By DEBASHREE CHAKRABORTY
HIKKIM, 1 JULY 2022
102 year old Dattatraya Vakharia aka Amitabh Bachchan wished to post a letter for his 75 year old son Babul Vakharia aka Rishi Kapoor from the world’s highest post office in the Bollywood movie 102 NOT OUT released in 2018.
First it was the Big B released film and then now India Posts newest endeavour has further popularised and generated tremendous enthusiasm amongst the travellers particularly the adventure tourists to visit the Hikkim Branch Post office.
To further attract the tourists at the world’s highest post office, situated at about 14,456 feet above the sea level in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, recently India Posts has set up a new building which looks like its iconic red coloured letter box.
The journey of the world’s highest post office began in a mud house in 1983 in Hikkim village under the Lahaul- Spiti district.The high altitude post office has also attracted the Governor of Himachal Pradesh recently.
Posting selfie photographs and letters from this post office has been the biggest attraction of the several thousands of tourists who visit Hikkim every year since its opening.
“ This post office is the centre of attraction and tourists from around the globe visit here to send letters to their near and dear ones after this new upgradation it will boost further tourism here and India Posts feels proud of the Hikkim Post Office,”says Vandita Kaul, Chief Post Master General (CPMG) , Himachal Circle, India Posts after inaugurating the red coloured letter box shaped post office building.
Out of the total 1.5 lakhs post offices spread in the country, the Hikkim Post office with pin code number 172114 is most unique. This post office covers a group of seven nearby villages and few official quarters. Locals have savings accounts here and also deposits and withdraws money.
Here the postman travels 46 kilometres a difficult distance by foot to ferry the mails loaded in bags to the post office at the nearest town of Kaza. The post office remains open for six months of the year and remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall.
Since its opening in 1983, local villager, Rinchen Cheering has been working as the post master. The day here begins with sunny in the morning, then gradually changes to cloudy in the afternoon and lastly to bone chilling evening.
Most of the people living here are Budhists. People use stones and wood to build their homes. Nestled around the snow clapped himalayas, criss-crossing rivers, treacherous passes, cold desert background, high altitude, clean air and roads, this place looks like a paradise on earth.
As the younger generations move away constantly in search of a better living to the cities, for the remaining few , the Hikkim postal network is the sole link with the outer world. Even the mobile networks also do not work properly here.
Hikkim also boasts the world’s second highest polling station, next only to Tashigang (15256 feet), which is also located in the same district of Lahaul- Spiti district. The nearby attractions are Tangyud Monastery, Korzok Monastery etc. In this era of 5G, social media and electronic mail, the letter posting has dropped by around 50 percent in digital India since the past few years, but Hikkim Post Office is still going strong in Incredible India 2.O.
Here besides letters, souvenirs are also being sold to the tourists. Many tourists write letters from both inside and outside the post office and later post their mails to mark the memorable journey at the world’s highest altitude post office at least once in his or her lifetime.
To reach Hikkim through Kaza , tourists have to either go via Shimla or Manali. From Manali a bus ride will take one day and from Shimla it will take two days.
To reach by rail or air Chandigarh is the best option. Chandigarh has the biggest airport and railway station in the nearest location.
Things to do : located far away from the madding crowd, the tourists here can take photographs, gaze at stars at night and post a letter.
There is a homestay available near the post office which offers delicious local food at reasonable rates. In the nearby cafe , tea and snacks are available. Nearest ATM is in Kaza. Shoppers can also shop at the local Kaza market during the summer months.
Tourists can visit Hikkim between April to October, but the best months to visit are May and June, but at that time tourists also need to wear woolen jackets and sweaters. Due to snowfall Hikkim is cut off from the rest of the world in winter and temperature falls to about minus 25 degree Celsius.