It’s true that the art of writing letters has almost come to an end with our previous generations. Why write letters, procure a stamp, seal it in an envelope, and wait for days before you get a reply when you can just shoot an email or an instant message via the internet? The postal service is almost an alien concept to the youth of today. However, what do we do when we need to send important hard copies of documents to another place? Or say, a sentimental object that you left behind at home and want to have with you in your hostel room? That’s when we spend a hefty sum of money hiring private companies to do the delivery or stand in long queues outside the postal office waiting for our turns. But I have good news for all the citizens of the city of joy — all of this is a thing of the past and India Post has come up with an ingenious surprise.
In the bustling heart of Central Kolkata's Esplanade, a remarkable gem has emerged, redefining the traditional concept of a post office. Siuli, the first-ever post-office cafe in India, stands proudly within the historic walls of the General Post Office (GPO), offering a one-of-a-kind experience that seamlessly merges history, hospitality, and convenience. The brainchild of an innovative idea born out of a brainstorming session, Siuli represents a captivating trend of combining different services and functions into a single space, much like cafes within bookstores or coworking spaces. The inspiration for Siuli came from a desire to revitalize the parcel business while celebrating the rich heritage of the GPO, and thus, Siuli was born.
J. Charukesi, Chief Post Master General, West Bengal, at the launch of the cafe
Stepping inside Siuli, visitors are immediately greeted by an ambiance that exudes elegance and nostalgia. The majestic GPO structure, designed by Walter B. Grenville in 1864, captivates with its towering Ionic-Corinthian pillars, high domed roof, and iconic white clock. Inside, the tastefully decorated cafe space transports guests to a bygone era, featuring brightly colored wooden furniture and comfortable sofas that offer ample seating for around 34 people. The attention to detail is striking, as Siuli pays homage to its postal roots with a thoughtful postal-themed interior.
However, Siuli is not merely a visual feast; it tantalizes the taste buds with its culinary offerings. The cafe, run by the in-house catering department, presents a menu that caters to various palates. Whether indulging in a hearty breakfast, savoring a delectable lunch, or enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee, Siuli ensures that each culinary experience is accompanied by a touch of postal history. To complement the gastronomic delights, visitors can explore a range of philatelic exhibits, including mugs, coasters, cushions, and brass plates adorned with prints of appropriate stamps—a perfect way to carry a piece of Siuli's charm beyond the cafe walls.
What sets Siuli apart from typical cafes is the seamless integration of postal services within the cafe's inviting ambiance. While relishing their meal or a steaming cup of coffee, visitors can conveniently access the parcel counter to send their packages. As an added convenience, Siuli offers same-day delivery for parcels posted before noon within the jurisdiction of the GPO, which currently includes six post offices — Esplanade, Park Street, Alipore, Burrabazar, and Dum Dum, and the areas adjacent to the post offices. There is also a mobile parcel booking van that is included in the service. This innovative approach eliminates the need to rely on external courier services and allows customers to enjoy the dual pleasure of culinary delights and efficient postal services in a single visit.
Siuli not only caters to the practical needs of its visitors but also provides a platform for community engagement. The cafe serves as a meeting point for discussions, official meets, and adda sessions—an essential part of Kolkata's vibrant culture. Its beamed architecture, vintage chandeliers, and antique artifacts, including century-old weighing machines, create an atmosphere that fosters conversations and connections. As visitors enjoy their refreshments, they can immerse themselves in the captivating history surrounding them, leaf through books and newspapers, and perhaps even discover a new fascination for philately.
To truly capture the essence of Siuli, one must experience it firsthand. The unique blend of history, culinary delights, and postal services awaits those seeking a memorable rendezvous with Kolkata's heritage. So, step into Siuli, savor the flavors, bask in the nostalgia, and let the cafe transport you to a time where letters and parcels were treasured means of connection. Siuli invites you to indulge in its warm embrace, making it an experience that is both unforgettable and quintessentially Kolkata.
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