‘Desi’ Angadias, ‘Angrez’ Couriers

courier2A rose by any other name, Shakespeare said, would smell as sweet, implying that there was nothing in a name. The Bard, nearly 500 years ago, could not have known that a name is all that matters in India. A Indian-language name is scorned and an English name applauded, even if the product or service is much worse.
Those who did business in Western India a few decades ago cannot be unaware of angadias. An angadia in a Gujarat town or in Mumbai (then Bombay) could be entrusted with huge amounts of money, gold or diamonds to be delivered in another town and would faithfully do so within 24 hours. The angadias would not load the material into a truck, train or plane but personally take it. The money would be delivered by hand following a message passed on to an associate – in the days before STD, when a booked ‘trunk call’ was costlhy and took hours to materialise.
It is said several crores of rupees used to be transferrered thus daily, mostly between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Any amount, jewellery or diamonds handed over to anangadia was presumed to have been received. Angadias were reputed to have risked their lives and travelled thousadns of miles every month to execute the job. Hundreds of train or even air tickets were booked for them on almost every day of the month.

A Pune newspaper which did a feature on angadias in 2013 was flooded with responses, asking how to get a job with an angadia or start such a business. The respondents included senior bank managers who took voluntary retirement.
The institution grew so strong that Angadia became a surname in Gujarat’s Kathiawad region. The unorganised, unofficial transfer route was popular with traders not only because the money was mostly unaccounted (read ‘black’) but also for its reliability, in sharp contrast with what is now derisively called the ‘snail mail’ – the Postal Department (then called P&T – Post and Telegraph). Continue reading ‘Desi’ Angadias, ‘Angrez’ Couriers