In Class 10th, The Letter by Dhumaketu was one of my favourite chapters in the English book. So, revisiting the old times, I would like to recall the tale, but with a tinge of my own imagination and words.
Ali was an old man now. Hunting, which was his passion in young times, no longer amused him, for his only daughter Miriam left after she got married to the soldier from Punjab regiment. After Miriam left her father, Ali, he spent most of the time in waiting religiously for her letter, something he expected any moment.
Ali was 55 years old now and he was seriously ailing. But his wait for his daughter’s letter made him live a little longer every day. The post office unlocked at 6 o’ clock in the morning every day, but Ali, keen to expect a letter from his one and only loving daughter, overpoweringly woke up at 4 o’ clock in the chilling mornings only to travel all the way to the post office. Because he was weak and highly fragile, therefore his each and every step was very slow. Nevertheless, without a fail, every morning he travelled all the way from his cottage to the post office. In chilling winters, he put on his only blanket and travelled to the post office. On his way to the post office, he used to observe the daily chores that women of the village did dutifully at the wee hours of the day.
With every step, he felt more and more fragile, soft, weak and tired as if he knew at heart that his end was near, but the determination to see Miriam’s letter imbibed the strength within him to wake up at the break of the dawn and travel all way long to the post office.
Every morning when he reached at 5.30 a.m. to the office, waiting for the post master to unlock the door, he thought of countless wonderful moments that he had spent with Miriam. When the clock used to struck 6 a.m. and post master reached to the post office to unlock the door, he felt highly goaded to see ailing Ali wait for the letter. The same question repeated this time too, “Master ji, meri beti ka koi khat aaya?” The post master, visibly annoyed replied this time, “Nahi aaya aur naa hi aayega. Aise hi mar jaoge ek din beti ke intezar mein.”
With lost self respect and deep pain in his heart, he left the post office once again. This time he was really hurt, but it still didn’t shake his determination to travel to the post office at the sunup the next morning. One fine day, however, Ali was taken seriously ill..so much that he didn’t even open his eyes that morning. No he wasn’t dead, his heart was still pumping with the expectation of Miriam’s letter, but his body just gave up on the strength to get up and travel all the way to the post office. He was shivering profoundly because the temperature had dropped to 4 degrees that morning. Nonetheless, his faith didn’t shiver.He was still hopeful at the heart that Miriam would write to him. But this morning when the post master didn’t see Ali waiting for the letter at the doorsteps of the post office, his heart skipped a beat. All sorts of off-putting thoughts developed in his head, even though his heart was not ready to believe in those depressing thoughts.
Ali, like the everyday activities of the post office, had become a part of the post master’s life and so, not seeing him made him jumpy. He nonetheless, collected the papers and letter of the previous day in the office and sat on his chair to segregate them, even though his mind and heart were constantly battling inside him. He was clearly drifted and pondering hard over Ali’s life when a letter from one person gave him shivers till his spine. The letter read: “Dear Daddy…From Miriam.” Post master’s body became cold like ice and he felt utterly numb. Without a delay, he ran to deliver Miriam’s letter personally to Ali so that he could see when expectations are met, what are the expressions on a person’s face!
He ran through the streets and reached Ali’s cottage. It was shattered, broken from here and there. The cottage was an epitome of Ali’s failing life and body. It looked as old and shattered as Ali, yet it had stood through all odds of weather, just like Ali. When the post master reached inside the cottage, he froze with fear to see Ali’s ice cold body and closed eyes. He prayed at heart, this time, really hard.
“Oh Lord, Please no. Not this time. It’s the most unexpected yet expected moment for him. Not now at least, please. I beg you Lord. Tell him to respond when I call him.”
After a short prayer at heart, the post master softly called Ali, “Ali, brother are you listening?”
10 seconds passed… no reply. Post Master’s soul started sinking inside him. He again called him, this time a little louder. “Brother, I have something for you.”
Again a few seconds passed, still no reply. Post master was heart-broken. Tears of helplessness and penitence formed in his eyes. His throat was dry, lips cracked and he didn’t find the right words to say something. He turned away from Ali, watched Miriam’s letter for some time and started walking to the door. Just when he was about to exit, a voice stopped him. “Laaiye Post Master sahib. Bitiya ka khat dijiye.”
Once again, post master froze in his place. He turned around, ran towards Ali, embraced him in his arms and cried like a baby. Ali was too small. Post master felt like holding a 10 year old child. But his heart was so glad, that he thanked the Lord and felt blessed to see Ali’s expectation being met.
After sometime, Ali opened the letter and read it loud. Post master was the witness of Ali’s happiness when he saw tears of joy brimming in his eyes. With every word, Ali’s heart felt more and more blessed to have a wonderful daughter like Miriam. He was so proud of Miriam for he read how wonderfully she tackled all the miserable times of her life.
Post master, who was always agitated at Ali, found a new friend now. Ali bid adieu to his solitude and found someone to confide into. Post master pushed all his limits to take good care of Ali and over the passage of time, post master’s dedication and care towards Ali fetched results. Ali improved in health and spirit. And when Ali felt refreshed with his new-found health, he wrote a reply to Miriam and felt extremely glad.
Finally, he said to the post master, “ Ab chain se mar sakunga…!!!”
P.S.: Original “The Letter” does not have a happy ending. In original “The Letter,” Miriam’s letter arrives only to find Ali dead. Post master is full of guilt by the end of the original story. And post master places Miriam’s letter at the grave of Ali. But I changed the ending with my own imagination because I wanted the readers not to believe in the myth, “do not expect anything. Expectations always hurt.” I wanted my readers to believe in the fact that when expectations are met (yes, they are definitely met when you have strong faith at heart), the feeling is absolutely astonishing!