Sivan has been diligently delivering letters to those living in the forest area in Coonoor for over a decade.

Postman Sivan who worked in Nilgiris for yearsImage by Dinamalar
Features Human Interest Friday, July 10, 2020 - 19:48

In Nilgiris’ Coonoor, a picturesque town on the blue mountains, ‘Postman’ Sivan will proudly tell you that the wild animals are his friends. “The elephants, the gaurs, the bears… they’re all my friends. Over the last 10 years, my job required me to trek through the forests and deliver letters. I would converse with these animals when our paths cross and we’ve become friends,” he says.

65-year-old Sivan who retired as postman on March 7 this year is full of such surprising responses to simple questions. “Have you seen the gaur? We’re like brothers. Sometimes there would only be a two-feet distance between us. They would lift their heads to see who has come so close. When they see it is me, they would go back to grazing,” he chuckles over the phone.

Sivan has been diligently delivering letters to those living inside the forest area in Coonoor for the past ten years; he would begin his day at 10.00 am from the Hillgrove Post Office, trekking 15 kilometres daily and would return home by 3.00 pm. “I would have breakfast before I leave. My next meal would only be after I return home. Although, when I go to deliver the letters at the Hillgrove Railway Station, I would get a hot cup of black tea,” he adds.

But Sivan is most excited to talk about his friends. “Only once did an elephant cause me trouble and that was the year before I retired. It came down from an elevation and began chasing me. I quickly jumped over a fence and stood behind a tree. The elephant brought its trunk in front of my face!” he pauses.

And then? “The entire road was blocked. Trucks began lining up. There was the elephant on one side, me on the other… the road stretched to our right and left. After a short while, I came out from behind the tree and shouted at the elephant. “Why are you chasing me?” I asked. After all, I was on an important job. I had to deliver the letter!” his voice appearing to carry the same emotion it did on the day the event took place.

“‘Na indha lettera kondu kuduthutu varen. Vandha pinnadi ne enna pudichiko’ nu solitenunga (I will deliver this letter and be back. Then you can come catch me, I told the elephant),” he says, explaining his quick, witty decision-making.

Sivan recalls more such tales and before we know it, we plunge head first into his ‘Pensieve’ of memories, walking alongside the postman in the chilly late-morning mountain breeze… The quiet of the forest broken only by bird calls and the rustling of leaves beneath our feet as an uneventful but scenic work commute is memorialised by unexpected encounters with the wild.

“You see the bears? They’d come in search of fig trees for fruits. I would go there for the same reason,” he laughs and adds, “No one would believe if I were to tell them that the bear and I would sit under the same tree, on its either side, and eat figs. But these are facts.” He talks about the prayer he recites every time he encounters a wild animal and shares that he believes it protects him from harm.

Almost three months after his retirement, Sivan is surprised by the sudden spotlight on him. “My delivery area is in the forest. I’ve been delivering letters in the  forest for the past 10 years. It is just my job, but it is true that I led a different life,” he muses when we tell him about the tweet on him by an IAS officer that went viral a few days ago.

Sivan worked as a stamp vendor for 25 years at the post office before he was transferred as mail deliverer ten years ago.

“When I took the old SLC exam, I failed in a few subjects. The old SLC is equivalent to the 11th standard. Then ten years later, I studied under the new system and took my exam again. I have passed and I have certificates as well,” he adds.

The dedication Sivan showed in his job is evident from the way he talks about it. “There was once an old lady who would remind me every day about the pension money she was expecting. For six months this continued, and then suddenly one day the money arrived. It was only Rs 1,000 but I immediately left the office to bring her the good news. When I reached her house, I was beyond shocked to find out that she had died that day. It felt like my life went with her too,” he says.

“What could I have done? She waited for six months for that amount. When it finally came, she was not alive to receive it. Her children asked me if they could receive it, but I refused. ‘Addressee deceased hence returned to sender’ was my remark,” Sivan recalls with precision.

Sivan regarded his job with great importance, not taking a day off in 10 years and admits that he would go to any lengths to deliver the letters, sometimes taking the bus as far as Coimbatore, tracking down the person. “Often, people relocate from the forest area to other places because it is a dangerous place to live. Once, one of the pensioners I was regularly delivering to fell ill and was admitted at the hospital in Coimbatore. I took the bus, delivered the amount to him and also gave him an extra Rs 100 for his expenses,” he shares.

Before he ends the call, as if unsure we’ve believed in his stories, Sivan says, “It is all very true. You can check on the internet, type Postman Sivan on Google. You will find my interviews.” 

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