THE LETTER (By Dhumaketu)
Ques1: Describe the early morning scene, when Ali visited the post Office.
Ans: The whole town was asleep at that time, more due to the cold and biting wind. Ali plodded on his way to the Post office, drawing his tattered clothes tighter, to shield his body. He heard the sound of grinding mills, singing of the women and the occasional barking of a dog.
Ques2: Who was Ali? Where did he go every morning?
Ans : Ali was an old man, in the evening of his life. He was a good hunter in his youth and was now known as “Coachman Ali” by the post office officials. He used to go to the post office everyday, hoping to receive a letter from his only daughter Miriam who was married five years ago and was living in the Punjab regiment with her soldier husband.
Ques3: How was Ali looked upon by the post office officials?
Ans: Ali had been visiting the post office every single day, at five in the morning, expecting a letter from his only daughter Miriam. The officials at the post office poked fun at him by sometimes calling out his name, making him jump, thinking it was a letter from his daughter. They also called him “a mad man” who worried them everyday sitting for hours at the post office.
Ques4: What did Ali do in his youth? What made him leave his old ways?
Ans: In his youth, Ali was a very skilled Shikari. He could trace and obtain the earth-brownpartridge from a bush, even when the dogs had failed to detect it. Ali was also a very skilled points man. Besides being a shikari, he would often go out fishing with his friends. He left his old ways became he had now grown old and there was no one to bring his rewards to. He also realized how much pains the animal or bird was going through, being parted from its loved ones so reflecting on all this, he gave up hunting.
Ques5: What view of life did Ali come to acquire and when?
Ans: Loneliness had come into Ali’s life since his only daughter Miriam had married and gone away to Punjab where her husband was a soldier in the regiment. He began to admire the green cornfields and came to a conclusion on reflection – the whole universe was built up on love and that grief of separation was inescapable. He wept bitterly on contemplating this reality.
Ques6: How does the author describe the postmaster?
Ans: The postmaster had a sad and inexpressive face like a pumpkin. There was no glimmer of animation in his features. He had the prominent features of village schoolmasters, clerks, postmaster etc.
Ques7: What did the official at the post office have to say about Ali?
Ans: The postmaster thought that Ali was probably mad when informed that Ali used to visit the post office everyday since the past five years, waiting for one single letter. Another postman remarked that he had probably committed many sins and was paying for them now. Each of the others started narrating their experiences about madmen. The postmaster then said that madmen were strange people and lived in a world of their own making, somewhat like a poet.
Ques8: Why did Ali go to the postmaster one fine day? How was he received by the postmaster?
Ans: Ali hadn’t been to the post office for several days. One fine day, breathing with great difficulty he went straight to the postmaster. Ali requested him to note down his address in case his letter came when he was not there. The postmaster lost his temper and calling him a pest, asked him to go away. He coldly told Ali that no one was going to eat his letter. Ali felt every humiliated at that and with tears of helplessness turned away.
Ques9: How did Ali react when the postmaster behaved very rudely with him?
Ans: When the postmaster called Ali a pest and spoke very rudely and coldly to him asking him to go away, Ali came out slowly and gazed at the Post office. His eyes were filled with tears of helplessness. His patience was exhausted. Yet he had hope that he would one day hear from Miriam. He felt totally broken from within.
Ques10: The Postmaster says to Ali “What a pest you are brother!” Do you agree with this statement. Give reasons for your answer.
Ans: Ali would go every single day to the post office for five years, waiting for a letter from his daughter. He does not disturb anyone, nor does he complain or say anything to displease anyone. Yet the officials there find his presence irritating and annoying and they do not tolerate his being there; make fun of him. This only shows their own lack of sensitivity and inhumanness.
Ques11: What did Ali do to ensure that he would get his letter even after his death?
Ans: One day, Ali came after several days of absence, with heavy breathing and looking very sick to the post office. He went to the clerk and offered him five gold guineas to forward his daughter Miriam’s letter to his grave. The clerk, Lakshmi Das was shocked at his words, but pocketed the money emotionlessly.
Ques12: How did the postmaster shed his haughty temper?
Ans: The post master’s daughter fell very ill and lived in another town. He was anxiously waiting for news of her. In the pile of letters, he saw an envelope of the colour and shape he was expecting. He snatched it, but on looking at it closely, he saw that it was addressed to Ali. He dropped it as if it had given him an electric shock. Thereafter his haughtiness left him.
Ques13: What change came over the postmaster after he saw Ali’s letter?
Ans: The postmaster was waiting to receive a letter from his own daughter who was sick in another town. One day, on seeing a letter of the colour and shape he was expecting, he snatched it, but saw that it was addressed to Ali. He dropped it as if it had given him an electric shock. This made him shed his haughty temper. He now understood Ali’s feelings. His heart was full of sympathy for Ali who had waited patiently for five long years. He gave the letter to Lakshmi Das, the clerk to deliver it to Ali.
