There he stood, Vishal, my American born housemate, with two letters-- checks in fact-- addressed to 8311, when our house address was 8309,adding salt to his wound caused by the fact that the postman has been coming only alternate days to our house, about which he had complained just 2 days before .... "I will go and give the letter to the correct house, but what if some of our important letters get delivered elsewhere and the people did not return it to us?"
Come to think of it, I have quite bad experiences with US Postal service (don't label me anti-anything, am just stating facts). Numerous times, our neighbour's letters got delivered in our house. Sometimes, even letters belonging to an altogether different street, and that included COURT ORDERS .. !! Believe it or not . Atleast thrice, letters which I posted came back to me, inspite of clearly writing FROM and TO. Some times, I never got letters which were supposed to have been delivered to me !! And at the post office, I have seen the employees behave quite rude towards select people... especially the poor Chinese with their bad English gets the worst of it all. And yeah, as many other service sector offices are in US, post offices are often heavily understaffed !
Compare with India. At IIT,for 4 years I used to send a letter home every week, and my parents used to do the same too. Not a single one of them went missing. And those old times when for 15 paise, you could send a post card from Kanyakumari to Kashmir... to Siachen may be. A letter with address written in Malayalam, posted in New Delhi will still reach its destination . Once some Tamil contract labourers put a letter addressed in Tamil in our house mailbox thinking its a postal mail collection box, my Father took it all the way to the post office and posted it... If the Mother is illiterate that she can't read the letter sent by her son from abroad, the postman/woman would sit and read it for the old lady.. Of course the goodwill is reciprocated by a nice cup of tea, sometimes.. He or she would patiently help some one fill a Money order form.. and I still remember, as a kid, I used to love going to the post office the employees used to be so friendly and helpful.. They would enquire about my studies, tell me if a new stamp had come so that I could add to my collection..... Am I feeling something in my throat ?
Things which we seldom appreciate about India.. Railways.. well I know many Indians will have a long list of complaints (many of which arise out of civic irresponsibility like not keeping them clean etc), but how I used to enjoy each and every journey. I always travelled in General compartment or the second class sleeper, never in first class or a/c.. I met some of my best friends for life, in such journeys ! .. My family made family friends many a time... You would share food, sometimes end up playing cards... and guess how many people the Indian Railways carry on an average, daily - 13 million, which is more than half the population of an entire continent- Australia !! Agreed the Metrotrain in most cities in US is quite good too, but the one exerience I had with Amtrak wasn't encouraging at all. Having purchased the one and only type of "reservation" ticket at a ridiculously high price of 80$ for a 3 hour journey, for the first 45 min, I could not even find a seat even after walking up and down all the way thro' the train ! And trains here are made with very little space to stand around , foget about getting to sit anywhere on the floor !!
Let me leave this entry with another of the big numbers - the Maha Kumbh Mela (2001) "drew an estimated 70 million people over 44 days, making it the largest single gathering of humanity in recorded history. "... Thats twice the population of Canada, or close to a fourth of that of USA - gathering in one city of India.. and I did not hear of any epidemic, I did not hear of any violence or anything like that (the mela had significant women participation too).. How much....... do we understand India ?! How often do we think about her... ??