Urban Legend: Postcards from home Message beyond boundaries
Deccan Chronicle| Priyam Chhetri
Without a telephone with which to call his family, Col. Kumar had to make do with postcards.
Colonel Akhil Kumar (retd) with his postcards (Photo: R. Samuel)
Retired Colonel Akhil Kumar served on the country's borders, under extreme conditions. Without a telephone with which to call his families, Col. Kumar had to make do with postcards, which had become redundant by the time of his retirement. He talks to Priyam Chhetri about establishing the Post Crossing Society of India and also about his own collection.
It’s a passion that the social media mad or Netizens may find hard to understand. But to 63- year- old ex- Army colonel, Akhil Kumar, writing postcards is more than a hobby. It is a reminder of life as it was and he is not prepared to let it go yet.
His love affair with post crossing started out of necessity about 40 years ago when he was a soldier serving on the borders of the country. Working under extreme conditions, he found solace in the love of his family that arrived in the form of a four by six inches postcard. "I was young at the time and missed home terribly. Every soldier would get a ration of about four postcards a month and that was the only way we could be in touch with our loved ones at home. I would wait for a post with baited breath," he recalls.
But after his retirement in 1999 when he settled down in Bengaluru with his family, he realised that postcards had become redundant. Determind to revive them, he went on to establish the Post Crossing Society of India in 2013. "Writing has always been dear to me, but the charm of post crossing was something else altogether. It started with just a couple of friends and I who met one fine day and decided to send each other postcards. We missed the connection we had. Word of mouth it evolved into a community and here we are!" he says, still sounding surprised five years later.
Today the Society has around 70 members from the city, who exchange over a 1000 postcards every month. The retired colonel himself has a collection of around 20,000 postcards which includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site series, the four piece Birds of Himalayas and the Druck postcards from the pre-Independence era.
"Postcards are living and breathing bits of a person’s soul. They are so much more than a piece of paper. It took me 35 years to realise that," he says, his eyes lighting up.
"People from across the world write to each other about their lives and it shows us a true reflection of where they come from. Once I received a postcard from a grieving boy in Korea who had just lost his father. That was years ago. And unlike social media today, we never get hate mail!" he laughs.
Precision, thoughtfulness and originality in expression are just a few things that postcard writing helps inculcate, he believes. "There’s so little space that it leaves little room for mistakes. You frame your thoughts and learn the art of listening to yourself before penning anything down. And let us not forget the calligraphy! Postcard writing is a craft, perfected only with practice," he observes.
The Society organizes exhibitions around interesting themes. The one on June 11 at the Army Officer’s Mess near Trinity Church is based around the theme of musical postcards. "We will showcase about 200 different postcards on musical instruments from all over the world and will also have about 800 stamps on the same theme, " says Mr Kumar . The second will be based on mobility and will feature postcards on transport through the ages. "Metro rail, trams, buses, cars, you name it.. it’ll have it all, on a postcard of course!"he signs off.