Postman Basappa of Mysore

Summer vacation time and it is Mysore on the mind. During our childhood, Mysore was the favourite destination. We’d always go driving in the Ambassador car. Dad and our driver Devaraj would take turns.

Bangalore –> Ramnagaram –> Channapatna –> Maddur –> Mandya –> Srirangapatna –> Mysore

As the car passed through Channapatna, my brother and I would be eagerly looking out of the windows to see the colourfully painted wooden toys. They would be strategically placed in front of the shops, hoping we would stop. Even we would be hoping the car would stop, especially when we sensed it was going a bit slower inside the town.

Our start in the morning would be timed so that we’d be at Maddur for breakfast. This would usually be hot hot dosas, and most definitely Maddur vada. Sips of the pop soda as well.

The swaying sugarcane in the fields would mean we were at Mandya. Even if anyone couldn’t recognize the crop, they’d smell the molasses and sugar from the factories hidden in the distance.

Srirangapatna and the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary would usually be reserved for the trip back.

In about 4-5 hours, driving at a leisurely speed, and with toilet break stops, we would reach Mysore in time for lunch at Dasaprakash.

Always, our place of stay would be the Mysore Sports Club on Lalit Mahal Road, at the foot of Chamundi Hills. From here we would be woken up in the mornings by the roaring of the lions and tigers from the zoo that was not very far away. Just across the club is the Mounted Police Headquarters, and we would see the policeman on horseback doing their exercises and rounds.

If we were not sightseeing, my brother and I would spend the afternoons inside the clubhouse looking at the stuffed animals and animal heads that were everywhere. Sometimes we’d play badminton with the marker on the indoor wooden courts. We were too small to be taken seriously by any of the players, but there was one year when Srikantadatta Wadiyar / Wodeyar (the prince) would be there every day and he’d gladly play with us. Or we’d roam in the garden, following the snails and slugs. At night, it was so quiet and peaceful that we’d hear the crickets and toads. The road up the Chamundi Hills would seem like it was wearing a garland, lit all the way to the palace that was located right on the top.

Ever so often, we’d walk down the road to say hello to the policeman and postman. Not real men, but life-sized statues that every passerby was sure not to miss. Policeman Bhujangarao Jagdale and Postman Basappa were dedicated and sincere workers of Mysore who won the appreciation of his highness Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The Maharaja instructed the installation of the statues – the policeman was done in 1905 and the postman in 1907. They’re made of limestone, sand, water and lime plaster, and recognised as heritage statues that are to be preserved.

Policeman Jagadale served as mounted guard of the Maharaja, and later became the head of a group of mounted police force.

Come rain or shine, Postman Basappa, would be at every house to deliver the letters everyone was waiting for. “He turned the monotonous job of delivering letters into an enterprising one by vivacious conversations at every doorstep and was popular among kids as ‘Post Mama’.”  His statue is said to be the first one in India to honour the common postman who was (and still is) so important for communication.

This picture with Postman Basappa was taken in 1977. Note his umbrella and bag of letters.

Postman Summer 1977.jpg
Summer (Apr/May) of 1977

Thirty years later, in 2007, when we visited Mysore with our boys, we stayed at the Mysore Sports Club, and did the same things that my brother and I had done as children. We went looking for the statues. There were changes on the road and they weren’t where I thought they should be. I couldn’t exactly remember where they used to stand. We finally found Postman Basappa… I sensed he was in a different place. And he was getting a fresh coat of paint.

Postman Basappa Oct 2007
October 2007

The statues, I read, are still on the same road, but they’ve been relocated. It seems that the traffic on the road had got very heavy, and the vibrations were affecting the statues. So they were moved to safer yet visible spots inside the premises of the Mounted Police. Will surely look out for them on the next trip.

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