Bangalore Postman Shankar (fondly called Shankarappa) is among the thousands of postmen in the country who walk miles every day to bring people their bills He covers a few roads in Basavanagudi, one of Bangalore’s older parts where houses still have front yards, where jacaranda and tabebuia grow along wide roads and where the pace of life seems just a tad slower.
Sixty-year-old Shankarappa is due to retire this May; he looks 15 years younger. The wise men are right when they say exercise keeps you younger and fitter. He gets plenty of that, from 7am onwards when he sets off on his bicycle from home , well over 10km away. Duty — that all-pervasive word for every work, the dharma you are born for — begins by 7.30am with sorting the mail in a large room filled with government-style metal tables and chairs.
The other postmen in the office look up for a second at the flashing bulb when the photographer takes a photo, but quickly fall back into the rhythm of work. Any disarray in the stack will only mean more walking that day. The size of the stack of mail varies on a daily basis, taller at the start of the month when companies send bills, and closer to elections when politicians mail fat letters seeking voter support. He sorts them according to house numbers and street names, depending on the route he will take that day.
For the last 25 years, Shankarappa has been at this routine, six days a week. With a bag on either shoulder, he runs out, and I behind him.
A day of duty takes him through offices, residences, apartments, local fast food joints, printers, garages, travel agencies, tailors, fruit-sellers, tender coconut vendors and the sheds of security guards whom he reads out letters to.
He tells me that his beat, the roads that he has to cover, changes every two years. Given non-existent door numbers and haphazard hashtag streets that crisscross each other back and forth, how does he locate any address at all, I ask…