Brig Sushil Bhasin | Ranga the Postman
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Ranga the Postman

Ranga the Postman

For officers of the Indian Armed Forces there
is a prestigious institution, a ‘Mecca’ for the elite, called “Defence Services
Staff College” in Wellington, near Ooty in the Nilgiris. I went through a ‘one
year ‘ staff course there in 1983. 

The Staff College, as it is popularly called, is known for its meticulously
seamless working and the high standards of ‘staff work’ that it inculcates in
the officers.

There is a unique and efficient facility
created for sending and receiving letters and study material. In this beautifully designed hexagonal
building “Chanakya,’  is the Tea Room.
Along the six walls of this hexagon are sets of drawers called ‘Lockers.’ Each
officer is assigned a Locker and a Locker Number,as an identification. It has a slit, big enough for someone to slip a file through. We were expected to clear our lockers at least twice a
day at 8 am and 4 pm. You could have your assignments, letters, even bank
cheque book of the local bank found in the locker when you opened it.
There was one postman called Ranga who was
assigned to Staff College. Every day, he would bring the mail and then
distribute it by dropping the letters in the lockers. He did it very
efficiently. We used to be amazed when he could connect a number to the face and a name, and would sometimes, stop our two wheeler
to hand over a letter, with a very warm smile. That way, we would get the letter even before we cleared our lockers.
One day, Ranga, parked his cycle on the road
and chose to walk up a steep hill to handover a letter to a German Officer who
stayed in a Bungalow atop a small hill. We used to have a few officers from
Friendly Foreign Countries attending the course, too. The lady opened the door
after Ranga rang the door bell. He handed over 2 letters to her with his big,
warm, usual smile. She gave him a question mark look and asked him
what made him climb a hill to deliver the letters, when his job was
to just drop them in the locker. He simply smiled and said, “Saab will clear
his locker tomorrow, and I thought I could deliver the letter toady.”  She was not sure of his intention. She was not
convinced. She asked him to wait, went inside and got a bottle of rum for him,
assuming that this could be the only reason for this unusual effort, as most of the working class men
expected Rum (we used to call it Black Dollar) as a reward for any outstanding
work or favour. With his hands folded, he bowed down to say, “No madam, thanks, I don’t drink rum.” “Have a cup of tea, then,” she offered. He said no to
that too, had a glass of water and walked away. This lady found it difficult to
When Ranga delivered the third letter in 2
months time, she had to find the answer. She had offered him hard cash too,
which he had politely refused. She asked him to sit down in the verandah
overlooking the Nililgir’s Bluish green hills. She sat down in front of him and
asked him a straight forward question. “Ranga, why do you do this ‘extra’ job. In his broken hindi, he offered a simple explanation, which she understood very little of, he explained. “I get
pleasure in doing my work well. When I see a smile on the face of a person when
I deliver the letter, I like it. I go home and sleep peacefully with a thought
that I did my job well and brought smiles on peoples faces. I don’t see those
smiles when I drop the letters in the locker. In the morning, I time myself to
reach the college in the Coffee Break, so that I can hand over letters
personally to officers, and deliver them in hand. The day I get late, I drop
the letters in the lockers, and miss their smiles.”
The Lady was wonderstruck at the unique sense
of devotion and selfless work nothing more than self satisfaction. She decided to write an
article in “The Owl,” the official magazine of the DSSC. She wrote that she had
never come across such a devoted, selfless person who took extreme pleasure in
his work. True customer delight so as to say.
When this article fell on the commandant’s
table, he was attracted to it. He had done his course many years ago. At that time Ranga was a young boy. He did the same even then. But, he realised that no one had noticed his work  or acknowledged it till
the German Lady did that. In a conference, the commandant expressed his
astonishment to the officers. Traditionally, almost all officers on the staff are
alumni of Staff College. They all accepted that this never struck them. After
a little conversation, it was unanimously felt that Ranga must be recognised.
The Commandant wrote a letter to the Post
Master General in New Delhi, recommending a suitable appreciation for Ranga. In
his reply, the PMG said, “We do not have a system of Awards and Recognition like you have in the
Defence Forces. Nor is Ranga left with any scope of further increments, having reached
his maximum a few years ago. We also do not have any rank structure that I can
give him a promotion. I am enclosing a letter of appreciation, the best I can
do, and you may like to hand it over to him personally.”
The Commandant decided to do something
differently. He, asked his staff to organise a Tea Party, with the entire
College staff in attendance. Ranga was publicly appreciated and then
called on stage to accept a cash award by DSSC, for serving the organisation in
a commendable manner. Ranga walked up the two steps of the stage with his usual
warm smile, folded his hands, lowered his head and said in hindi, “Saab, I
never did anything to deserve or expect an award. I am very grateful to you for
this unique honour. This is more than enough for me. I will not accept any
award, as that’s not what I worked for.” The Commandant tried to persuade and
convince him, but Ranga was pretty sure of his stand, and walked down from the
stage with two tiny tears of joy in his eyes.

Why can’t we all be ‘Rangas?’. Why do we only
work for awards and rewards, promotions and increments? Why is the latest
buzzword, WIIFM, (Whats in it for me?) become selfishly the mantra in today’s modern

Lets pause to think.
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