By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India
As very young children, we watched him delivering yellow postcards from beneath our closed apartment door. At times we would duck at this side of the closed door, watching the letters being slowly pushed in by Minz Chaachaa. At times we would politely pick up the letters and at other times, we would pull a letter so as to let him know of our presence. Minz Chaachaa, in turn, would playfully pull back the letter and this fun would continue for a few moments.
At times, when he had something important to deliver, like a registered post or parcel, he would bang the door loudly. Worthwhile to mention here is that though we had a door-bell, Minz Chaachaa never could use it since at that part of India where my father was posted, there was no electricity for a brief duration during the day, say, for about 20 hours!
The other neighbours called him with a ‘generic’ name, ‘Aye..postman..!” That’s how Minz Chaachaa was addressed most of the time. My mother said that no one addresses my father as ‘Aye....Supervisor’ or for that instance my mother did not have to hear ‘Aye..housewife!’...so why call anyone by his/ her occupation! And that’s how we knew him as Minz Chaachaa; Albert Minz, being his name.
We saw him delivering the acknowledgement of the money-orders, which our father would regularly send to our grandparents and at times, during the Christmas season, he would bring a lot of Christmas joy and money orders from our uncles. He would meticulously count the notes and ask my mother to repeat it before accepting her signature. My mother would always shy away from checking the notes and the amount in his presence. She said that would mean she did not trust him!
I would often wander how on earth Minz Chaachaa could travel to all the faraway places where our grandparents and uncles lived to bring us those letters and money orders!
During those days, most of the letters arriving were in yellow postcards. Mother and father would go through them, turn by turn and the important ones would find a place on the wall, get pinned to a hook, along with other paper bills, grocery bills, wedding invitations, etc. etc.
Sometimes we would receive inland letters. The more sophisticated relatives would always send inland letters, my mother explained. It was Minz Chaachaa from whom we learnt the art of folding an inland letter.
During the school days, we received our annual report cards via post. And thus, once a year, for ten long years, I would have to bear the tearing anxiety when from my balcony, I could see Minz Chaachaa, carrying along with other letters, my yellow report card! He sure did not have a clue as to how my heart beat increased at that sight! He would wait till the result was opened and each time my father wished to gift him some money on the occasion, Minz Chaachaa denied, saying , “Uss paise se baby ke liye kitaab khariid leejiye, dada!”
He accepted gift only on one occasion, Christmas! Each year, the gift he would receive from the neighbourhood would go to the orphanage.
Times changed, days gave way to months and months to years...but I saw the same Minz Chaachaa, walking up and down the apartments, across the lanes and streets, tirelessly and never missing a smile.
By the time I was 20, the postcards and inland letters had given way to more numbers of yellow envelops with stamps on them. Those were from Nike.
I was studying in the neighbouring city during those years and as my holidays would begin, a permanent seat by the window of our apartment would be booked for me for the lazy afternoons. With voluminous books on my lap, I would have my eyes across the window, waiting for Minz Chaachaa.
His arrival would mean a gush of expectation for Nike’s letters. Never in my life was the ring of the bi-cycle bell so melodious and never before in life the loud thump on the door during the sleepy afternoons, was so very welcome. Days would pass like this, waiting for Nike’s letters; some days would bring in disappointment while there were days when my heart fell out to Nike’s letter, lying beneath the door where Minz Chaachaa would have pushed it through.
Years of courtship passed with Minz Chaachaa playing the messenger for our love, fights, tears, complains and forgiveness... only that Minz Chaachaa had no idea of what he had been delivering....!
Even after Nike left for his further studies and I returned to my home town for my career pursuit, Minz Chaachaa continued to be the harbinger of my blooms and glooms...
Suddenly Nike’s letters stopped arriving! Day after day Minz Chaachaa arrived and returned without slipping in from beneath my door, any letter from my Nike. With his arrival, my expectation would soar high and with his return, would start another day of wait, hoping that next day, Nike’s letter would arrive! And months passed by...
And one day, finally, Minz Chaachaa, as usual, pushed in a pink envelop, this time an Archie’s Greeting Card. This one was from Nike! Months of anguish broke into a dam of tears as I picked up the card.
Nike had proposed. And not only was that, inside that cover, there a letter from Nike’s father, proposing a visit to our town soon, for engagement. He did not want to wait, he said.
I wanted to run across the lanes, fly across to Minz Chaachaa and tell him that for me, he was the messenger from Paradise!
While I walked down the aisle on my special day, I looked at Minz Chaachaa sitting among the guests. He raised his hands in blessing.
Today, when I am at the other corner of the world, I have no clue of my Minz Chaachaa. I wander how he must have been during the past few years, I wander about his health and I often picture a frail Minz Chaachaa, hoping his sons are taking good care of him.
My messenger from Paradise, the harbinger of my happiness; May God bless Minz Chaachaa with great health and abundant happiness!