50 mail runners through post offices in Mogappair West, Valaaravakkam and Thiruvanmiyur reached General Post Office, George Town on the occasion of celebrating National Postal Week. Photo: V. Ganesan.
On Wednesday, a team of youngsters tried to rewind the clock a bit and took Chennaiites to a bygone era when sturdy men were employed to deliver messages.
Reaching across to someone in another continent is as easy as a phone call or a chat message now. But there were times when messages were passed through mail runners who travelled long distances on foot.
On Wednesday, a team of youngsters tried to rewind the clock a bit and took Chennaiites to a bygone era when sturdy men were employed to deliver messages. Clad in khaki and white, carrying mail bags and spears, these youth walked the streets of Chennai commemorating the service of mail runners, the predecessors of the postal system. Thirty five youngsters relayed two km in the costume and covered 50 post offices on two routes — Mogappair West to General Post office and Valasaravakkam to GPO. They were honoured at a function at GPO.
“It was difficult to manoeuvre in the traffic between Saligramam and Vadapalani. Because of the period costume, people gave me surprised glances and I was even chased by a dog. I understand how mail runners braved weather and animals in the past,” said Dheena M., an entrepreneur who was a volunteer ‘mail runner’ on Wednesday.
The idea to pay tribute to mail runners came about when debut actor and entrepreneur Ram Arun Castro was researching for his upcoming movie Ottathooduvan . “I did not find much information even on the internet on these brave men who met with even fatal accidents on their way to convey messages. There were runners who ran 20 km a day carrying a lantern, a sack of letters and a spear to defend themselves,” said Mr. Castro. He mobilised a group of youth to play the role of mail runners as a tribute.
“Some people mistook us to be beggars as we tried to check for addresses,” he said. The group has also submitted a petition to the postal department to establish a statue for mail runners. There were over 1300 mail runners in the Indian postal department when the service was started in 1854.
Mervin Alexander, postmaster general, Chennai City Region, said: “Even now, we have mail carriers in places like Kodaikanal where mails have to be delivered by