Which way, 'post office'?

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‘Where’ or ‘which way’ is the most common question that we are called upon to answer frequently. The person trying to help will either use hand gestures or those who have a good bearing sense would prefer using recognized direction like north, east or south west etc. In both instances the inquirer will be quite confused to begin with, but may still nod his/her head. But if the person seeking guidance was looking for farther off unfamiliar location, there is a fairly good chance that s/he may have to find another person midway.

It would be much easier if you were looking for someone of good or bad repute. It would be still better if the person lived by an overflowing container to be guided with ease. During the days of the yore houses of badahakims, ditthas and subbas stood like guiding beacons. With the first two having been extinct the last is more recognizable especially if s/he happened to be employed in plum postings like in customs, tax or malpot offices.

Lack of precise boundary of each named locality made it difficult to know say where Naradevi begins and Bhurung-khel ends. Same goes with likes of Pulchowk–Jawlakhel or Jhamsikhel-Sanepa. There are very strange names some areas of Kathmandu go with, the most obnoxious one being Khee-dhal west of Bhote Bahal. It did not require anything more than Maitighar written on the parapet of an unassuming building for the people get stuck with the spot’s name.   

The introduction of belated “metric address” system has greatly improved things in Kathmandu. Basically, it is nothing more than the distance of the house measured from the starting point, preferably a main road or junction. For the first time in our history every small lane is named with each house numbered. Other towns in the valley are still “medieval” in that respect.

The postal system in Nepal was never robust, probably because the postal volume was never big. Low literacy level constricted volume of correspondence even as the opposite should have happened due to geography. It was, and it is still, not out of ordinary when literacy handicapped need someone to help read/write letters for them. But with the growth of internet, people are getting accustomed to sending and receiving information with a click of a button. The ease of instant audio and video facilities has brought in more happiness compared to that offered by the postal system moving on at the snail’s speed, unconcerned.

We saw how the spread of FM stations squeezed what little was left of the shortwave listener’s base. The legendary postal system is headed in the same direction - downhill. The markets of high paying and swift service packets had long since been hijacked by courier services while emails and likes have eroded its foundation. The environment is not going to change, it is the postal system that has to change with time. It has to stop the downhill slip first. Only with massive overhaul of the system it would, at best, hope to get a foothold. It is not all doom and gloom provided there is enough will power for improvement.

It could start the improvement by getting into the realm of email such that it is able to physically deliver received emails addressed to folks in remote locations – at their doorstep. For that to happen post office needs to have an email address so that people afar can send mails to the particular post office. Likewise, the needy will be able to send mails, to their dear ones afar, facilitated by the post office personnel. It could also get into the area of direct video/audio contact, likes of Skype etc. so that needy can also enjoy that facility. It should be able to collect a small service charge from the users. This would automatically improve its catchment and popularity. 

The other, even lucrative area for it to ideally cash-in would be the field of remittance delivery given its huge spread and volume. Thereafter it could also get into distribution of pensions as received by retired ex-army men. It is intolerable that Nepali pensioners have to go through the existing delivery system that has been continuing unaltered as the diktat of alien countries. It is too insulting for pensioners, who are seen as mercenaries, irrespective of country that employed them, to go through the hardship and hazard of few days trek to get the pension “handout”. Things have to change and it is for the government to make this happen through improved Nepali postal system.

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