Stamping a legacy
With heritage walks and exhibitions, Mumbai's General Post Office launches programme to showcase its rich history that goes beyond sending letters
What do you do?” Swati Pandey, faced with the question every other day, wondered why the answer wasn’t obvious already. The postmaster general who works out of Mumbai’s General Post Office (GPO), pondered ways in which the over 100-year-old institution could be made more central to the public eye. She thought about the formidable Indo-Saracenic structure designed by British architect John Begg in 1902, and how it deserved more attention, despite being an operational office. And on Wednesday, she organised the first heritage walk of the place where a team of 30 approved tourist guides from India Tourism participated.
My Stamp is an initiative by the GPO where one can make their own stamp with a picture of themselves, like Pandey.
“I like something new and I have belief in the department, and we do a lot. We are the country’s biggest payments bank — the India Post Payments Bank opened last year and got one crore accounts — and are very important for financial inclusion. But we don’t publicise as much,” Pandey tells me, in her office at the GPO. So, despite being of prime importance to rural areas, postal services don’t occupy the same level of significance in cities like Mumbai where there are multiple options for courier and banking. That’s where Pandey hopes to build a bridge. The guided walks, led by her assistant Orchida Mukherjee, is only one of the many initiatives in her kitty. More walks will be organised with India Tourism during Tourism Week (October 3 to 10). On Tuesday, commemorating 150 years of the postcard, six special postcards will be released themed on the history of communication with prints on pigeon mail to one of Lord Dalhousie, who laid the foundation for a modern postal system. In November they will also organise Mumbaipex, a regional philatelic exhibition themed on Gandhian Mumbai, and the postmaster and avid filmmaker is also in process of making a documentary on India Post.
Pandey and Orchida Mukherjee (in black) during a discussion with tour guides from India Tourism at her office
Pandey, 47, also highlights existing initiatives like My Stamp. “In India, you cannot issue a stamp unless you’re the Government. And to have your own stamp you need to be dead or very important. This is a service where you can make a stamp of your own picture,” she says, showing us a sample of a set of 12 stamps she was gifted on her birthday, costing `300. India Post has been part of college festivals such as St Xavier’s College’s Malhar and has a permanent counter in IIT Bombay. “Even with the technology available today, youngsters make My Stamps of their grandparents for gifting. We also get to talk to them about financial inclusion which students of economics and finance find very interesting,” Pandey shares, adding that they also hope to collaborate with the Kala Ghoda Festival next year, with GPO being included in the heritage walk.
On October 1, 4 pm (Release of postcards)
At Bicentennial Hall, General Post Office, Fort.
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