is not part of Indian culture, it can be infuriatingly annoying – especially as a female travelling alone as people feel they can get away with brushing you to one side. Rule number 1 in India: always stand your ground!

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