In my childhood home, my daughter loves to ransack the library. She delights in discovering the drawings and doodles that I had done when I was around her age or younger; and digging and finding out the old, yellowing, countless picture and story books that my sister and I used to devour as kids.
It makes me happy too; the joy of seeing your child read the same books that you read when you were a little girl; or seeing her coloring the pictures you had left half-colored more than 28 years ago.. is indescribable.
When my girl discovered our collection of “MISHA”, the wheels of my memories started turning, to recall one of the happiest periods of my childhood. And that’s how this post happened.
Now, I am 38 years old. So you can guess, that the wheels had to turn wayyyy back to go to that place where I used to stand on my toes, waiting for my MISHA to be delivered. (“MISHA” was a children’s magazine published by the USSR. I loved it. The pictures, the puzzles, the stories, the glimpses of Russia, the rosy cheeked kids… a different world – so mysterious, so different from my own.)
But this is not about MISHA.
This is about the man who brought it home for me every month, the man whose face is etched like a picture in my mind.
This is about my memories – of my favorite postman. And another man – who reminds me of him.
To me – my postman was ancient.. very, very old.
He had silver hair and bright, happy eyes. In the images that I have in my mind, he is very tall, though I have no idea if that was true. His face was lined and creased with age and his eyes crinkled with what I now know are laugh lines.
He was one of the most cheerful, happy people I have ever seen.
He would ride into our compound, ringing his cycle bell, dressed in his khaki postman uniform, and then call out very loudly “Keerti!!!”
“Keerti” was not my name, and he knew that. But that is what he had decided to call me. And that’s what he called me – for all the 7 years that I was in that town.
I was a quiet child, and very shy too. Talking to people was not easy for me. And though I was very fond of him, I would never speak to him. But he never seemed to mind. He loved me all the same, and seemed to understand the quiet child very well.
Every time he cycled in – he would look out for me, would seek me out, and hand over the post specifically in my hands – with a flair.
It was as if he knew, that though I didn’t show it, this ritual delighted me, and the shy, little girl felt pretty important in being considered to be responsible for the family post.
His face is etched in my mind, and every time I recall that face, and his throaty beckoning of “Keerti”, I can’t help smiling. Inside my heart, I become that little girl again and there’s this warm, fuzzy feeling that envelops me. He is one of my most favorite people – one of those very few who I felt understood me.
And that number is something that I can count in one hand – in fact I don’t even need all my five fingers for that.
Coming back to the present, ages later – the quiet girl, is a quiet woman now. Life has shown me more downs than ups, and I have had to rebuild myself from my own ashes.I am misunderstood and judged, by people who don’t know me and don’t want to know me, and labelled in different ways. But again, I have written enough about all that in so many of my posts, and I don’t want to revisit it again.
Two years back, we had a team of our senior management from overseas coming in at office. Meetings were scheduled, as always.
We walk in and I see this nearly 7ft tall man, with silver hair standing at the head of the table.
Now, I am pretty intimidated and maybe I look nervous, I don’t know. But the next thing I know – Bret, who is “senior management” to my “senior management”, graduated the year I was born, more experienced than every person in that room – walks over to me, takes my hand in both his hands, bends down and introduces himself, his blue eyes reflecting so much kindness and understanding.
And I look back into his eyes, crinkled with laugh lines, and his face creased with age, and all I see is the face of my favorite postman.
Bret made me feel so comfortable that day, that I (who was the normally “invisible” person in the room) had a real conversation about the challenges with my work, and what I liked and I did not like with what I am doing. When I walked out of that room that day, he asked me to hold on, to take heart and to keep doing what I was doing, that what I did mattered. He followed up on what he said,things did become better for me; and he is as warm as ever every time he meets me.
Two different people, two different times, two different countries and continents, two different social status, two different roles, but the vibe that came out of Bret, the vibe of understanding, empathy and kindness was same as that of my favorite postman.
He understood, just like the other man did, that I was scared, that I was shy, and he conveyed to me through his actions that it was OK to feel the way I felt, but I was still a person whom he would like to interact with.
And that made a big difference – to me. It did then – when my postman yelled out “Keerti” and handed over the letters only to me; it did now – when Bret walked across the room to make me comfortable.
And that is what makes them my favorite people, that sets them apart from the multitude of people I know.
It is very easy to strike an equation with the loud, gregarious, “go-getters”. But not every one can have the large heart to step out of their roles and take that effort to make the quiet ones comfortable, and tell them that they matter too, that they are as needed and as important as everyone else.
My old postman and Bret did just that…And they hold a permanent place forever in my heart.