Roads named after celebrated social and political personalities are common. Every city in the country has an MG road, named after the Mahatma, a Nehru road, a Tagore road and the like. It is the norm and rightly so. But a road named after a postman is quite the exception. Postman Chacko road in Thoppumpady in West Kochi is perhaps the only road in the State to be named after a postman.
But then there was a time, not so much in the distant past, when the postman was like an extended family member. People waited longingly and lovingly for his arrival.
Besides the letter or postcard, the telegram or the money order that he brought, he also gave a round-up of the area. There had been a birth, a death, a famine, a political meeting, rain and the like.
Postman P.M. Chacko was one such person. He became a part and parcel of the lives of the people of his area, knocking on their doors not just with a letter, but with help and guidance too. He became more than just another postman. In 2004, the Corporation of Cochin decided to honour his contributions by naming a road after him.
Who was P.M. Chacko and what made him so distinctive?
Eighty four-year-old K. M. John, a tally clerk at Cochin Port, remembers Chacko lucidly. He talks about the pre-Independence times when the Cochin Rajas’s postal service called anchal service existed simultaneously with the British postal service. Chacko worked for the British post and was called “runner”. “Nobody would see him walk for he used to always run to deliver mail. He would easily run 40 to 50 km in a day, his field of work extending from Chirakal in the South to Karuvelipady in the North, areas in West Kochi. He covered distances up to Edakochi , Mattancherry and Chellanam.”
The practice followed then was to clear mail twice a day, at 10 a.m. and at 3 p.m. In between Chacko would help in social activities. In 1948 when the All India Post and Telegraph Union were being formed, Chacko engaged himself in organising that.
“There were no modern public address facilities. He would speak through a funnel and hold a public meeting,” says John, adding that Chacko was a theatre man and loved drama. “His family was from Cherthala and as a 14-year-old, Chacko had got involved in freedom fighting activities for which he was to be arrested. It was then that his brother Joseph, a postman, brought him to Cochin and enrolled him in the service.”
John recounts another incident. “The Palluruthy post office under British Cochin was moved inside the premises of the fishing harbour in Thoppumpady. Chacko came in contact with a seasoned postman, Syed Mohammed who was active in forming a union. Chacko began assisting Syed. He soon got promoted from a runner to a postman but his activities were mistaken as political and he was assaulted. Though Chacko had patriotic leanings he was driven by a sense of duty. He was in fact torn between duty and the country.”
Others from the area remember him as affable and helpful.
Suresh Rao, proprietor of Vasant Mahal Hotel and Lodge, a centre of political activities of yore, remembers him for his punctuality. “We knew it was 11 o’clock when we heard the mail land on our office table,” says Suresh. “Chacko was a workaholic, a duty-bound man in khaki uniform. He was not very tall, wore very thick reading glasses and had a stern expression.” He was service-oriented, says 85-year-old Abraham Puthussery, a well known social activist from the area. His sense of service was keenly talked about even then.
Love for children
A. M. Jacob, a colleague who worked with Chacko in the sixties, remembers him for delivering every single mail unfailingly to the right address. “He never had ‘no returns’. He knew each and every address.”
Jose Thampi, his son, who runs a Cybercafe in Thoppumpady, smiles about this distinction of his father. “Even today the police seek us out in case of any confusion in address. He has left that impression.”
But something about Chacko that really touched the lives of the people was his love for children and his concern for them, as his very own.
Jose recalls that his father would be very watchful about every child and about them attending school. “He would scold shabbily dressed children, as if they were all his own and he was responsible for their welfare.”
When his father passed away in 1987 at the age of 71, the people of Mundamveli where Chacko worked for a long time opened their doors to his family. “We are welcome in their homes anytime,” says Jose with pride.
“There was an all round sense of loss among the people of the area when Chacko died. It was as if some one of our own had passed away,” says Sudhir Master from Palluruthy, who proposed naming the road on which Chacko lived to be after him. K. J. Maxy the councillor then recalls, “When this proposal came up at the division committee meet everyone felt that Chacko’s contributions to the people here were significant and that he was loved and respected. It would be only right to name a road after a person whose sense of duty and brotherhood can be emulated by coming generations.”
And so as most roads are named after our tall leaders there’s this one named after an ordinary postman who left an impression in the hearts and lives of the people of his area.