TIRUNELVELI: One Sunday every month, a 55-year-old postmaster embarks on a day-long trek deep into the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve forest to fulfil an assurance made to a 110-year-old woman five months ago.
S Christuraja, of the Papanasam Upper Dam Branch, received this special mission after Collector V Vishnu visited the Injikuzhi tribal hamlet at the Tiger Reserve and met 110-year-old Kuttiyammal. The Collector assured the elderly woman of a monthly Old Age Pension of Rs 1,000, and directed the authorities to deliver her the money through the India Post office.
As Christuraja single-handedly manages the Branch post office, it came down to him to ensure Kuttiyammal received her pension. The Injikuzhi tribal hamlet is located uphill of Chinnamayilar Kaani near the Papanasam dam.
“I take a four kilometre boat ride across the dam’s banks, organised by forest officials, and then trek nearly 10 kilometres after that,” Christuraja says. When the level of water in the dam is too low for a boat ride, he treks 25 kilometres via the Chinnamayilar Kaani, braving leech bites.
Since the journey takes a day, the postmaster makes the delivery on Sundays only. “I start at 7 am and trek to a stream in the forest. After having breakfast by the stream, I reach the temple next to the hamlet and bathe in the river before reaching Kuttiyammal’s house,” he explains.
After a chat with Kuttiyammal, he returns to catch the boat back by 5 pm. Christuraja, who joined service on May 19, 1997 as an Extra Departmental Delivery Agent, is a native of the Agasthiyar Kaani settlement in the forest. This gives him an edge, according to Senior Superintendent of Post Office, Tirunelveli Division, Sivaji Ganesh.
“Christuraja is able to work with the people and reach the hamlet. Earlier, postal staff used to arm themselves before visiting such remote areas,” said Ganesh. As for Kuttiyammal, her relative Iyyappan (40) says that access to the pension has given the supercentenarian priceless peace of mind.