Every day, Coonoor’s postman traveled 15 kilometers to deliver letters.

The postman may not be saving lives, but it doesn’t make him any less of a hero. To deliver messages, he has scaled steep, rocky terrains, crossed pitch-black tunnels and perilous railway tracks, and battled ferocious bears and gaurs. D Sivan, a postman in Coonoor, has been trekking 15 kilometers every day for more than a decade to reach posts in some of Tamil Nadu’s most distant communities.

In 1985, Sivan began working for the Indian Postal Services as a stamp collector in Wellington, in the Nilgiri area. He left his desk position nearly 25 years later and was promoted and transferred to the Hillgrove post office. After 35 years of service, the 66-year-old postman retired in March.

Last month, a beautiful short was uploaded on YouTube that respects his bravery and adventure. Thabalkaran, which means “postman” in Tamil, is a six-minute documentary that follows Sivan on his daily journey through the mist-shrouded Nilgiris, which are crisscrossed by flowing streams. The pathways vary, some lovely, some hazardous, but he keeps going, his prized satchel inscribed across his shoulder with “D Sivan, the postman.” “Despite man’s technological advancement, postal services have endured over these years,” he adds in the clip.

Bengaluru-based directors Arjun Davis, 28, Anand Rama Krishnan, 28, and Arjun Krishna, 26, shot the documentary. Sivan was working on another project when the three friends ran into him at Coonoor’s Hillgrove Station. They decided to return and tell his narrative since they were fascinated by his journey.

The documentary brings the hill station in Tamil Nadu to life, from the views to the noises. The trio captured some magnificent drone images with the help of their friend Balamurugan Kumar. Siddharth Sadasiv, a sound engineer, brought the chirping of birds, a rustling of foliage, and the gurgling of streams to life. To make you feel like you were there, he used binaural mixing, a recording technique that uses two microphones to produce a 3-D stereo sound experience.

Sivan transported letters to locations that BlueDart and other firms couldn’t reach. He began his day at 8.30 a.m., collecting notes and goods from the RS Post Office in Coonoor, about 10 kilometers from Hillgrove. Before reaching Vadugan Thottam to deliver the letter, he traveled 6 kilometers through forest land and tea plantations, then 40 minutes along the Nilgiri mountain railway train track and two kilometers through dark tunnels. He didn’t return till 6.30 p.m. He braved more than simply tracks and tunnels. “Animals continue to hang around in the woods. That is not a concern of mine. They go through their motions.  This property is theirs, and we are the ones who are infringing on it, “Sivan explains.

He once came across a herd of elephants while on a hike. When Sivan hid behind a tree, a mother elephant charged towards him. A truck driver spotted him and honked at the elephant, saving him. However, the animals have begun to recognize him. According to Krishna, they’ve reached a point where they nod at each other. It was never just a letter to Sivan; it was more. “A letter or a post might carry a positive or negative message. People like us deliver these messages to them in either case.”

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