Postcards from Hikkim

| Updated on July 15, 2020

The post office in Spiti Valley’s Hikkim village — said to be among the highest in the world — is a bridge between two realms

Selfies, Instagram posts and Facebook lives have robbed travel postcards of the place they once enjoyed in our lives. Hikkim post office in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, has managed to retain the ritual that now seems to belong to another era. At 14,567 ft, one of the world’s highest post offices still receives a good number of postcards that tourists and trekkers want to send home. For the 160-odd residents of Hikkim village, which is about 16 km from the town of Kaza, the postal service is a lifeline.

The monks from the local Komic monastery depend on the post office to receive passports for overseas pilgrimage. Farmers in Hikkim and the neighbouring villages operate their savings accounts here. Above all, the post office, established in November 1983, is a bridge between Hikkim and the outside world, given the village has poor mobile and internet connectivity.

Hikkim has had only one postmaster till date: Rinchen Tshering. He was one of three candidates shortlisted for the position, recalls the 56-year-old. “I’d dropped out of school after completing Std VII; the other two hadn’t gone beyond Std VI,” Tshering says. Apart from salary, the department of post also pays his rent — which has gone up from ₹40 to ₹200 in 35 years.

The camera-shy Tshering now has an able assistant in Tandrup Dorjee. Every alternate day, the 25-year-old postman makes the arduous 40-km round-trip across high mountain passes on foot to deliver mail to Kaza, the district headquarters. The outgoing letters and parcels are taken to Reckong Peo in Kinnaur district by bus and finally to Shimla.

According to Dorjee, the Hikkim post office sends out about 500 letters and postcards during the six months it operates every year. Winters are long and harsh in Spiti, paralysing standard services in the region.

Tanmoy Bhaduri is a Kolkata-based independent journalist. He focuses on social, cultural and environmental issues

Published on July 15, 2020

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