Inside Dal Lake, floating post office an attraction for visitors

File Photo
File Photo

Between Ghat No 14 and 15, a houseboat is anchored to banks of Dal Lake. A unique structure in itself, the houseboat has been serving as post office for more than two centuries. Perhaps, it is the only floating post office of the world.

From the Boulevard walkway, small wooden ladder leads intothe post office, named as 'Floating Post Office'. A cabin studded withKhatambhand or lattice wooden art work, with large size portrait of Kashmir'sromantic poet Mehjoor, tucked in the middle of computers and lockers, forms theoffice.

Besides Shikaras floating in the lake, with majesticZabarwan mountain range in the background, a light drizzle makes atmospheremesmerizing. This short documentary is played for visitors on a giant screen toacquaint them about uniqueness of the post office.

"It is a heritage of over 200 years. It was started byBritishers. Earlier, small boat used to move from houseboat to houseboatdelivering dispatches and collecting deposits inside the Dal. Now, we have thisofficer here," said Farooq Ahmad Khan, an official of postal servicesdepartment, who has been posted at the place since 2012, a year after thedepartment changed its name from Nehru Park Post Office to Floating PostOffice.   

The heritage post office, which has successfully survivedchequered history of Kashmir, was given a facelift in 2011 by the department.The office has two cabins, one serving as office and another one as museum witha collection of rare philately stamps at display. Closed for visitors from pasttwo years the museum is a prized heritage held by the postal servicesdepartment which has nine head offices and 261 sub offices in Kashmir. 

Khan explains that though the office was not generating muchof revenue for the department, but it is serving as an added attraction forvisitors to the Lake.

"The department pays Rs 30,000 rent a month for thehouseboat. Though we aren't able to earn much profit, visitor attraction is ourpriority. Besides, we have kept philately stamps, special envelopes, books onKashmir, on display which are provided to visitors at nominal charges," saidKhan. 

On a busy day, Khan said they find it hard to manage rush ofvisitors impatiently wanting to have an inside view of the post office. "Weallow them in ones and twos. Otherwise, the boat could capsize," chuckles Khan.

Around 6000 people living inside the Lake have also investedin different schemes offered by the post office. "They show interest in ourfixed deposit, monthly recurring deposits and other schemes," said Khan, asbespectacled woman enters the office to deposit monthly installment for ascheme she has invested in.

There is also a visitor's book kept by the department forvisitors to note down their impressions about the place, on it. "Seeing isbelieving. Great to see the floating post office. I am sure that it must behelping the people…" Vishwajeet Kumar, Director CSO, Government of India haswritten.

Khan claims the department is mulling to revamp the postoffice and its upper terrace, lying in rickety condition.

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