Tag Archives: postcards

A stroll to the post office…

My first few days in India, I told Kate and Tom that one of the top things on my list of things to do was to buy picture postcards to mail back home to my old-fashioned friends. Wait — it’s not just the old-fashioned who like that, but even people who themselves never resort to paper correspondence or postage stamps are normally more than glad to discover a postcard from a faraway place in their mailboxes.

Neither of them had noticed postcards for sale anywhere during the many months they’ve been in India, but we read online that the huge General Post Office has them; you might have read in a previous post about my failure to find any there. But Tom did buy stamps that day.

Last week a visitor to our new baby suggested The Bombay Store closer to home, so a few days ago Kate and I took the baby in the car and spent a long while shopping there, but they didn’t sell postcards, either. They told us to go to the local post office, which we actually tried to do immediately after, but couldn’t locate it where the driver remembered it had been….

So Friday Kate suggested we go and check out the post office on foot; Tom had the car and driver on business. She had found a different such office on her phone and it looked like a short walk. Since it would be such a brief outing we left fed-and-sleeping Raj with Kareena. It was the hottest time of day, and temperate winter weather for these parts, i.e. about 90 degrees. We felt it.

We maneuvered in traffic and squeezed between parked motorcycles. We picked our way over broken sidewalks and walked alongside the moving rickshaws and buses in places where the sidewalk was missing. Early afternoon, the sidewalks were crowded with people, including schoolchildren like these in pink uniforms who were about to enter the gate of the convent school down the block.

The post office was pretty easy to find. We walked up to the window that said Stamps and Stationary [sic]. The woman behind the grille said, No, they did not have postcards. She asked another patron nearby whose English was better to help us, and he gave us vague directions, waving with his arm, to a bookstore down the street “on this side,” where he assured us we would find what we were searching for.

I decided to buy stamps while we were there, on faith that I would eventually have something to stick them on. I laid rupees enough for ten stamps on the green marble counter, and was handed three bills in change. Then we waited. The postal lady was eating her lunch.

When she had eaten the last bite, she cleaned up her desk and had one more swig from her pink water bottle. After another few minutes she passed my stamps through, with instructions to put “one of these, and four of these, on each postcard.”

 

On we went to look for the bookshop. Kate was also on the lookout for a chemist to see if they had diapers. We did find a chemist on the way, where the packages contained too few diapers, but I bought four shrink-wrapped pills for 12 rupees. A rupee is worth about one and a half American cents.

Oh, and the ATM: we stopped by the little room off the main bank building, staffed by two attendants/guards, and used our U.S. debit cards to pull out rupees, a limit of 5,000 rupees per transaction. Along every sidewalk I saw sights that made me glad I had my camera ready.

Now, where was that bookshop? Crossing back and forth through busy intersections — there were some helpful traffic lights on this street! — and with Kate following her Google map, we finally found it, and entered. Why of course, the bookseller had postcards; a new supply had just arrived in the shop the morning before. His business is to make his customers happy, he emphasized, as he took a few packets from a small stack behind the counter.

Kate deliberated with me over which collections to choose, based on the subjects listed on the back of the package, and not able to see any of the actual cards. I wanted pictures of everyday scenes such as I have actually experienced, and not the big tourist spots, most of which I won’t see.

It seemed clear from the brief text and the covers that these were the sort of postcards I was looking for, and I bought two packs of 20 each, Wallahs (merchants) and Mumbai Buzz, just to be sure that I would find a few that I actually wanted to send, once I saw them.  I noticed then that the name of the shop printed on the bag was The Happy Book Stall.

When at home we all examined all the cards, we were amazed at the “vintage” quality. The photos appear to have been taken about 25 years ago, and the print quality is worse than that. The word art would not be associated with most of the pictures in any way, except of the sort of interesting framing that can randomly happen when you give a camera to a five-year-old.

But I’m very pleased! I’d still like to see if any others exist in town, so I will keep my eyes open, but now I’m ready to start my picture postcard correspondence. And I saw so many sights on this short outing; if I had my printer and my card stock paper, etc. I would make my own postcards. But then I would be missing something I can’t put my finger or my words on — because there’s no doubt this collection I have acquired is accidentally telling a story about India.

 

 

I communicate vintage style in small bits.

This week the discussion of Hidden Art of Homemaking is on chapter 9 – Writing Prose and Poetry. I haven’t kept up with the conversation at Ordo Amoris for a week or more, and for this chapter I’m just re-posting this from August 2009. Don’t be misled by the now-obsolete references to postage rates!

Old-Fashioned Correspondence


To introduce the postal theme– and for a few moments just forget about the concept of mail that can’t be carried in from the mail box in one’s real hands–I show you this T-shirt we bought in Yosemite last month, at the post office. It was the best clothing deal in the park, and an unusual and historic design: a reproduction of a stamp that was issued in 1936, showing–Yes! my beloved El Capitan! If you have ever beheld that rock I trust you won’t find its frequent appearance here tiresome.

I mostly wanted to tell about postcard-writing, and the shirt isn’t very pertinent to that…though it just occurred to me that one might buy the shirt at the Yosemite post office and then write a postcard sort of message on the fabric before mailing it in its more personalized form. I don’t think I’ll run right back there and pick up a few more, though.


When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would send postcards to me and my siblings from wherever she was traveling. I recall receiving word from Turkey, Norway, Mexico, and Hawaii. She also wrote very entertaining letters from home. As she has been a major role model for me, it’s no wonder that I feel it a natural activity as a human being to share my life in this way with those I love.

It’s easy when on a journey, away from the usual housekeeping duties, to remember friends and family and take the opportunity to let them know I do think of them. A trip just doesn’t satisfy if I haven’t dropped a dozen cards in the letter-box.

This picture was taken at the Grand Canyon. When others in our party were hiking down into the gorge one morning, I walked all over the place looking for a picnic table with a view, from which I might write my cards. That was not to be found, but in a sheltered courtyard I did find a good spot, away from wind and next to a big stone with rain water pooled in a depression on the top. I didn’t notice this rock until I was startled by a raven who swooped down to drink.

Postage “just” went up again. It now costs 28 cents to mail a postcard. On those first envelopes carrying my grandmother’s address in the corner, the stamps on the other corner said “4 cents.” I can’t imagine that a postcard was more than a penny.

One thing I inherited from my father recently was the stamps from his desk drawer. There are some pretty old ones, from when a letter was 25 cents. If they still have stickum on them I use that, and if not, I apply a little Elmer’s glue and save my pennies by using these old stamps.

I also “inherit” stamps from my father-in-law, who gets them (less and less, now that he responds infrequently) from charitable organizations that want him to send donations. They come to him already sticking to envelopes, but I cut them off and glue them on to our own bill payments. Some of my collection are in the photograph above. If you want to see the stamps up close, just click on the picture and you can see an enlarged version.

In California it seems that every town is a tourist town. At least, I find postcards in all the stores. But in some locales, the market has yet to be discovered, and I have to make my own postcards, which I learned to do from Martha Stewart, who gives us this handy template and instructions for using it. I’ve made these one-of-a-kind cards with photos of someone’s backyard, or a lake that is small and unknown, or a town that is seemingly too plain for the professional postcard people.

But why restrict this fun habit to traveling days? I started sending postcards to the grandchildren and friends any old time. A postcard is small enough that I can find time to write a few words while the iron or computer is warming up or perhaps even in the middle of the night when sleep won’t come. I don’t think old-fashioned correspondence of this sort will ever become obsolete or unwelcome.