By Indu Balachandran/Reader’s Digest
It was the mid ’80s. My two children aged 6 and 2, were dismayed they couldn’t have a puppy in our Chennai home, so they always looked forward to their holidays in Calcutta with their aunt, who had an adorable pet. My niece’s pomeranian had a unique name: Lattu Singh Taxiwala. ‘Lattu’ came from a ‘spinning top’—as the pup often spun around comically on the polished floor. But the expansion was inspired by a popular Doordarshan serial, called Ladoo Singh Taxiwala; which ’80s children loved watching.
After a glorious holiday in Calcutta playing with Lattu Singh, my children returned to Madras, missing the beloved dog. One afternoon, I found my daughter Kadambari secretly composing a letter to Lattu Singh. Curious to see what she was writing, I peeked over her shoulder, offering to post her letter. But she refused; reminding me, it was bad manners to read other people’s letters! So it was with great disappointment that I heard she’d sealed it, and posted it herself at the post-box across our street. “What about the address?” I asked in dismay. “Oh I wrote where Lattu lives … ,” she replied, and skipped away.
Later, during a phone call to my sister-in-law Meera in Calcutta—we laughed over this incident, wondering what could’ve been in this lost love letter, with neither a correct address nor a stamp …
About two months later, Meera excitedly called—a bright yellow envelope had indeed arrived for their dog, and she was going to read it out! In absolute shock, I listened to a loving mail to “My Dear Lattu Sing …” and amidst much laughter she also read out the impossible address my daughter had pencilled on the cover: “To Lattu sing taxiwala, near to big dakurya brij, Calcatta.”
And the letter had reached!
With complete disbelief, I heard what had happened. A somewhat irritated postman had rung the bell, holding a letter; and as there was no 50 paisa postage stamp, they had to pay a fine ten times the amount due. Meera realized this was the letter I had mentioned to her. But, how on earth did the postman figure out where to deliver it?
The letter had sat around for weeks at the Calcutta GPO, when a diligent postman chanced upon the envelope with a strange address. But he had it all figured out—he knew of a taxi-service near Dhakuriya Bridge in South Calcutta; so this letter for Lattu Singh ‘near to the big dakuria brij’ must be for one of the Sardarji taxi-drivers there! And so our good postman cycled to the taxi-stand. “A letter for Mr Lattu Singh Taxiwala—and he has to pay a fine!”
The Sardar in the taxi-stand looked mystified. “Lattu Singh? Woh toh ek kutta hai!” (But that is a dog!). And pointed to a building close by. A testimony to Lattu’s fame in the neighbourhood!
The postman trudged on, landed at the right flat and rang the bell. And that is how Lattu Singh Taxiwala got his mail! A letter of great affection from a 6-year-old, with a plan to get him to Madras soon … which was dutifully read out to him (and later to me) by my astonished sister-in-law.
While we’ve exclaimed for years with wonder over this story, the complete nonchalance of my daughter still amuses me. I told her in breathless excitement as she returned from school, “Your letter reached Lattu Singh in Calcutta! Meera Aunty read it out to him …” She nodded matter-of-factly, with an abiding faith in our postal system that only a child could have. Her only concern: “Okay. But Meera Aunty shouldn’t tell you what I wrote. It’s a secret.”
(The featured picture at the top shows Lattu Singh with Kadambari, Kanishka and Priya in fancy dress)