“The Postmaster,” a story by Rabindranath Tagore, concerns an unnamed postmaster who is assigned to a remote post office in a small rural Indian village. The village is near a factory, and the owner of the factory, who is English, manages to have the post office created. The narrator of the story seems to be a resident of the village, since the narrator refers to “our postmaster.” The postmaster is from the huge city of Calcutta and feels out of place in such a distant rural village. The post office seems to contain only two rooms: the office itself, and the postmaster’s living quarters. These are located in a “thatched shed” near a stagnant pond circled by thick foliage.
The workers in the nearby factory work so much that they have no time to befriend anyone. Besides, they are not especially good company for “decent folk.” In addition, people from Calcutta are not particularly good at socializing. They can appear to be arrogant or uncomfortable. In any case, the postmaster has few companions, and he does not have many activities to keep him occupied.
Occasionally he tries to write a bit of poetry. The rural landscape might have inspired the kind of happy poetry he sought to compose. But the postmaster is uninterested in the landscape and would be happy if it were replaced by a paved road and numerous tall buildings. His wages are not great; he must do his own cooking, but he shares his suppers with “Ratan, an orphan girl of the village, who did odd jobs for him.” In the evening, when the village is filled with appealing sights and sounds—the kind that would inspire poets—the postmaster lights his lamp and calls for Ratan.
Ratan, who has been waiting for the nightly call, typically asks whether she has indeed been called. She then routinely lights the fire needed for cooking. The postmaster, however, typically tells her to wait a while and let him smoke his pipe, which Ratan then always lights for him. After this nightly ritual has been completed, the postmaster usually talks with Ratan. He asks her whether she remembers her parents, discovering that she has fonder memories of her father than of her mother. She can even recall a little brother, with whom she would playfully fish. Often her conversations with the postmaster last a long time—so long that the postmaster doesn’t cook and Ratan instead prepares a very hasty light meal.
Sometimes in the evenings, the...
(The entire section is 1694 words.)
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