Saturday, March 11, 2006

An unusual experience

I am writing this post because if I don’t, it will be unfair. So many people write about the inefficiency and rudeness of government employees. I have done it so many times myself… discussed with friends that the government employees are all lazy. They are not concerned about the business, so they do not need to be polite towards the customers. Today, however, I found that there are at least some government employees who are trying to prove us wrong. People who are doing their work properly.

Most importantly, they are doing it with a smile.

I’m referring to the staff at the Cyberabad post office.

I was supposed to get a letter from my father by speed post a few days ago. When that did not arrive, I took the docket number from my father on phone and went to inquire at the post office today. I have office five days a week, so Saturday morning is the only time when I can go to the post office. Or so I thought before going there.

On reaching the post office, I was told to go and meet the post master. He offered me a seat and punched the docket number into his PC. The output said that the letter had been delivered ten days ago. Going by the prevailing market standards, I expected him to do this much and no more. But he called someone and told him to find out the copies of the records for that day. These records indicated that the letter had indeed been delivered. However, I could not be sure because working in the typical Indian style, the postman had not obtained a signature of the receiver on the copy (to be completely fair, this tendency of not adhering to the minor rules is seen throughout India in private and public sector concerns alike). The post master then requested me to ask my watchman and make sure that the letter had not been received by him.

The watchman, of course, vehemently denied receiving any such letter, and miraculously, his Hindi-speaking skills suddenly disappeared at this point of time. Since I haven’t learnt enough Telugu to speak sensibly yet, I gave up cross questioning him and returned to the post office.

This time the post master again told me to sit and wait for the postman. When the postman came, he asked him about the letter. The postman couldn’t remember much, of course. So he noted down the docket number, and told me to come on Wednesday. He would fetch the original records from the General Post Office by then. That would contain the signature of the receiver.

This presented another problem. When would I come on Wednesday? I had office. On being asked this, they said, “No problem sir, you can come in the evening. When does your office end?” I said it would not be possible as my office hours ended at six. “No problem sir, we stay open till ten in the night!” was the reply. I was so astonished at this that all I could do was to thank the post master and come back.

I don’t think I’ll get my letter back, because I have a hunch that the watchman received it and then lost it. I don’t know whether those people will really remember to get that record on Wednesday. But even if they don’t bring it, whatever they did today was beyond anything that I would have thought possible in a government office in India. And their behavior was amazing. It was good to see that there are still some government employees who treat their customers at least like fellow human beings. And I can say with absolute certainty that I have never seen such nice behavior at any post office that I have visited in Allahabad, Hooghly or Kolkata.

That is why I felt I must write about this. The media usually highlights only the bad side of the story. Because of that, a few good people like these post office employees of Cyberabad or the bus conductors of Hyderabad or even the policemen of this city, who are very well behaved, get discouraged. So it was my duty to laud their efforts, even if only through this little-read blog.


  1. yesterday I gave a Rs 50 note for a ticket of Rs 2. but conductor asked only once about change and without expressing disgust remotely he gave me ticket.

  2. ya south is a better place than north when it comes to such things.
    Thats what my 4 yrs of experience at this place says.

  3. hmm..fraud & irresponsibility of the govt employees have been hyped up so much..that..we find it impossible to believe that they are humans too..somewhere.. will we their place??

  4. guess the not so fancy towns & villages..have remained quite untouchd..from all the deceit & guile..

  5. @abhijit:In Calcutta I had to once get down from a bus because I did not have change. Another bus conductor took me, though!

    @aurindam:I agree.

    @why was i born:You have raised a very good question... In fact, it is strange that people like you and me turn like "them" when they join the government jobs. I can very easily say that "I'll be good if I join there." But there must be some difficulty that prevents people from being good. Or maybe the rewards for being bad are just too high!

    Hyderabad is definitely not among "the not so fanct towns and villages"... maybe you were referring to Pilani? :-)