&HISTORY OF INDIAN POSTAL SERVICES
Pigeons to Post by Steve Borgia is one of the rarest publications I have come across and it stands out for more than one reason. The writer needs to be complimented for choosing a subject hitherto not researched and presenting it in the most picturesque manner through his narration of the postal journey from ancient times to the present accompanied by real life photographs of people who figured in this historic journey.
It was emperor Akbar who formally introduced pigeon post where pigeons were trained and housed in the royal palace and were used to carry urgent missives over short distances,exclusively for royal purpose. Over hundred and fifty years ago there was the male runner or harkara who would carry letters in a leather wallet on his back. The runners were armed to safeguard themselves and would change at every eight- mile point. Around 1870, the foot runner migrated to the use of the bicycle and comically, the word bicycle runner evolved. Thereafter postal services as an institution came to the Asian Continent and the Indian postal system, with 1,55,618 post offices and over 5,66,618 employees is considered the largest postal network in the world. Also India’s so called first stamp was released in 1852, embossed onto paper or a wax wafer, circularly shaped with ‘ SCINDE DISTRICT DAWK’ around the rim and the British EAST India Company’s Merchant Mark as the central emblem. In February 1911, a French pilot named Henri Pequet, flew with 6,500 pieces of mail in a Biplane from Allahabad to Naini(a distance of six miles). This was also a landmark for the world.
The 52 contents covered in 155 pages are not confined merely to historical developments and chronological events but have a section on Anecdotes which are very interesting and amusing. The ‘Horse’s Sick Note, dt.27 October 1898 ,a letter to God posted by an 83 year old lady and that of a farmer who ‘posted’ a cow called Flossie by Special Express delivery, are to mention a few.
Another interesting feature of the times was Postal heads were carefully chosen, and most often when in trouble, the Viceroy or the Governor General looked up to the postal heads and his team for support. Most were people-centric gentlemen, they carried their people along. They applauded and in return were adored. The author has reproduced a letter of commendation W.L.Harvey, Secretary to the Government of India has given to Sir Arthur Upton Fanshawe, Director General, (1889—1906). Below is an excerpt from the letter:
……… An administrator of exceptional ability, at once firm and judicious, Sir Arthur Fanshawe deserves the chief share of the credit for the development of the Post Office System during the period of his incumbency and for its present efficient and flourishing condition. The Governor –General in Council found him on all occasions a most sound and sagacious adviser, whose views were expressed with admirable lucidity and on whose judgement it was safe to rely.
This Coffee Table book written by Steve Borgia who wears several caps appears to be the outcome of his passion for indology and compassion for the post people whose role cannot be under stated notwithstanding the strides made in technology. Though the subject may have a special appeal to lovers of Philately, it might arouse and sustain the interest of general readers as well once they begin going through this well brought out volume with people centric approach of the author to the subject.
n.meera raghavendra rao