Amid the bustling activity of defacing stamps, pushing parcels and post packages arriving from across the country, stand the staff by the franking machines, which automatically stamp letters or packages passing through it and computes the total charge, who monitor tens of thousands of letters everyday. N Poonkodi, a postal assistant (PA) who hails from an Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu, stands in front of the newer rented machine, almost obscured in the flurry of activity.
Yet what draws attention to her is the calmness she exudes, hinting at her close to a quarter century experience with the postal department. "Keep it down," she instructs a customer first in Kannada, then in English, referring to the boxful of posts he carries, before she gets back to a conversation with a colleague in Tamil at the Mails and Sorting department of the General Post office.
Her stint with the postal department began as early as 1983, but it was only on 1990 that she was hired as a permanent employee. Poonkodi recalls, "After my I completed BSc in Chemistry, my father, who is a retired manager of the Panchayat Union in Tamil Nadu, gave me two options: either I had to take up a teaching job or one in the postal department," she says. The logic reading up to her decision too was as simple as the two options presented to her - 'for teaching, I had to study further, pursue B.Ed, for this, I didn't'.
When asked if she thinks she made the right choice, she is quick to laugh with an affirmative. "Over time, the staff of a particular branch becomes like family and the regular customers like the circle of cousins," she shares, adding that she is extremely comfortable with her job and feels secure. However, despite the feeling of cordiality, she's always prepared to be transferred at the end of four years, as is the policy. "It's not as if you don't miss your previous workplace; you simply learn to move on." She further says that this has made her a more accommodating person even in her persona sphere.
Despite Poonkodi's polite requests for patience, there is impatience that she has to face from customers. Unruffled, she responds, "Sir, all these people have been waiting before you. Please sit down," motioning at the vacant space on the wooden bench otherwise crowded with files.
And she continues, "The work here is more physically taxing, especially for women, than what I've done so far as it involves standing for about seven hours continuously in front of the franking machine, with a half-hour lunch break in between," she continues, glancing at her right wrist wrapped in crepe bandage, muttering 'some ligament problem'. Back and neck aches too are all too common in the department, it seems.
She puts down her hobbies as cooking and housekeeping, which is what she indulges in once she gets home from work. "I also like rangoli and other artistic things, but I don't get time to do them as often." And the growing line and volley of groans force her to sign off.
As the year 2013 is all set to, City Express is moving away from the normal year-ender stories. Instead we present some unseen faces of Bangalore, who have been excelling in their respective fields, to make a living. In the next one month, we will bring stories of lesser-known people through our series 'Unseen Faces - 2013'.