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The Power of a Post Card that Brought the Railways to its Knees - A True Life Story

Postal Card

The Post Card is a True Story from life, that happened in the 1974. This true life story is about the true power of a small Postal Card that hardly costs anything. My Dad weilded a Post Card like a high power war weapon and brought the Southern Division of the Railways to its knees in front of him, by writing a few words on a 6x4 inch Post Card.

My Dad was in the Army in the seventies and was posted to the northern border of the country and our ancestral home was on the southern end of the country about 4000 kilometers apart. His only mode of transport those days, was a bicycle. And he was so attached to his bicycle, that where ever the Army sent him, he carries his bicycle with him. Those days not many people could afford a motorbike.

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Even when my Dad came home on leave, the bicycle would be with him. He had to board three different trains to cross that distance and took more than five days travel to reach home. Thus, he had to spend a total of over 10 days of his life travelling in the train in his 30 days leave. Even today, the journey takes two and half days by train.

During one such 30 days leave, he sent his beloved bicycle in the train through the railway parcel service. Each time he changed from one train to the next train, he will go to the railway parcel office in each of those three railway stations, to ensure that the his bicycle parcel is unloaded from the goods wagon of the train he arrived on that station, and is loaded back to the goods wagon of the next train he is going to board.

My Dad had to do this three times on his way home and another three times when he goes back to his Army base. That morning my Dad came home on a 30 days leave and I noticed that his bicycle was missing.

The next day Dad said, “I am going to the railway parcel office and will be back in a couple of hours.”

I said, “Dad, what for?”

Dad looked at me and replied, “To get my parcel, I mean my bicycle which got misplaced by the railways enroute.”

Three hours later he came back home without the bicycle. I did not have to ask him because it was written all over his sad face that he did not get his bicycle. The next day also he announced where he was going and was back after 3 hours. He returned back empty handed from the railway parcel office for the next 5 consecutive days.

On the sixth day, Dad said to me, “Go and buy two Post Cards.”

It was the sixth day after he had arrived home on leave. My Dad does not speak much and when he speaks, it was like an Army order for me. I went and did as told. When I handed over the two postcards to him, he kept one and returned the other one back to me to keep it safely somewhere.

A few minutes later, he left for the railway parcel office. A few hours later, my Dad came back with an angry face. I knew something had really gone wrong.

I asked, “Dad, what happened?”

Dad replied, “The railway parcel office staff are not able to tell me where has my bicycle gone. Today is the sixth day. They say, I am troubling them by going there daily. So, I gave them a Post Card with my own address written on it. All that I asked them to do was to deop the postcard into the Post Box just outside their entrance. Once I get the intimation, only then I would visit the railway parcel office.”

Dad was trying hard to control his anger and continued a few seconds later, “The staff was in a rage. He tore up my Post Card right in front of my eyes and put into the dustbin. How can he do that to me. I am a soldier. I will teach these civilians some discipline soon. They don’t know the power of a Post Card.”

I said, “Power of a Post Card?”

My Dad went into his room without further explanation as I stood there wondering, “What Super Power can a 6x4 inch Post Card could possibly posses?”

I could not find an explanation to that and forgot about it. The next day which was a Sunday, my Dad came out of his room and said, “Get me the Post Card I gave you yesterday.”

I gave the Post Card to him. Dad took the Post Card from me and went into his room without saying anything. A few minutes he came out, gave the Post Card to me.

Dad said, “Go and drop this in the Post Box right now.”

As I walked towards the Post Box two hundred yards away from our home, I read what my Dad had written. The Post Card was addressed to the Regional Manager, Southern Railways. The Post Card had the story of the last six days exactly as it had happened including the misbehaviour of the railway parcel office staff with my Dad in so few words, that I admired and felt proud on my Dad’s hold over the English language.”

Those days in our home town, public transport was far and few. His bicycle would saved him a lot of time which he was now spending walking. It was the 10th day after my Dad had arrived home. Without his bicycle, Dad was mostly at home. And I could see his desperation as he missed his beloved bicycle.

It was a Wednesday and sometime after lunch. Someone knocked at the door. I went and opened the front door and there stood an man in railway uniform at the door. The gentleman asked for my Dad. I thought it was my Dad’s friend.

So I said, “Sir please come inside.”

The man in uniform said, “I am from the railways. Please call your father. I have a parcel for him.”

I called out aloud, “Dad someone is here to meet you.”

As my Dad came out, the man said, “Sir, I am the Railway Station Master. I have brought your bicycle.”

The man pointed at the railway transport vehicle standing outside our home. Immediately, another guy unloaded the bicycle from the vehicle and placed it at our door step.

The Railway Station Master said, “Sir, the Regional Manager of Souther Railways has specially sent me to appologise to you and the Army, for the inconvenience caused to you on behalf of the entire railways. Those who misbehaved with you, have also been booked and appropriate action will be taken against them. Thank you for writing to us and bringing to our notice.”

My Dad said, “Sir, you need not have come down all the way to my home 26 kilometers away from the nearest railway station. You should have just informed me and I would have come there to picked up the parcel.”

The Railway Station Master smiled, Saluted my Dad and left in the railway vehicle. I stood there puzzled at what happened.

I thought, “How could the same railway station staff go out of their way and procedures to deliver a parcel at home which is never done. The customer is supposed to go and collect the parcel from the Railway station as per norms.”

I saw the happiness on my face and did not ask anything further that day, so as not to remind him of that bad episode at the railway station.

The next day I asked my Dad, “Dad, why did the Railways bring your bicycle all the way to our home which they never do?”

Dad said, “Son, do you remember the Post Card I gave you to be dropped in the Post Box a few days ago.”

I said, “Dad, I felt that was very cheap thing to do. We have a typewriter at home. Why didn’t use it to type out a neat letter, put it inside an envelope and send?”

Dad replied, “What you have witnessed today, is the power of a Post Card.”

Dad continued after a pause, “Had I sent the typed complaint hidden inside an envelope, it is unlikely that our bicycle would even have been found.”

I kept looking at my father not really understanding what he meant.

Dad said, “My complaint was read by everyone who handled that Post Card till the time it reached the Zonal Manager of Southern Railways. That includes you who went to drop it in the Post Box, the post man who took it out of the Post Box, the postal staff at our Post Office and the Post Office at the destination, the postman who delivered the Post Card to the office of the Southern Railway Zonal Manager, and every staff in his office, who held it in their hand till the Post Card finally reached the Zonal Manager of Southern Railways.”

Dad paused to take a breath and looked at me. I said, “Dad, that is why I told you that we should have sent the complaint neatly typed inside an envelope.”

Dad knew that I had not yet understodd what he was saying and said, “A complaint inside a sealed envelope would be read by only me and the Zonal Manager. But, my complaint written on that Post Card was read by everyone from the time I wrote it, till the time the Zonal Manager read it. And everyone who read has come to know of the inefficiency of the railway parcel service, and the arrogance a few parcel service office staff in handling customers. As a responsible Zonal Manager of the Southern Railways he had to correct things going wrong. That is whyt he tasked none other than the Station Master of that Railway station by name, to deliver our bicycle, to set example for others to follow.”

Dad said as he turned away and walked back to his room, “I hope you have understood the Power of a Post Card. Sometimes, you don’t need a sword, a small needle may be enough.”

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