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. We 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 the hexagonal building
“Chanakya,’  is the Tea Room. Along the
six walls of this hexagon are a set of drawers called ‘Lockers.’ Each student officer is
assigned a Locker and a Locker Number as an identification. It has a slit, big enough 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 distribute it by dropping the
letters in the respective lockers. He did it very efficiently. We used to be amazed when
he, sometimes, stopped our two wheeler to hand over a letter, with a very warm
smile. That way, we would get our letter even before we cleared our lockers. How he connected the name or the locker no to the face in a crowd was something that always amazed us.
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 the hillock. We had 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
looked at him with a question mark look and asked him what made him climb a
hillock and come up 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 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 that no to
that too, had a glass of water and went away. This lady was left aghast, finding 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 Nillgiri’s bluish green hills. She sat down in front of him and asked him a straight forward
question. “Ranga, why do you do this. Seeking no reward or favour, why do you
do this ‘extra’ job?”In a simple explanation, in his broken hindi, 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 to whom 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 self less
work that Ranga was doing for 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 staff course many years ago. Then Ranga was a young boy. He did
the same even then. But, he realised that no one noticed his work  or acknowledged it till the German Lady did
that. In a conference, the commandant expressed his surprise to the officers.
Traditionally, almost all officers on the staff are alumini of Staff College.
They all accepted that this never struck them. After a little conversation, it
was unanimously felt that Ranga must be recognised for his outstanding, consistent work, beyond the call of duty.
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 a system of Awards like you have in the Defence Forces. Nor is Ranga
left with any 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, where
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

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 environment.

Lets pause to think.
  • Balaji Rajaraman
    Posted at 00:39h, 19 September Reply

    Wow! A rare motivated entity in this materialistic world for whom work is worship. Very inspiring!

  • Nandita Ganguly
    Posted at 06:57h, 19 September Reply

    hello sir. It moved me to read the commendable work that Mr Ranga had been doing .I have been doing this kind of work with slow learners n LD students in teaching ICSE english for tenth.Later i went through a Dale Carnegie train ings ,when i realised the lack of soft skills in people who are trying to educate themselves and rise above their fate.Quite recently i have started a ENGLISH LANGUAGE LAB at THANE ,where i am training the police officers of THANE in eng conversation skills and soft skills at the behest of the joint commissioner of police as part of social responsibility. I can understand the feeling at the end of the day when a student of whatever age has mastered the art and a teacher is rewarded with a smile.
    I am sharing the story of Ranga,for only one reason as i feel that if every citizen contributes in his or her own way something to the society .the country would be a better place to live in .regds Nandita.

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