Gandhi 150 – A Postal tribute!

Srinivasan Balakrishnan

Gandhi 150! I am 63! Gandhi was lucky that I did not bump into him; he was born 87 years before I appeared in this world and passed away just eight years before my appearance. So, absolutely no chance of meeting him! But I was witness to his Centenary Celebrations in 1969, and I am here to celebrate his 150thjayanthi also. I am neither a Gandhian nor a Gandhian researcher. Hence my humble tribute to the Great Soul ‘Mahatma’ is through my simple postal collections on Gandhiji; again, I am not an avid professional philatelic collector, just an amateur.

I was 13 years old and into my 8th standard in 1969 when Gandhi Centenary was observed. On hearing the band sound in the adjacent Munisalai road in Madurai on Oct. 2 1969, I thundered down the stairs to witness the celebration procession. This much I remember, nothing more. Probably the effect of Alzheimer! In a way good; the brain automatically deletes the trash memories, I suppose. The Postal Department [it was not India Post then, but Post & Telegraph Department – P&T. With the onset of internet/e-mail, Telegraph division was given a quite burial and the singular postal division came to be known as India Post] had issued commemorative postal stationery on the Centenary occasion; I could seize  a10 Paise post card depicting Gandhi spinning the chakra, and a 15 Paise inland letter card depicting a pensive Gandhi in his ashram.

Well, more than the picture, aren’t we interested in reading others letters? This inquisitiveness is basic human nature, so no shame in accepting it. Haven’t we read Nehru’s letters to Indira, called ‘Glimpses of World History’? At least, I have not. Besides the usual welfare enquiries, the post card written by a daughter to her father (by my mother to my grandfather) informs him of the despatch of a Godrej steel almirah, bought in advance as Sridhan for my elder sister’s marriage, for safe custody in his vast, ancestral house.  Posted in Tirunelveli, it reached her remote native village Pamanithe next day itself, a distance of more than 300 kms. The inland letter card is by my maternal uncle to my mother, in the reverse direction, wherein he laments that because of lifting of paddy control his paddy harvest was lying unsold due to low price and getting damaged. It has taken two days to reach my mother. In the meanwhile, the next crop was also getting ready for harvest! He stresses upon sending me for coaching as I was to write the SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) 11th exam in another two years. 11th standard was the final stage of school life then, as the +2 pattern had not been introduced. After 11th, it was Pre University Class straight in the college, to be followed by a degree course. I really hated extra tuition, so wriggled out of it.

A 20 Paise postal stamp had also been issued in 1969 depicting Bapu& Ba. The picture postcard by Publications Division honours the Man of the Millennium.  The stamp on ’50 Years of Republic of India’ artistically merges the outline map of India and that of Mahatma! Happy New Year 1999 is stamped across Gandhi’s portrait. Various other postal stationery of recent time having Gandhi’s portrait also tell the story of the path crossed by India Post at various stages.

I am sure India Post would issue commemorative stamps and postal stationery on Gandhi 150 also. Collect them for the sake of telling the story to your grandchildren who may find it difficult to believe that such a Mahatma existed in our world!                …. [email protected] / 9840917608 Whatsapp