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Monday, January 24, 2011

Have you not visited this building - An ode to Triplicane Post Office at Big Street

Some things have changed in life.    Some  have lost their sheen for no fault of theirs.  This is a poignant tale of a building that once stood majestically and bustled with activity.  This was the property on the  Big Street , Triplicane, Chennai 600 005.   This was originally known as “Veeraraghava Mudali Street
” Not sure whether it was named after the famed blind poet ‘andhakak kavi veeraraghavar’. This street  winds its way from Triplicane market near Bandi Venkatesan Street  /  Singara Chari Street till Wallajah road, opp to Kalaivanar Arangam (the famed Children’s theatre which incidentally has been razed to ground now).  It is a narrow street.

Nearer  Singarachari Street side of the  Big Street was that once majestic building which housed residential quarters also.  It has ample space in the front for parking of cycles and then bountiful mango tree.  The spacious stairs in curvature lead to two resting place (thinnais) – a porch.  There were two counters,  a makeshift room housing another counter – rest were not accessible to common public.  If you could spend a few hours there, you would perhaps meet all the people in the locality who would have some vocation to be there..

Still not able to figure out what it was !   It was the most sought after one of yesteryears –‘the post office’.  This one was officially known as “Parthasarathy Koil S.O” –  a bigger one has been in existence at Triplicane High Road for long.  

The modern day youngsters might not know the cost of a Post card; may not even know that such thing exists !  For none of the younger generation are in the habit of writing letter by hand to parents / spouse / brother and sister / loved ones / friend / teacher or some body else ?  In fact many are not even in the habit of sending / responding personally to e-mails in the age of FB but have lots of time for sending forwards………

In today's world, most do not have time for such trivialities.   There was a time lots of letter used to get handwritten and posted.  Pongal was the time for sending printed messages (pongal vazthukkal). Shops and some on platforms would have a heap of greeting cards, from which one would select sweetly worded for the intended recipient – friends, relatives, teachers and others. Write their names neatly and legibly and post them by affixing postal stamp.  It would give loads of happiness to receive such Greeting cards, a feeling that one is being cared for.  Not any longer !!!

Post Office, world over is a facility authorised  handling letters, sorting, transmitting and delivering them places.  In India, the Dept. of Post is a Govt one and easily one of the most widely distributed system in the world.  Postman would know all the streets of the locality as also the residents of each street.  He was most popular person and most awaited one also.  The Post Office was one stop shop for
  • Post card (15 paise those days and you can send anywhere inside India), inland letters, and stamped covers
  • Postal stamps
  • Sending money to relatives in distant places (in old cinemas, hero would come to city, undergo hardship, earn money, keep little for self and money order it back home for parents and to be married off sister. Most cinemas would figure postman as an integral part of any village
  • Revenue stamps **
  • Sending parcels.
  • Registered Post was costly affair and resorted only for valued transactions and official ones
  • Small savings
  • Telegrams (the greatest mode for communicating to far off places).  The thanthi (the message conveyed through wireless) would make one tremble fear as mostly message of death used to be conveyed.  Of course it would also announce the arrival of people and some times intimation of job !!
**  A revenue stamp, tax stamp or fiscal stamp is) adhesive label used to collect taxes or fees on documents.  Looking similar to postal one, it used to generate good revenue for the Govt.    The concept had been introduced during British rule.  All transactions exceeding Rs.20/- used to have a 20 paise revenue stamp attached, which rose to Re.1/- after many years.  After centuries, the schedule I to the Indian Stamp Act 1899 was amended effective Sept 2004 which waived affixing stamp to receipts less than Rs.5000/- value.

The filling up of a money order form was an art and there would some with very good handwriting helping people in filling up forms or even sending letters.  The Post office would also provide the gum for affixing stamps and closing the covers..  every morning they would keep the instant made gum which would be utilised by hundreds frequenting Post office.

There would Post boxes in important streets from which postmen would collect letters at a periodicity which extended to 4 / 5 times a day.  Letters posted at Post office would be cleared immediately. Besides there used to be mobile collection centres – known as mails, which would speed past in the road.  One such Express Mail service van used to collect letters from all public at Marina Radio beach (where !!!).

The pristine building housing Post Office became dilapidated and was neglected.  Post Office had to be shifted – for some time operated from Triplicane PO premises and then  came to  Hanumantharayan Kovil street
near Sri Parthasarathi Swami temple tank to a older premise.  The services were  skeletal at this place. 

The building now remains an eye sore with tons of garbage lying in front and remains a curse to the residents.  There are Educational institutions nearby but the waste keeps accumulating with stray cattle around all the time endangering the school children and old people. 

Yes the utility of postal services has diminished but there cannot be denial of the fact that till a few decades ago, it was one of the most sought after premium services. 

There could be hundreds of post offices but to those residents of Triplicane – the building that housed Thiruvallikkeni Thapal Nilayam is a monument and many would have green stories kindling nostalgia.

In all probably this would get razed in a few more days and this photo does bring out some remorseful feeling.

A Thiruvallikkeni loving  resident
S. Sampathkumar


  1. One such Express Mail service van used to collect letters from all public at Marina Radio beach (where !!!).

    i think it was in front of the erstwhile Buhari restaurant, opposite Presidency college.

    Revenue stamps was once a precious item, when the transaction limit was Rs.20. Many a times the revenue stamp would not be available and irate customers blamed the postmaster and wrote in the newspapers. In fact, reveneue stamps are supplied by the State Governments, unlike other postal stamps and the post office only distributes them.

    'Parthasarathy Koil' post office is one of the very few post offices with a temple name, as normally the post office is named after the locality.


  2. Dear Kannan

    Thanks. As far as my memory goes, the Mail van used to be stationed near the famous Radio beach which we know but not the next generation.

    Those days Post Master was a great post and in general Public servants commanded lot of respect everywhere.

    At Post Office helping some unknown person by filling up a MO form or by writing a letter was a good gesture. There would be lot of jokes in all magazines of people removing the pen cap and lending the pen, for the fear of not getting it back.

    As you sau, Parthasarathy Koil PO should be unique. After the closure of this building it functioned from Triplicane High Road premises for a while; then came to Hanumantharayan Koil street in a not so comfotable premises. Understand that it would function from the new premises owned by the Temple in Car Street.

    Regards - Sampathkumar

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  7. when is the Post office - Sri Parthasarathi Swami koil PO going to come at Triplicane agaoin... we earlier were informed that it would come up in Temple premises in Car Street... how and why this has not happened till date ?

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