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About distributing leaflets in mailboxes

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Last month I spent sometime delivering fliers in mailboxes. It was a job that was tougher than I had expected.

I had actually inquired about it back in December (2022). I was alone then and had some time to kill. I did not care so much about the money then and I thought if I got that opportunity, it would be good to take long walks with an added purpose.

I did not get a chance then, but they contacted me last month and gave me a “job”. Initially I was overwhelmed – there were close to 4400 fliers to be delivered across suburbs until 10 kms away from where I live (Asquith, a suburb in upper north shore of Sydney). Since the leaflets were about a section of the Sydney train’s rail network’s closure due to maintenance works, they were targeting the residential areas around the train stations of Berowra, Mount Kuring-gai, Mount Colah, Asquith and Hornsby.

I was skeptical about being able to do it but still accepted the job because I wanted to give it a fair attempt and for the experience. I had the luxury of two weekends (and I could also do it on weekdays of course).

They did provide some guide maps for the areas to cover, though in hindsight, I think, they should have been a bit more detailed than that. Anyway, to maximise the potential of the weekends at hand, I had to do a rough plan to optimise the leaflets distribution.

First I looked at the suburbs that were farthest from where I was (Asquith): Berowra, Mount Kuring-gai and to some extent, Mt Colah. Berowra is almost 10 KMs away.
The suburbs closest to my area were: Mount Colah (north of Asquith), Hornsby (south of Asquith) and of course, areas in Asquith itself.

Then I categorised the areas within the suburb into one of the following categories:

1. Far off – houses (Berowra, Mount Kuring-gai, some parts of Mount Colah)
2. Far off – apartment blocks (Mount Colah)
3. Nearby – houses (Asquith)
4. Nearby – apartment blocks (Asquith, Hornsby)

I first chose Berowra and Mount Kuring-gai as they were far off since I could use my weekend time well there. I covered those areas on the first weekend. I could only give a couple of hours per day, so I chose early mornings for that.

The nearby ones were where I could walk or were a short drive away.

Houses are tricky because you’d probably have to walk around 4-5 meters for every frontyard’s mailbox. That and coupled with the uneven terrain that you get at places like Berowra and Mt Kuring-gai, it wasn’t an easy task. I understood early that I’d have to pick up a street, cover a few around it and then use my car to cover the other parts of the suburbs. So I’d park my car at an intersection of neighbourhood streets and try to maximise the walking radius.

On the other hand, apartments are any leaflet delivery person’s delight. You could spend an hour on streets of independent, stand-alone houses and barely manage finding 100 mailboxes, or you could get lucky and find an apartment building that’d present itself with 120 mailboxes that you’d fill up in 10 minutes. I found out that doing evening runs (ok, walks) on weekdays for high density apartment areas (Hornsby mostly) was more rewarding. Also, I could do them at night as most apartments were at places where there was ample street lighting. To do houses at night was unimaginable.

This was the planning part – however, the effort that went into it, despite the planning painted a less rosy picture. I had to record my walking trails (which was fine because that was the only way for them to know if I had actually walked and not cheated). So here’s all the walking I did and the time taken:

KMs | Time (in minutes)
—- |———————
2.42 | 36
4.16 | 50
3.19 | 43
3.47 | 53
2.88 | 40
1.88 | 23
0.66 | 12
3.54 | 58
0.61 | 17
1.25 | 32
1.79 | 44
0.85 | 29
1.35 | 44
0.21 | 2
3.07 | 51
0.63 | 26
1.57 | 63
5.12 | 79
38.65 | 702

Ultimately I ended up walking about 39 KMs in a total of approximately 12 hours. The total amount I was paid was based on per thousand leaflets ($50 AUD/1000). As it turned out, that walking effort that you see there yielded me $220 AUD. If I simply take a per hour rate based on the time recorded while walking, it comes to around $19 AUD per hour. The national minimum wage rate in Australia is $23 AUD per hour. So, it misses the mark by a huge margin. The other thing such a job does not consider is the sheer amount of physical tiredness one has to endure as a result of the effort (Notice that I maximised my time window to do this work). Also, I have not even counted the time taken to drive to/from the points where I started to walk, nor have I considered the cost of the fuel.

