A friend asked me to post some sheets to him in France. He is a dear friend so I was keen to help and he seemed to think that it was do- able and relatively inexpensive. So I sent my driver off with the bundle to ask how much it would cost and how long it would take.
He came back with the following suggestion from Indian Post- I should put each sheeet into an envelope which would cost about R 2000 per envelope to send. I had 12 sheets to send so even I could work that one out. The postage as suggested by Indian post cost more than the sheets, and sounded completely bonkers; it was clear I needed to go and do this myself.
So off I went - but prepared. Cardboard box, bubble wrap and newspaper. Duck tape and brown paper at the ready, a permanent marker, scissors and a fistful of rupees.
Got there but the box was open. We thought they might be curious about what I am sending but they said no do it up, so we sat on the Post office floor and did it up beautifully, all tightly wrapped, neatly packaged and clearly addressed. Stood in the shortest line which was indicated "Multipurpose" - nothing seemed to move for ages. In fact no one moved except the sides of the queue which seemed to get fatter as people pushed in. People pushed you in the back, stepped on your toes and even started arguments. Not me, you understand .Got to the front and the man took one look at my beautiful packaged box and rejected it without any further consideration for my feelings.
"No good" he said. "Can be damaged. Has to be material wrap nah" - he said and gaily carried on producing stickers for something while the queue got longer and longer.
But I remonstrated the whole of the world thinks cardboard is OK and it is going to Europe, are you sure you can't accept this ??
"Package no good, go find tailor" he said helpfully
So off we went to a nearby market and found a tailor who has already probably bought his pentouse in Manhattan on the strength of these cloth covers. He gets over 100 a day which may also account for the fact that Indian post is fairly lax about how it deals with its packages once received which are strewn all over the post office floor. Packages and letters under chairs, others hiding under books and ledgers and some kicked under filing cabinets. But I was confident, my box was too big to be lost and I was demanding paperwork.
So off we went back to the Post office with my beautiful material wrapped box. I stood in the shortest Multipurpose line where the offical had finally come back from lunch and we waited. I must have been in the line about 30 minutes and he had not served one customer, so I moved to the next line, where the official seemed to be a little faster. I waited patiently in that one too but somehow he ground to a halt because people just come in from behind and demanded things to be done.The phone kept ringing incessantly and no one ever answered it. I would like to believe it was because they were busy serving us but there wasnt that much evidence of that. The office of the Postmaster was just next to me so I left my place and popped my head round the door. There was no one there, flowers on his desk but the rest looked as if it hadnt been touched or lived in for several days. The aluminium door handle was black from the grime and dirt. So clearly that line wasnt going to work and if everyone else was patient I guess I would be too. Finally, finally I get to the front and say in clear English. "Speed post please and regsistered" - "How much ?" he gets up weighs it comes back and says 5000 Rupees only cash OK and 15-20 days.
I immediately respond positively - yes yes of course cash No problem.I said Speed Post not snail post. 20 days too long.
He mutters something to my driver who disappears. I think good, something is happening. I sit there like a lemon and wait and wait and wait and finally my driver comes back and says he was told to go and find another official but there was no one there.What to do. Ask him I say, ask him what to do !
We ask him what to do and he says it is NOT MY JOB !
It took all my energy and nerve to remain quiet, civilized and smiling. I asked my driver to retrieve the box from the broken scales and smilingly I looked at the waiting silent people and said with my eyes REVOLT for godsake REVOLT.
But I dont think they got the gist nah ?