The mailman of defence college

The mailman of defence college

Photo for representation only. Illustration: Sandeep Joshi

Col RD Singh (retd)

Maj Rummel Dahiya, Squadron Leader Shankar, Lt Commander Dhawan, Maj Vinod Bhatia... letter for you,’ thus called out loud the postman, Ranga, from a distance in the Chanakya Coffee Room of the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, in 1987.

Short and stout, always smiling with sparkling eyes, Ranga had seen it all for the past 25 years — course after course, as a postman of the Staff College. We were attending DSSC-43 staff course in 1987-88, and were another set of 450 students for this loveable postman. Students would change every year, the directing staff (DS) would change after every two years, but Ranga was a permanent landmark of this prestigious, tri-service institution.

The beauty of 50-year-old Ranga was that he had a razor-sharp memory, with a gift of remembering names and faces. Within a month of arrival of the staff course, he would memorise the names of all students, including the foreign ones, and officers from the central services. Every day, when we got together for tea or coffee at 10.30 am, he would smile and call us by our name, to indicate that we have got a post. Each one of us would eagerly await the sight of Ranga, who would arrive with a confident slow gait, a bag hanging over his heavy shoulders.

We used to wonder at his youthfulness and zest for life. He would have easily dropped our letters in our lockers, without having to meet us. But he made it a point to personally meet us, and hand it over to us. Sometimes, it could be a parcel, and another time a money order.

During festivals, he visited some of us at our houses. And that was for ‘black dollar’ — a bottle of rum on payment. We willingly obliged him, as it was a very small return for his remarkable services.

I again met him after 10 years in 1998, when I was posted as a DS at the same institution. He floored me again, ‘30/4 Gurkha Hill, DSSC-43, welcome again, sir.’ I hugged him. What a pleasure it was to meet the stalwart who bonded the entire course by giving them the joy of receiving letters when there were no emails and SMSes. He was now nearing 60, and retirement. But his spirits were still soaring, memory sharp, and visits as regular. The ones whom he had distributed mail had risen to become service chiefs, Generals, and top bureaucrats.

He retired after a glorious service of over 35 years around 2000. He died a few years later. In his life, there is a beautiful message: No job is big or small. It is what you do with the job that matters.

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