I am an anachronism in today’s world.Long before the advent of computers and e-mail and WhatsApp messaging system, the only form of communication that linked hundreds of people across the length and breadth of the country and outside was via me. I was the single most important link between friends, relatives, lovers and families scattered in far flung areas. The story of my genesis and growth is reserved for another day. Today, I shall tell you how I made the journey from the glacial hills of Siachen to a mother in remote Bihar.
Subedar Chanchal Singh was posted at the Siachen border during the Indo-China war of 1966. The glacial hills of Siachen, the cold, biting winds and the sub-zero temperature made life extremely difficult for all the soldiers posted over there. Their sense of duty towards their nation kept them steadfast when all their physical faculties craved to surrender and submit, not so much to the onslaught of the enemy forces but against the wrath of nature. Trenches were built in the snow where they could spend the haunting nights amidst the sound of constant gun-fire and shelling. The least expensive thing out there in those remote hill was human life. Soldiers were perishing and losing lives but there was no other recourse than to continue unabated.
Amidst such adverse condition Subedar Chanchal Singh decided to write me to his widowed mother. He was not sure whether he shall ever be able to meet her but even if that was the last time in his life, all he wanted to let her know that he loved her with all his heart and if ever he was to take a re-birth, he would pray for her to be his mother. Simple words, written in even simple local dialect was scribbled on a postcard and submitted to his commander in charge. The post van came once every fortnight to collect the post and I was dispatched promptly in the next mail. The post- van covered miles and miles of treacherous terrain in this freezing cold to reach the nearest town of Leh in Ladakh where a plane was scheduled to carry us to the Kolkata via Delhi.
I sat in a plane amidst a pile of mail and was carried in transit via New Delhi airport to Kolkata airport where we were dumped in another van to carry us to Howrah station. The air part of the journey came to an end and the balance journey shall be done by train to Patna. The transporters and porters manhandled us and treated us with scarce respect for someone who had made through an arduous struggle. However, we army mails are made of sterner stuff and I gritted my teeth and hung on to the canvas bag, lest I be left lying behind on that filthy platform.
The train journey was comfortable and uneventful and early morning sunrise saw us at the Patna Junction from where a mail van readily took us to the nearest G.P.O. We were sorted and handed over to the designated Post Man to be taken to our final destination. I was nervous and jittery as we entered the last leg of our journey. We went inside the specified lane and knocked on the House Number. A frail, old lady who could hardly see properly opened the door and I was handed over to her. He eyes were glistening with tears as she rummaged for her spectacles and fondly moved her fingers over me, as if I was not merely a letter but all that she could ever have of her son.