Whenever I go to Shimla and look at the magnificent and historical building of the head Post office on the Mall, I feel like rushing to it Now you would say, “What is the big deal about it, who stops you from that? Is it not a public place—a post office?”
It is not merely to buy stamps or post a letter that I want to go inside but to re-live some of my childhood days! The feeling of belonging to this building would be so strong in me that I felt it like my second home. And why should I not as had it not been a second home to me during my childhood? During the recent Shimla visit it was high on my agenda but like so many of my plans, this one could no be fulfilled for the simple reason that it was Sunday and the Post office was closed.
Though I could capture its timeless beauty in my camera. Back home watching this building by enlarging different portions became my favourite pastime and when I could not contain my curiosity any further, I picked up the phone and called up the Senior Superintendent of Post office, Mr. Kushal Vashishth, who happened to be the son of our very dear friend. I wanted to know so many things from him. “Was the recreation room that had some three wooden almirahs, full of books, still there and also the carom board?” I could se myself peeping inside the almirahs and getting books issued to be read. I still remember some of the titles. Strange it may seem today but it shows the kind of impact it had made on a young mind! Perhaps my reading habits had originated or say got the right fillip in this very room! “Yes, the almirahs were there and had some books as well” he said, “But the room has been shifted to some other place these days.” “And the canteen that served hot tea to the employees?” I continued. “Still there” the answer reassured me that there were still links that would make me experience some of my childhood days.
I remember rushing to the post office as and when I wanted as there was no restriction for us to either enter or to go to the recreation room though we preferred to go in the evening. We children were, many a times, trained in some cultural activities where we represented the postal department. There lies an old snap somewhere that has us singing a patriotic group song “Ham hain is sansar ke nanhe sipahi…” It was such a good experience to play and learn and read in the evenings in the corridors of the post office.
In good old times, the post office employees club used to arrange for movie shows, in the building itself, organized by the Public Relation Department If I remember correctly, these shows were discontinued when someone broke off one of the main door glass panes that we were told had come from Great Britain and there was a big problem replacing it as the similar one was not available! How people compared quality of the British glass with that of the indigenously produced glass! And I wondered, “Why are they saying so much about the quality maintenance by the Angrezi Raj!”
The green and the red coloured building has upheld the same looks as it had many years back. It has not grown old with the passage of time, at least from the exterior!
There are so many of the little tit-bits about the life and love that the building filled me with. It must have been a great influence on me as today after almost 40 years I am able to see myself running inside the corridors of the post office as a 10 years old girl!
I don’t know what childhood impressions my children carry about the NIT family but I do wish that they may be as sweet as are mine!