Destinations Magazine

Postal Stationery – Slowly Becoming a Thing of the Past

By Rashmi Gopal Rao

Inland letters, book posts, aerograms, telegrams……..mention these words and they are sure to evoke a mixed set of reactions.  For most who grew up in the 70s, 80s and early 90s and even the older generation, these are sure to make you all nostalgic, conjuring memories and moments sealed in envelopes and of days when one waited in anticipation and sometimes in apprehension for the postman’s customary visit.  Walking to the nearest post box to drop in a letter to a loved one far away was a way of life and a norm for most people at that time.

Postal Stationery – slowly becoming a thing of the pastPost boxes of the Indian Postal Department

For the millennials of course these words hold little relevance in the age where communication is dominated by email, what’s app and the ubiquitous mobile phone.  I was in fact surprised to see a “Rs. 2 inland letter” listed under the Toys and Games section of Amazon for Rs. 199/-.   This section has a few other items of stationery of the Indian Postal department being sold as collectibles!

On World Post Day today, here is a look at some stationery that is steadily getting defunct in the age of technology.   The pictures I have too are of stationery that are decades old carefully preserved by my father in his ‘coveted’ postal file. He was one of those who would visit the post office regularly and buy a limited stock of stamps, inland letters and post cards which would be carefully stowed away in his red file and used judiciously as and when required.

Post cards: meant for open communication that was limited, post cards are rectangular cards that were available in a pale yellow or sometimes light blue.  A size of just 14 cm by 9 cm meant you had to keep your communication short, crisp and to the point!  Though the use of the post card has declined considerably, it continues to be printed by the Postal Department.

Postal Stationery – slowly becoming a thing of the pastPost cards of the past

Postal Stationery – slowly becoming a thing of the past

Inland letters:  a favorite with letter writers, the inland letter allowed you to write much more as it was larger and could be sealed thereafter.  With three flaps, the letter would be carefully folded and secured with gum before it made its way into a red post box!  Dropping letters written by my parents into the post box near my house was incidentally a favorite pastime for me as a child.  Per a newspaper report dated Dec 2019, the festive season sees a spike in the number of inland letters being circulated but the availability of inland letters in most post offices across the country is dwindling rapidly.

Postal Stationery – slowly becoming a thing of the pastInland letter

Aerogram: this one was relatively rare and fairly expensive for it meant for communication with friends and relatives abroad.  My father always had one or two in stock for it meant writing to his brother who lived in the US since the 1960s.

Postal Stationery – slowly becoming a thing of the pastAerogramme of the yesteryear

Greetings: while sending festive wishes today means a video call even if the participants are scattered world over, the postal department had special envelopes marked “Greetings” which could be used for special occasions such as festivals, birthdays, weddings etc.  In fact one could even send money as a gift with some of the greeting envelopes.  A far cry from today’s times where gifts are ordered online and amounts are transferred online in a jiffy!

Postal Stationery – slowly becoming a thing of the past

Just like its stationery, several postal services like book post, telegrams and trunkcalls have almost vanished in today’s times when technology rules the roost.  The postal musuem in Bangalore is a great place to visit in case you are someone who is a fan of all things vintage like postal equipment, postal uniforms, seals etc.

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