All in all, I don’t think distributing leaflets presents itself as a lucrative way to earn money – especially given the rates that they offer vis-a-vis the physical effort and time it takes. I wrote this up as a way to document my experience hoping that it helps someone understand the effort it takes to do a task that otherwise sounds very attractive and easy.


So much thanks to my friend MI, who pushed me to restart this blog after a long time. I hope, with this, I am able to blog regularly like I used to before.

Written by aditya kumar

July 24th, 2023 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Personal,Sydney

An experiment on a global scale

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ONE of the things that stops me from writing about India is that I feel I am no longer qualified to write about it as much, since I do not live there anymore. But here we are, in the middle of a pandemic and confined into our own homes. And within those four walls, you could be in Mumbai or Sydney, in many ways, it does not matter.

And I do realise, while I say that, my statement reeks of privilege. Back home in India, a country that is now engulfed in a migrant crisis, there are probably thousands of stories, tragedies, such as this.

Slowly, little by little, like the layers of an onion being peeled, we will see many stories unwrapped. With how our governments treat their citizens, how employers treat their employees, how the leaders treat the common-folk and eventually, how human beings treat each other, we will come to know how much of a human we are.

This pandemic will be the greatest experiment being played upon mankind and it will reveal a lot of things that we would have otherwise not known.

Written by aditya kumar

June 4th, 2020 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Personal

Thoughts on Alex Chee’s “How to write an autobiographical novel”

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When I started reading Alex Chee’s “How to write an autobiographical novel” I had no idea what I was getting into. I had never heard of the author. I was browsing through one of the best-of-2018 books section of a website when, under the title, “Books about the life of a writer”, Alex Chee appeared.

Personally, I have always enjoyed essays written by mainstream authors because they give you an insight on what affects them and the situations that shaped them. Amitav Ghosh’s essays are point in case – one such, “The Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi”, detailing about the author’s personal experiences on the day Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated and what happened thereafter, makes compelling reading.

Alexander Chee’s essays though, dwell much deeper and broader. He recounts his days – as an adolescent, as a student, then, as a gay, an HIV/AIDS activist, a waiter, a writer and everything in between. There’s New York, Iowa and there’s the September 11 attacks. Along the way there are questions asked on what it is to be a writer in the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential elections. Between all of this, there’s writing advice – on what shaped him as writer and what it means to be one.

The title of the book hints at a work that sounds preachy though it is anything but. In the guise of a help-book for writers, Alex has laid bare his vulnerabilities and insecurities while looking back, drawing wisdom. He repeatedly refers to his first novel, the critically acclaimed “Edinburgh”, which is actually an autobiographical novel. In his essays, he taps into his formal – and informal education, that made him a writer. For example, working as a waiter, he notes:

“Waiting tables was not just a good living, but also a good education in people. I saw things I never would have imagined, an education in life out past the limits of my own social class. Your imagination needs to be broken in, I think, to become anywhere near as weird as the world.”

Here Alex hints on how the imagination is esentially limited – it is not much beyond the contrasting realities that a person has ever faced in his/her life. Waiting tables was an education, in the sense that he faced realities that broadened his perspective and thus, his imagination.

At Weseleyan University, having Annie Dillard as a mentor greatly affected Alex’s writing. One of the things that she taught her students was to deep dive within themselves to write reflective prose:

“Annie Dillard, in my nonfiction class at Wesleyan, had warned us that writing about the past was like submerging yourself in a diving bell: you took yourself down to the bottom of your own sea. You could get the bends. You had to take care not to let the past self take over, the child with the child’s injuries, the child’s perceptions. “All of us were picked on, growing up,” she said. “Come up before that happens.””

