Taak-tak, taak-tak... the afternoon sound in the quiet college lobby comes from the post office. If I step in, I will find the lanky Allaudin bent over stacks of letters, thumping the stamp in his hand first on the ink pad and then on the letters one by one. He will then proceed to toss them into the sorting frame.
I can smell the place now – of new paper and post office glue. Later in the afternoon, Allaudin can be seen making the rounds of the campus on his old Atlas bicycle dropping off our letters from his worn canvas bag. He doesn’t drop all in the letter boxes but stops when he sees someone whose letters he knows are in his bag - I see him tilt his bike and rest his right leg on the road to stop.
The climb to our house is steep, he must get down and walk his cycle. I spot him and run, ‘Allaudin Uncle, hamara letter hai?’ ‘Papa ka hai’, he hands me a clutch of Inland letters, postcards, envelopes and newsletters – they come every day. I look for stamps. I wait for the SPAN magazine to look at the glossy pictures first and then read some. Sometimes there are letters addressed to me, ‘Miss’ they say. Once as I waited to buy stamps, the men at the counters were talking of Allaudin, of his Ramzaan rozas. It was the first time I had heard of someone going without water the entire day. I craned my neck and stood on toes to look at Allaudin sitting inside. Taak-tak, taak-tak...his hands were stamping the letters.
Today, October 9 is World Post Day.
*The title, ‘Friends in small places’ is from a Ruskin Bond collection ‘inspired by people who have left a lasting impression on him’.