I had bucked a bag around India for two and a half months. The bag was more a weighted weapon than traveler's luggage. Days ago I boarded a bus and a man elevated my pack for me. He fell on his back from the weight of it. I needed to send a package home.
Indian post offices make as much sense as the Kardashian sisters' fame. The offices are not equipped with boxes, tape, or pens. They accept packages only at certain times and often don't have electricity. Weeks ago I had overheard an exchange between two travelers, I was a latecomer to the conversation, and asked if they were talking about jail conditions.
"What are you on about? No, not jail, Indian post offices," a Brit had replied, smile lines creasing the corners of his eyes.
The presents I had accumulated for people added rhinoceros weight to my luggage. Shawls, jewelry, journals, elephants, scarves, white marble, silver tea strainers, sequined clothes, Tibetan music, yak wool socks, and a gluttony of Indian marvels combined in a formidable force of florid weight. I had more present weight than Santa Clause.
I located a box and walked to the post office. I was told that though I did have a box, a tailor would have to prepare it for me. The Indian government is apparently under the impression that packages can only be sent in beige, sewn coverings with child marker writing. Boxes, tape, and paper sender's forms do not exist. A Looney Tune cartoon package is wrapped more efficiently than one through the Indian post.
I went to a tailor. Two tailors taped the box shut and covered it in plastic wrap and tape. They sewed a beige pillowcase and shoved it around the box. A seamstress stitched two of the sides with string large enough to accommodate blind people.
Instead of tying knots at the ends of the string like someone with six-year-old sewing abilities, Seamstress burnt a tampon-sized slab of red wax, dripped the wax onto the untied ends of the stitching, and compressed it with a handheld metal presser. This was as logical as the swine flu.
What had started as a box now paralleled a boxed pillow.
"Is it ready to send now?" I inquired, as I surmised the only further possible alteration would be to sprinkle fairy dust on top.
"No, you need to write the addresses."
When I requested a pen, the tailors said no. When I asked if the post office down the street had a pen, they said no. I purchased a pen and wrote my mom’s address on the plastic-covered and taped box bordered in beige cloth and red wax.
"Now is it ready to send?" I asked with the patience of New York.
"Ready? No. you need your address on the box."
"I'm homeless and traveling around India. I definitely don't have an address."
"You need Indian return address."
"I don't have an Indian address! I'm just traveling," I informed them with the whine of a spoiled seven-year-old.
I used the tailor's address.
"Is it ready yet?"
"The post office only accepts packages from nine in the morning until one. Today is three o'clock."
"The post office doesn't just accept packages and hold them until they're picked up?" I asked with the confusion of a frog towards it's sexuality.
"No. Only nine to one."
Clearly arguing would have been as effective as an ostrich's wings.
"Okay. So I'll drop this off at the post office tomorrow morning at nine."
"Tomorrow the post office is closed. Go the next day."