On a personal note, this section of the book had a profound effect on me. Having done some reflective writing myself, I knew exactly what Dillard meant – You need to go into your own personal dark abyss and relive those situations to reflect deep and make prose out of it. The night I read this, I slept thinking about it. That night, I had a very vivid dream – I was back in Pune, India. I found myself looking out on the shores of the Ganesh visarjan ghats in Pune, a place where me and my then-girlfriend (my only heartbreak) used to spend time together. In my dream I was wandering aimlessly, it was dark and I was asking aloud: Do you remember that boy and the girl who used to visit this place in the early dark hours of the morning? Have you seen them lately? Where are they?

I had led myself to the bottom of my own sea.

The latter chapters of the book are also the most intense and bring about serious forthcoming advice for writers. In one of the last chapters of the book, Chee recalls how, after the result of the 2016 presidential elections, a dismayed student asked him what was the point of writing, if such a thing could happen.

The author admits he had no idea what to say. But as evident, he spends a lot of time thinking over finding that answer. There’s so much to that answer that any summary would be an injustice but the crux of it is this – The point of writing is the possibility that it could be read and broaden the limits of the imagination of who reads it.

This is a book that should be in every bookshelf. It is not a book that teaches us how to write. Instead it gives us something far more important – it teaches us how to think.

Written by aditya kumar

February 3rd, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Personal

The Woman in Red

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In 1999, I was in the city of Indore, trying to be a graduate. It was a quiet little city in the heartland of Central India. It was “small town India” – it did not have a significant urban population.

During those days, there were no cinema halls in Indore where we could watch English movies. The best and closest we could experience Hollywood was at a movie hall called Neelkamal cinema – located in the old part of the city, near Malwa Mill. The movie hall, the building and the interiors were badly maintained and in shambles but it was the only movie theatre that played Hollywood movies, dubbed in Hindi.

We clung on to what we got because these were little joys that life had to offer. Watching a movie, in those days, used to be a long, delightful affair. Long, because we used to live outside the town and it was a long excursion to the city and the excitement that used to build up was hard to contain. Then, only the best movies used to make their way to the ragged old screen at Neelkamal.

One such movie was “The Matrix”.

Now, I won’t go into the whys and hows of how amazing a movie The Matrix was – I watched it about 4 times later and it had a cult following in years to come. The movie was such that I know people, myself included, who remember exact scenes of that movie, to this day. One such scene in that movie was the woman in the red dress – she comes out of nowhere when a bewildered Neo (Keanu Reeves –
he always has that expression, doesn’t he) is getting a guided tour of The Matrix. She smiles at Neo as she crosses him and as Neo looks back, the lady is transformed into an Agent who has his gun trained on Neo. You can read more about that scene and the woman here.

As the scene happens, the music playing in the background is Rob Dougan’s Clubbed to Death, an instrumental composition that is my favourite track from the movie. Together, with this music and the scene, this was (is) my favourite part of the movie. I used to watch that scene again and again, on dvd.

You may be wondering where I am going with all these long descriptions – of a small town movie theatre and a specific scene of a movie that I saw 18 years ago. Bear with me, please.

A few days ago I realized that the premise of that scene – my favourite scene of The Matrix, was merely a few meters behind my office in Sydney. I can tell you this – my world turned upside down. With joy, of course.

Such was my happiness that I went there, not once but twice, that day. I kept telling about it to everyone I met. While returning home from work, I went there with my earphones on, playing, what else, but “Clubbed to Death”. I walked that path, acting bewildered; acting, oh, so Neo.

I was then left with a sense of wonder that lingers on, even now. Back in 1999, in awe of that movie scene while trying to find the little joys of life, could I, 18 years old, ever imagine that one day I’ll be standing at the very place where Neo met the Woman in Red?

I promise you – not in my wildest dreams.

Life can take you far.

