Kashmir has world’s only floating post office on Dal lake

Kashmir is famous for its natural beauty. The snow capped peaks and the pleasant Dal Lake have been often written about and picturised in many films. But what is not very widely known is that Kashmir also has the world’s only floating Post Office. The unusual post office is said to be in existence from the days of the British Raj. In 2011 the post office was refurbished and a museum section was added before being formally relaunched.

The surprising thing is that it still continues to function as it had earlier. It still sends out postmen on boats to deliver letters to those living in the house-boats on Dal Lake. Although the delivery of letters by boat is not so unusual since there are other places in the world where this is done, no other place has a fully functional post office which is located on the water.

For example, one place where letters are delivered via boat is at Geneva Lake in Wisconsin (USA), wherein the postman or woman has to jump off a steamer boat onto the dock, exchange the outgoing and incoming letters within a delivery box and jump back into the steamer as it moves away. The steamer never comes to a halt at any time during this procedure. This act of speed and agility on the part of the postman itself is a tourist attraction and people throng to watch this unusual deed.

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But to get back to Kashmir, the post office here operates from an attractively carved house boat stationed near the banks of the lake. During the tourist season, the work of the officials becomes more difficult. Not only because there are more letters to be delivered but also because many tourists clamber aboard the floating post office to take selfies.

Many tourists also prefer to send letters and postcards to their relatives back home because of the novelty of posting them from this unique post office. Therefore, even in this age of emails, SMS and WhatsApp messages, the workload of the employees of this post office has not reduced. If anything, it has increased.

A postman by the name of Ismail who has been working for the floating post office for more than a decade told Zee news recently that he delivers between 100 to 150 letters every day. There is a CRPF post on the lake and many letters have to be delivered to this outpost every day. It takes Ismail six hours to complete his daily round by rowing his boat. But he doesn’t mind the hard work because he likes the fresh air and the natural surroundings of the lake he says.

While the floating post office provides all the services that are usually available in all other post offices, what makes it slightly different is that the floating PO has its own special seal. All letters that pass through this post office are stamped with the special seal. It depicts a houseboat on Dal Lake. That itself makes the cover something of a souvenir. The receiver will instantly know from where the letter has been posted.

For many local people who inhabit the nearby localities surrounding Dal Lake, the post office serves many other purposes too. For them it is a place to carry out financial transactions and invest in small savings schemes.

But a floating post office can have its own drawbacks as well as being a novelty. While the location is scenic and attractive, the weather can play spoilsport. In 2014 heavy flooding occurred following which a section of the museum was damaged. The boat had to be anchored away from its normal moorings and was brought back only after the flood waters had receded.

While on the subject of post offices, it must also be mentioned that India has another post office which is unique in the world. This one is located in a village called Hikkim in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. The office lies at an altitude of 14,567 feet above mean sea level and is considered to be one of the highest altitude post offices in the world. Only China operates a post office at the Mount Everest base camp which is at a height of 16,900 feet above mean sea level, but it does not function throughout the year.

We Indians travel to all corners of the globe to see many marvelous sights but there are equally wonderful things in India which many of us have not seen and perhaps do not even know about. With our rich cultural heritage and our diversity, there are many places to explore and many things to see and experience right here in India.

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