Ques14: Describe the post master’s encounter with Ali after his death.
Ans: The postmaster was anxiously waiting for news of his sick daughter who was living in another town. He was unable to sleep all night due to his anxiety. He came to the post office at 4 am hoping to receive some news of her. The day before, realization had dawned upon him, how unmerciful he had been towards Ali. At the stroke of 5 am, he heard a soft knock on the door. He saw Ali leaning against his stick, tears wet on his face; a soft look of kindliness. The postmaster also saw a strange light in Ali’s eyes. It was so unearthly that the postmaster shrank back in fear and astonishment.
Ques15: What was the postmaster’s state of mind after Lakshmi Das told him about Ali’s death?
Ans: The postmaster when told that Ali had died three months ago was shocked and perplexed. He was so sure he had seen Ali in his office at 5 am as usual, enquiring after Miriam’s letter that he was filled with disbelief – had he really seen Ali or was it his imagination; or was it Lakshmi Das whom he had been talking to. He was too confused at his encounter with Ali.
Ques16: How is the postmaster’s mind revealed in the end?
Ans: The postmaster is a changed person in the end. He now understands Ali’s anxiety and restlessness for news of his daughter. He is torn and tortured by doubt and remorse by what has happened to him. He is perplexed and confused whether he has seen Ali or not. He is filled with guilt at having treated Ali so unsympathetically.
Ques17: The Author, Dhumketu carefully builds up an atmosphere of loneliness and grief in the story “The letter” . Bring out this element with instances from the text.
Ans: The atmosphere of loneliness is built around the person – coachman Ali. Like him, the streets he walks through are also lonely. It is “the grey sky of early dawn” when this old man in tattered clothes walks through the silent streets every morning at 5 am. The sounds which come from some houses “help him along his lonely way”. Even the post office, which is his destination, is quiet and forlorn.The grief is also brought to the front when the author narrates how some clerks at the post office play a practical joke on the poor man by calling out his name as if there is a letter for him when in reality there isnt any. Also “although the hunter’s instinct was in his very blood and bones” he gave up hunting thinking about “the bewildered terror of the young partridges bereft of their parents”.His only daughter, who has been married and who lives with her soldier husband in the Punjab regiment has not written to him for the past five years. He realizes that the whole universe is based on love and thief of separation is inevitable. He was indeed a very lonely man.
Ques18: Tortured by doubt and remorse the postmaster sits in the glow of a charcoal sigri that night, waiting for the news of his daughter. As he sits, he writes his dairy. As the postmaster write a diary entry outlining your feelings about the day’s events.
Date – 16.1.2005
I had never thought that the old coachman Ali would havent my mind after so many days. In fact I had quite forgotten about him and failed to notice his continuous absence for so many days. Strange indeed are the ways of God. Today, my daughter is — in another town and I am anxiously waiting for news from her. I now wait for the mail anxiously, every morning and now understand the anxiety which Ali would have felt for the past five years, waiting for his daughters letter. How guilty I feel for having called him a ” pest” and shunning him. I failed to see that it was a father, worried about his daughter, whose happiness was the only thing which could bring some cheer in his lonely life. How proud and arrogant I have been. How mercilessly and cruelly I have behaved. If only I could beg forgiveness from Ali!
(Name of postmaster)
Ques19: Describe the Postmaster’s behaviour with Ali on the last day. How was the Postmaster a changed man at the end of the story?
Ans: The Postmaster was in a hurry and was rude and impatient with Ali. He called him ‘ a pest’ when Ali pleaded with him to note down Miriam’s name, the postmaster got angry and scolded him telling to ‘get away’.However, towards the end of the story, the postmaster was, indeed, a changed man. He was anxiously waiting to hear from his daughter who lay ill in another town. Receiving Miriam’s letter reawakened the father’s heart in him. He now understood Ali’s anxiety and reproached himself for his insensitive and harsh behavior towards Al
Ques20: In the story, ‘The letter’ is the title appropriate. Substantiate your answer with instances from the story.
Ans: The story is about Coachman Ali, once a clever shikari, waiting for a letter from his daughter, Miriam, for five long years. His daughter had got married and left him. He then understands the meaning of love and separation and gives up hunting. He waits for a letter from Miriam with boundless faith and patience tolerating the insults and teasing of the clerks in the post office. It is the arrival of Miriam’s which changes the insensitive Postmaster’s heart. His encounter with Ali’s ghost come to collect Miriam’s letter, leaves him absolutely shocked. The postmasters attitude towards letters changes. He beings to perceive them as containing a warm beating heart. He discover the essential human worth of a letter. Hence the title is appropriate as it sensitizes the reader to the importance of a letter and the promise of happiness, hope and emotion it carries with it.