As students, we all received money order in our hostels from our parents, but in 1978, when I received my first from a magazine, “Sun”, which had rated my letter to it as best in a contest, I was on cloud nine, even though the prize was just a fiver.
Money order, now 135 and about to die, then infused energy, hope and gleefulness in the recipient, as it had since its launch circa 1880. The telegram invoked apprehension and curiosity, and a postal order was for official transactions mainly, but a money order was personal, awaited, mostly a happy thing, except when the sum was below expectation.
It was for small money transfer, mainstay of the middle-class obtainment. Soldiers, or the people working far from home, sent money home by this method. Sometimes when the recipient was unavailable, the postman left a message with a neighbour or a friend to collect the money from the post office. There used to be no strict proof required of the recipient’s identity. It was confirmed based on trust, signatures, thumb impressions, or anybody’s witness. The postman disbursing the money orders carried the blue-ink stamp pad with him.
Come festival season and ‘shagun’ money or small cash as gift would come in through money order. Around Diwali and Rakshabandhan, married women in the family would expect the postman, and if the amount was big, he would get a ‘bakshish’ (a tip). In a way, the money order strengthened social and familial ties, besides the bonds of friendship. Money talked. More often than not, we as students would borrow money from friends and assure them that we’d repay it once we got our money orders from home.
The plots of many Bollywood films highlighted the importance of the receipt, or otherwise, of a money order, in many an emotional way. It was a longish card, formatted in a way that the sender and the recipient could read each other’s handwriting, too; since the address and the receiver’s message also would be there. A small space of about an-inch-into-five was spared for short messages to be put at the end. And if the money order could not be delivered, it was sent back to the sender in due course. Rest in peace joy-bundle money order!