65-year-old D Sivan, calls himself an ordinary man living a simple life. Until about a month ago, the Coonoor resident and former postmaster would follow a routine that remained unchanged for 35 years. At 10 AM, he would begin the journey to the Hillgrove Post Office, his workplace, which is approximately 10 kilometers from Coonoor.
While he would ride on a local bus for the first 4 kilometers, he covered the rest of the distance on foot, walking through several tea estates, and finally reach his destination at noon.
But, reaching the post office, was only the beginning of his arduous journey, because it is only after collecting the mail bag that the actual work began.
Crossing deep rivers, dense forests and braving various obstacles like wild animals and unpredictable weather conditions, Sivan travelled on foot along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway track, to deliver mail and pension to plantation workers and villagers.
“The lives of these plantation workers depend on pensions, and was my responsibility to make sure they get them in time — I am an ordinary man, but my job helped to make life easier for people living in difficult conditions, and I took that seriously,” says the recently retired postmaster, who is now being hailed a hero of sorts on the internet, for his unwavering sense of duty and dedication to his work.
The Postmaster Who Overcome Several Odds to do His Duty
Born and brought up near Coonoor, Sivan started working with the postal department as a stamp vendor, in 1985. After 25 years of service as a stamp vendor in the Wellington post office, he was posted as the Gramin Dak Sevak – Mail Deliverer (GDS-MD) at the Hillgrove Branch Post Office.
That was the beginning of his extraordinary journey of providing a basic service to hundreds of villagers in the area.
Elaborating upon the treacherous route he travelled everyday, Sivan says, “After reaching the Hillgrove office, I would walk to the Hillgrove Mountain Railway station. Right next to the station, is a tunnel that I would follow for almost 40 mins, until reaching the first village with 20 tribal families. The next one, KNR nagar, would then be a 30-minute walk away. The final village in the route would be Kurumbadi, and after delivering money orders and letters , I would take a bus back to my office in Coonoor. Along the way, I would meet several people from these villages and they would often share their refreshments with me. Over the years, they became like family — it was their love and kindness which motivated me to do my work everyday, without taking a single day off.”
Most of the areas spanning almost 15 kilometers surrounded by forest settlements near Singara and Marapallam, are far from main roads with modes of transport and so traveling by foot was the only option for Sivan. “I couldn’t afford to get any other mode of transport, plus my own two feet are the most reliable,” he laughs.
These villages are very remote, surrounded by hills, waterfalls and deep forests that are populated with wild animals like elephants, wild boars, bisons, sloth bears, and snakes. “A couple of times half way through the tunnel, I would come across a group of wild elephants blocking the other end. Sometimes, they would even chase me, and I would somehow manage to return back to the railway station, and take another route,” he laughs.
When I ask Sivan to recall a memorable moment from all those years of service, he says , “There was a man to whom I would deliver pension every month, but after some time he shifted to Coimbatore and fell seriously ill. I knew that he would be in dire need of money, so I asked around and found my way to the hospital he was admitted to, and delivered his pension to him. The trip might have cost my money from my own pocket, but it was worth it because it made me realise the importance of this service.”
Sivan has raised two children, a daughter and a son and supported a family of four on a salary of Rs 12,000. He retired on March 7, “with a heavy heart but a satisfied soul.”
“My daughter works in Tanjore and my son is a communication trainer in an engineering college in Coimbatore. They make me happy and now this life of retirement, with more peace and quiet is what I am looking forward to,” says the former postmaster who went viral on social media after Supriya Sahu, an IAS officer, shared a post on Twitter commemorating his work and retirement.
Postman D. Sivan walked 15 kms everyday through thick forests to deliver mail in inaccessible areas in Coonoor.Chased by wild elephants,bears, gaurs,crossing slippery streams&waterfalls he did his duty with utmost dedication for 30 years till he retired last week-Dinamalar,Hindu pic.twitter.com/YY1fIoB2jj
— Supriya Sahu IAS (@supriyasahuias) July 8, 2020
Following this, netizens from all across the country flocked to congratulate him and applaud his dedication towards this service.
His son, S Balamurugan feels extremely grateful for the support his father has received online.
“Seldom do everyday heroes like my father get their due recognition and I am happy for him, and extremely proud as a son. His work ethic is amazing, and just watching him go about his work was one of the biggest learnings of my life. He never took a single day off or attended any family functions on working days, and taught me that my personal life is my business and that it should never affect another person who is expecting a professional service from me,” says the 38-year-old.
Sivan, meanwhile, accepts the praise with great humility. “My parents would always say, whatever you do, give it your best. And, that’s the mantra I followed all these years and tell my children too. No work is big or small, what matters most is how you execute it. I don’t think I have achieved something extraordinary but am grateful for all the support” he concludes.
His story is a true testimony to the fact that true heroes do not always need capes or extraordinary powers to do good. A good heart and a sense of selfless dedication is what makes any ordinary person truly extraordinary.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)