The Postmaster by Rabindranath Tagore FRAS (/rəˈbɪndrənɑːt tæˈɡɔːr/ (listen); born Robindronath Thakur, 7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941), also known by his pen name Bhanu Singha Thakur (Bhonita), and also known by his sobriquets Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi, was a polymath, poet, musician, and artist from the Indian subcontinent. He reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of the “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse” of Gitanjali, he became in 1913 the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore’s poetic songs were viewed as spiritual and mercurial; however, his “elegant prose and magical poetry” remain largely unknown outside Bengal. He is sometimes referred to as “the Bard of Bengal”
The Postmaster Summary
The Postmaster Summary : – In the small village of Ulapur, an Englishman who owns an indigo factory near it ma nages to get a post office established. A postmaster from Calcutta gets separated from his family and transferred to this village. From the noise of the city, he comes to a deserted village with just scattered glimpses of people. Tagore, a lover of nature, uses it to describe the surroundings. The postmaster’s office has a green, slimy pond, surrounded by dense vegetation. The way he describes this shows that postmaster is not in a position to appreciate his closeness to nature. There are three central themes to this story.
Firstly, the story revolves around ‘longing and separation’; starting and ending with this. The postmaster is taken away from his family and brought to a remote village. He was in a village, where its busy people were no company, and he was left with not much work to do. He tries to pacify his longing emotions by writing poetry. However, the fact that he tries to write something external to him, like nature, makes it an impossible venture. An orphan girl of the village, Ratan, helps him with his daily chores. He speaks to her about his mother and sister in the evenings, and would keep enquiring about her family.
He would speak with sadness of all those “memories which were always haunting him”. Secondly, ‘companionship’, and thirdly ‘dependency’ can be seen through how the relationship between the postmaster and Ratan grows through the course of this story. Ratan did not have many memories of her family to be recalled. There were only fragments, like pictures, of her father coming home in the evening, and her little brother whom she played with, fishing on the edge of the pond. Once she met the postmaster, ‘Dada’, she spent her days with him. She would sit outside his shed, being only a call away from him, and doing all the small chores. Dada would share his meals with her. Then in the evenings, she would listen to him talking about his relatives and in imagination make them her own.
Tagore translates the longing ringing in Dada’s heart to nature, when he says, “A persistent bird repeated all the afternoon the burden of its one complaint in Nature’s audience chamber.” A man, who initially failed his attempt at verse, thinks of this as parallel to his emotions. Poetry is something that comes from the inner overflow of emotions. He hopes for the presence of a loving human being he could hold close to his heart. The postmaster can’t stand the quietude of Ulapur.
He longs for the noises of traffic and life in Calcutta. One evening, he tells Ratan that he is going to teach her to read. She grows closer to him. She sees him as her only relative. She grows dependent. But, as the season’s rain seemed like it would never end, like the constant patter on the roof, Dada was troubled by his heart’s exile. He falls sick in his solitude. Ratan takes care of him, and he recovers just taking her presence for granted. But, he then decides that he has to leave this village.
He writes an application of transfer, based on the unhealthiness of the village. The transfer is rejected. He tells Ratan that he has resigned and will be leaving the village. She asks him to take her with him. He thinks of it as an absurd idea and she is haunted by his reaction. Next morning, she fills a bucket of water for him. He bathes and waits for the next postmaster to arrive. He consoles Ratan saying that he would inform the postmaster about her. He even offers her some money to keep. She refuses both and expresses that she doesn’t want to stay there any more.
Ratan has lived a life of loneliness. Dada was her only companion, and the only one who seemed to understand her. She is broken, when he has to leave without her. He leaves as soon, as the new postmaster arrives. He hesitates for a moment as the boat leaves, but it is too late for him to take her with him. Tagore illustrates the two ways a human mind works. The postmaster uses the element of philosophy to console himself. He tells himself that meeting, attachment, and departing are all part of life.
It will all settle with the passage of time. The wind that fills the sails of the boat indicates the reason the postmaster fills his heart with, as he separates himself from the village. However, Ratan stands outside the office “with tears streaming from her eyes.” She has succumbed to a common human folly, as Tagore expresses, of hope. She has been separated from her only bond and now longs for it to return.
Tagore ends by saying that humans often fall into hope than seeing the reason, and long before we realize, disappointment becomes too hard to handle.
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