I was stunned to hear that. I might have collapsed if I had a weak heart. On recovering and after getting a sneak-peek of her system’s screen, I politely submitted, “Ma’am Germany starts with a ‘G’.”
Without feeling embarrassment of any kind, she told me with a straight face that it would cost me around 4200 and post office won’t be responsible for any damage to the contents. She also told me to get the stuff ‘packed in a cloth and stitched nicely’. And that was the toughest part.
But after enough procrastination, finally the day came when I bought a needle and a thread, pulled out an old bed-sheet wrapped it around the bag containing the Tablas, and packed it with immaculate precision!
You know one of the reasons I procrastinate is that in the back of my mind I know I am a perfectionist! No matter how naïve I am at the job, I want it to be perfect. It’s tiring and consuming and the easiest way to save time and energy is simply avoid the job!
Carrying that 14 Kg shipment on the shoulders wasn't an easy task either. Because after wrapping it up, wheels and straps were history. But a Rickshaw-walla is always there to alleviate your pain. For 40 bucks he dropped me to the post office.
It was 10:30 AM and my calculations were hinting towards a smooth exit, latest by 11. By the end of it, I had conclusive evidence that I suck at Mathematics!
The moment the postmaster saw the bag, he declined to send it within the country let alone Germany. He said, “I won’t send this parcel to Germany at any cost.” Apart from the various technical reasons he enumerated, one aesthetical reason stood out.
He said, “Look man, this parcel is going to Germany, with such a shoddy packaging you are going to ruin the IMAGE OF MY COUNTRY”. I was so dumbfounded by his statement that I couldn't come up with any counter-argument for a while.
I was like, “wow, finally a man who is concerned about the image of the country notwithstanding the Gandhis, Pawars and Kalmadis.” I even forgave him for calling my meticulous sewing work shoddy.
I told him, “Dude, I am more concerned with sending this Parcel to Germany than the ‘Image' of India and since when India Post became so concerned about it? What Image does your organization have in the first place?”
“If we had no reputation, you wouldn't have come here nor my office would have been crowded by so many people,” he replied.
Must say the guy was smart. I was about to say, “Dude, you are the cheapest, that’s it. Plus, no other company agreed to courier Tablas,” but I settled for “with 1.2 billion population, any sarkari office with even nil reputation can claim to be crowded.”
“Whatever, I won’t send it.” Get it wrapped in a white cloth (preferably washed with Tide!), sew it nicely with very little gap between the stitches and then we will talk.”
Now apparently, as I mentioned at the beginning, I did ask them the procedure to send the parcel and all they told me was “get the bag packed nicely in a cloth”! They never mentioned that the cloth needs to be white or what quality of seam is considered nice.
“Why I was not told these specifications when I came here to inquire?”
“You must not have asked me. Now that you know, please get it done as we specify.”
“Look sir, whatever happened has happened. We gotta get over it. I have never held a needle in my entire life but have invested 2 hours in stitching this cloth around this bag. Don’t tell me to rip it apart. Instead of telling me to start from scratch, you need to tell me a way out.” I thought that some sentimental stuff might work on him.
Hearing my lament, a staff member came and told considerately, “You gotta do something like this” while showing a parcel with sealed seams. I said, “Perfect, I’ll do that” and asked, “Does that make it fine?” while looking for the postmaster’s nod. He declined.
“ OK fine, lemme put a white piece of cloth on one side so that address is clearly visible. Makes sense?”
Like in the dream sequence of Kung-fu Panda, I felt like saying “enough talk, let’s fight”. But neither it was a dream nor I knew Kung-fu! Instead I said -
“Enough. Show me the rules or guidelines which categorically mention that no other cloth can be used except white and specify the maximum permissible distance between the stitches. If you can, I’ll tear this packing right here.”
“No, I can’t show it to you. And I won’t book your parcel either. You can go now.”
“Sorry. I ain’t going any where. And you have to book my parcel as it is.”
I was loud when I said that. In a government office you can’t really afford that. Almost all the employees pounced on me at that and with my deft fingers ……. I dialed 100!
15 minutes passed and no police arrived. Mortification was now just a matter of time now when I will have to depart ingloriously with the burden of that bag and humiliation on my shoulders.
I tried to mellow down the things by asking, “Does one have to fill a declaration form?”
“Yes”, he said, “but lemme first talk with the one whom you have called.” This nationalist was certainly a tough nut to crack.
Finally the cop arrived. I was so relieved. Even if I couldn't send the parcel, I would be able to save my face!
The cop asked the status quo. I explained.
Honestly, he was a bit surprised at my audacity. He said, “Bro, you gotta do whatever he says. Nothing doing.”
I was laughing in my mind at the mess that I had created. But with a solemn face I told the cop, “sir, they don’t have any rules to substantiate their argument and if they were so particular about it, they should have told me when I came to ask for it.”
Now interestingly instead of arguing on facts, the postmaster chose to argue on emotions and pride. Turning towards the police constable he said, “Sir, I don’t care what the politicians are doing but I make sure that my work doesn't sully the name of my country. What will the Germans think about India when they receive this bag? I told this guy that this will spoil the image of the country and do you know what he replied? He said that he doesn't care about the image of the country.”
The postmaster turned towards me with wrinkles on his forehead and repeated, “ Didn't you say that?”
The cop was amused too! With a smirk on his face, he turned towards me and said, “He has got a point. It should have been packed as he says. But then you are right too that you were never told despite asking.”
Then came the patented dialogue of any policeman – aapas main kar lo yaar – which means, solve the problem mutually.
I placed my version of the middle path – seal the stitches and put a white patch of cloth to write address on.
The cop was in any case wanted to run out of the place at the drop of a hat and he latched on to my middle path. He asked the post-master, “is that OK?”
Very reluctantly, shaking his head in negation, he said “OK”! BINGO !!!
The cop asked me to write an application mentioning the truce which was signed by me and the postmaster. However, he declined to give me a copy of that application. Don’t know why.
I quickly went down, bought a stick of Lac which I would melt and apply on the stitches to seal them and got the white cloth patch-work on the bag with the help of a tailor. In fact he helped me to seal the stitches as well. All in all, 50 rupees. Bought a marker, wrote the address, filled the declaration form and finally, at 1:30 PM, just before they break for lunch, got the receipt!
Before leaving, I shook hands with the Post-master and thanked him for all his 'help'. To tell you the truth, despite the fact he torched me for three hours, I don’t feel any resentment against him because he seemed an honest man who really cared about the Image of the Country!