Written by aditya kumar

January 5th, 2018 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Cinema,Personal,Sydney

Cusps of Life

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Last year we moved to Sydney. It was a move that me and my wife had been planning for more than 3 years. The idea was to move to Australia and get a job. 

I wouldn’t go into the details, as much has happened over the last year and a half: job, setting up a home and our daughter started going to pre-school. Suffice to say that we feel settled.

The one thing I often wonder about is how I don’t find myself missing Bangalore. I lived in Bangalore for close to 12 years and it is the longest I have ever been in one place. I do miss “things” of Bangalore, the coffee, the darshinis, the food, the vibe of MG Road but that’s about it. 

You generally don’t miss a “city”. You can’t. It’s as if, if I were to be there, in Bangalore, at this moment, will I derive the satisfaction that I used to derive, say, in 2008? So what I am missing now isn’t the city, it is the time I spent back in 2008 and it won’t come back. Nostalgia aside, cities, like people, like you and me, change (often for the worst). You can either love them, live them or you leave them. 

Being in love with your surroundings, at any given time, is when your “level” of evolution is at a point that matches of everything around you. So my time in Bangalore and the things they were during that time were at a cusp and that, sort of, defines my time there. Such is the case with different phases of our lives, our times and our surroundings. I like to think of the external surroundings and factors that affect our lives as “arcs” and our own life as one big arc – that of a circle with a much bigger diameter. The smaller arcs touch the bigger arc at various points, forming many cusps. Where those cusps are formed are the most important, if not critical, times of our lives. Those three years in Bangalore, between 2007 and 2010 were such years for me.

How big a cusp will form, with our lives here in Sydney, only time will tell.

Written by aditya kumar

November 19th, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Quick Post

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…to affirm that I am blogging again :-)

Written by aditya kumar

October 2nd, 2016 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Personal

Boys in a hurry

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I found this piece of writing in my inbox – something that I had done last year. It never made it to any publication because it was rejected for reasons best known to numerous editors. I honestly do not know what to make of it, so here it is.


Back in 1999, I spent about 3 years looking for the slightest excuse to travel from Indore to my home at Goa. I was doing my graduation, away from family.

When deciding on the best route home, my friend Deepak, who hailed for a small town in Bihar, told me that the nearest rail-head where we could catch trains (Bhagalpur express and Mangala express), to our respective homes in Purnia and Madgaon, was a place called Khandwa, a small town roughly 150 Kms south of Indore. The road to Khandwa lay in tatters but there was a meter gauge railway track that connected the two cities. During our first of those journeys, we realized that traveling in a meter gauge train was an experience we weren’t really prepared for. I was usually equipped with a John Grisham novel, a walkman, a few tapes and a set of batteries that barely lasted the journey.

At Mhow, an army cantonment town just out of Indore, we ate stale kachoris sold by a man outside the railway platform, while our train had a scheduled stop of 45 minutes. To us, fickle-minded and hurried boys, a 45 minute stop at a station that had virtually nothing to offer while the unrelenting sun baked the steel coach, made no sense. Then, a few hours later, a village unimaginatively named “Kalakund” where they sold only one thing – a sweet by the same name (“Kalakand”), cut into imperfect squares and served on thin newspaper sheets (now oily but a closer look revealed on them stories of places we had never heard of). The train then chugged to a station called “Omkareshwar Road”. Omkareshwar, we were told, was a place of legends, stories and of worship, alongside the Narmada river; The railway station itself almost appeared in trance – with sadhus and pilgrims scattered everywhere. A notice on the station asked us to “get down here for the Omkareshwar pilgrimage”. But what were we to make of it? We just wanted to go home and this thing stopped everywhere. An hour or so before Khandwa, it was usual for a group of villagers to stop the train (“a wave of the hand usually works“, someone once remarked), attach an array of milk cans and logs of wood by the hook, to the windows. I vividly remember, once our coach smelled of fresh coriander.

