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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Discontinuance of Money Order Service by India Post

[this letter is written by me to my daughter, Ashi, which I thought I should share with all]

1.4.15/Guwahati Airport

Dear Ashi

Today while reading a newspaper at Guwahati airport I read a news item that the department of posts (India Post), Government of India is closing down more than 100 years old money order service from 1st April 2015. I just thought since you have never seen anybody using this service today or used this service anytime yourself, you may not know its importance in the life of an individual in the yester years. So I thought to let you know this whole story and our experience and how important it used to be in our lives of which you are an important part today.


Money Order was a service through which money could be sent to the addressee through hand. What was required was that you go to your nearby post office, fill up the form on both the sides on which you were suppose to put name and address of the person to whom you wanted money to be delivered, your own name and address and below there was slip space of around one and half inch for any message that you wanted to convey to the addressee and then hand over the money to the post master there for which he would issue you a receipt. The same form along with that slip would travel to the addressee like a letter and the postman shall reach to their address, deliver the money and get signature of the addressee as acknowledgement and would tear off that message slip and give that as well. So apart from money, a message also used to get conveyed. This service was used by individuals as well as organisations. When we wanted to subscribe to any magazine or service, money order was always an option available. I remember subscribing to some sundry periodicals using this service. When for any official transaction money was required to be sent MO was a handy option. Though the post office used to charge a modest fees for this service, it was quite popular a service which was reliable, relatively prompt, convenient and conventional. As in case of postage the fees charged had no relation to the distance as far as the money was moving from one place to another within the territorial boundaries of India with an extension of this service in Bhutan as well.

Till now I just mentioned the system and logistics involved in this great service of the past. But you know Ashi, when I looked at this news in the newspaper, my memory started narrating the whole experience of ours through flashback on the important role it played in our lives. Let me share that with you with full sincerity.

The first week of every month was a time when we would be looking out for dakia or postman. If we see someone coming on bicycle in khaki dress with a cap on the head, we would wait to have full glance of him (and not her in any case) till we see him fully. Sometime this wait use to frustrate us as the person would not be a postman or when we would ask him whether he had our money order, he would reply in negation. We would come and tell mummy 'aaj bhi nahi aaya' (not there even today). We would wait for the next day. Sometime he would knock and tell money arder and we would call mummy. After exchange of smiles we would run to him. Mummy would ask us to get pen and then she would take time to put her full name as signature on the acknowledgement slip (Since we observed her putting her signature so closely always almost every time on any document or MO acknowledgement, we learnt to copy her signatures very easily and confidently. Many times we withdrew money on her behalf from bank. I remember one interesting episode. Once I got her signature on withdrawal form, and went to bank to withdraw money. The person sitting at the counter in the bank looked at me checked her signature from bank records and commanded. 'Signature dubara karakar lao, match nahin kar rahe hain'. I went out, signed on the fresh withdrawal, waited outside for some time to pass and went to the counter. This time he said abhi thik hai, mummy se kehna aise hi sign kare. Ever since then I started confidently putting her signature as if I had the legal sanction of this effect). He would hand over cash, we would offer him water, mummy would give him some tips and he smilingly would accept it. 

Postman was an important part of our lives, he was offered sweets on festivals, sometime money as well, he was invited on weddings or pujas, if any. Sometime he would himself ask for water and throughout the month we would greet him and would exchange smiles. He would also use to ask our well being at times.

You might think from where my mom used to get money in the first week of the month. So let me tell you, your grandfather who worked in defense services had given a standing instruction to his office to send a major portion of his salary to us. No matter whether he was posted in Bhutan or Moron, Silchar or Sriganganagar, Akhnoor, Arunanchal, or Agartala, no matter whether he was in 99 APO zone or 56 APO zone, our share of his salary reached to us on time religiously every month and that through Money Order service. 

I do not know how money gets transferred for defense personnel today but I want to emphasize a point very vehemently that for all the defense employees guarding our fences on different borders and other such employees Money Order service played a role of a Godsend men for their families and children.

Beta we use to get around 80/90 percent of his salary on monthly basis for family expenditure but you know if I tell you the amount that used to reach us for whole monthly expenditure, you would not believe. It was even less than one lecture honorarium that I get paid today. And our mother used to always make savings out of this money for use in case of contingencies. 

Times have changed and so is the value of money. The major reason is inflation. But for us all, times and things have changed primarily because of the investments that our mother made in looking after us. Times have really changed for all of us and so for the mode of sending money and so is the use of technology. Few months back Telegram service was taken off as mobiles and messages have become more vibrant and popular. I know money transfer has become much easier in today's tech-led world. Yet we shall miss that humane touch that we had earlier. As they say there is huge difference between human being and being humane. 

Times have gradually changed to so called better, faster and convenient transfer of money which is happening more in non-physical domain of currency. I wish with the closing down of MO service the value of human relation does not close down. Machines can replace humans but not humaneness. 

So you might have got bored by now, reading my long mail as you have not experienced all this but let me tell u a fact when I read this news the first person of whom I thought of who has not seen it and should know, it was you. So I chose you to get this known. 

History plays an important role in our lives, it keeps reminding us of our past and since present is build on the premise of past and present is sure to be history tomorrow it would be good for you if you keep knowing our past, rich or may not be so rich.

Good luck and love you as always. 

Vijay

[five steps to order money order]
[Hindu reports closing of Money Order service]