The first time we reached Khandwa, that place whose once famous resident was one Kishore Kumar, our train, despite all the time it had in the world, managed to delay itself by 45 minutes. Deepak was worried because his connecting train was to depart around that time. Later, we realized that his fears were unwarranted – his onward journey was further delayed because the connecting train coming from Bombay was running late. When inquired around, two men, idly playing cards on the platform with a steel trunk by their side, laughed at us. We were told that the Dadar-Bhagalpur express that was supposed to come the day before, had not yet reached Khandwa — what were we doing here looking around for the train that was merely a couple of hours late? My friend was stunned. To his relief, he boarded his Bhagalpur express eventually, 3 hours after we had reached Khandwa.

The year after that, on the same voyage, Deepak reached Khandwa, this time, 30 minutes late — quietly assured that his onward train to Bhagalpur must be, as always, running late. This time though, he changed the platform hurriedly (he was still in a hurry though it was the “unworried” kind of hurrying), crossing from the medium gauge platform to the broad gauge platforms. On the over-bridge between platforms, as he stepped on the stairs to come down, he saw what he believed was the back of the train that he intended to board, slowly slide by. Slowly — but fast enough for him to catch the red light, constantly blinking at the back of the tail coach as it rain into the distance. A woefully tired and breathless Deepak then asked, in sheer hopelessness, a fruit vendor on the platform – “Oh bhaiya, yeh Bhagalpur express kahan hai?” (“so, where is this Bhagalpur express”).

Meanwhile, keeping up with the overall set mood, my onward journeys to Madgaon were a mix of uncertainty and adventure. The train arrived usually at midnight. Hours were spent at Khandwa, learning patience on a railway platform. Strange city, this place, I used to think. What to make of a city whose most important landmark is its railway station itself? At least, that was what we knew of it then. As my patience grew thin and the journey took its toll in the form of tiredness, it was between 11:30 pm and 12:00 midnight that Mangala express arrived. In fact, sometimes not one, but two. Yes – going in opposite directions. One towards Ernakulam and the other towards New Delhi. You could pick which one to board and you did not want to be wrong then.

So the first time on the Mangala express, a railway snack vendor, Selva, became a friend. My cash starved wallet could always afford his banana bajjis – the Kerala snack. Then, another time, with an unconfirmed ticket, I stood at the door of the coach. As the train entered Maharashtra in the thick of the night, an elderly man offered me half of his seat. Tired as I was, I could not refuse the offer. Then God arrived — in the form of a ticket examiner who searched the manifest and allocated me a berth for the night. During the day, as we entered the Konkan route after Panvel, I was delighted to meet Selva again. Quite sure that he remembered me, this time I spent a few hours in the pantry car, wide-eyed and amused at the fluency of how Selva and his friends reduced a sack of onions to salad.

Those wanderings – where you thought you were alone. Maybe not.

With the sun setting along the Konkan, the train arrived at Ratnagiri – a stop I eagerly awaited. By then starved and exhausted, it almost became a custom to treat myself with vada-pavs and a bottle of coke. It occurred to me years later — I passed through Ratnagiri for those three years, an ignorant being oblivious to this town of great historical significance. Instead what did I associate it with? Nothing more than a stale bun and a potato patty. But little did I know then, that years down the line, inspired by Amitav Ghosh’s “The Glass Palace”, I would set forth on a trip to this town again, at the heart of Konkan, to visit a dead Burmese king’s palace. Maybe it came as a singular act of atonement, but I am glad it happened. This is what good books make you do – look back in wonder and try and make you travel.

Meanwhile, eating my vada-pavs, I used to think about Deepak and take a guess that by now, he would have reached Bhagalpur, waiting for the bus to his town – that last leg of his journey. He used to later tell me that his train ran late, inevitably. He reached the morning after.

Back then, we were boys in a hurry. But we learnt to wait.

Written by aditya kumar

August 1st, 2015 at 12:34 am