“It has become a child-play”, Nirmal muttered under his breath. The decade of bliss, grim, romance, hope have disappeared. Only these handfuls of bank statements and employment forms are left.
He paddled hard to reach his destination. He knew the addresses by heart. His duty area covered two villages, Mesra and Ormanjhi, 12 and 15 kilometers away from Ranchi city respectively. He delivered those letters and came back to the post-office, usual routine.
As he entered inside, he saw the notice board. Exasperated Nirmal Tirkey marched inside the officer’s cabin and pleaded pointing at it, “Kumar Saab, I know I am The Last Postman. Do we need this knickknack over there?”
Bhushan Kumar smiled through his paan stained teeth and said, “Nirmal people will remember you for this. It is a matter of pride for all of us.”
History, he smirked. The good old times, of letters, parcels, money orders, telegrams and gifts were gone. The transmission system was manual those days.
The sender and receiver strings of emotions are detached now. He dismissed his unreasonable arguments.
After all, the technology has evolved. And these unplanned circumstances, stressful situations and de-cluttered working hours have triggered the emotions of resentment and annoyance every now and then. He discovered the way out of these paralyzing thoughts that was wrecking his mind.
He started to help his seniors with accounts and office works. He learnt to operate computer, run excel sheet and save the data.
His fulfilled mind was rolled out by Bhushan Sir. “Nirmal update the details of Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna account. And also enter the details of new register holders. The passbooks are in the repository. Here, take the keys. And if time permits, clean that pigsty room.”
He finished data entry in an hour. He scanned the storeroom; a thick layer of dust covered the shelves. While cleaning the backyard, he found an old rusted trunk under the pile of broken shelves. He enquired everyone. No one had a clue about it.
After compliance from Kumar Saab, Nirmal smashed the outmoded lock. He saw bundles of letters, envelopes and postcards. His expression shifted bittersweet. The undelivered letters from decades ago. He was sure of the time as he joined Mesra post-office 15 years back. He enquired about the letters with Mishraji, the longest serving employee at the office. He told him, “It is the pile of the envelopes onto which the address was incorrect or the receiver denied to accept.”
He was eager and snoopy in the anticipation of glimpsing the content inside it. Kumar Saab never said no to him. He pulled a letter randomly. A child’s handwriting. The ink had faded a bit but clearly readable.
Dear Asha Miss
Why you not reply? I am very sad. I waited for your letter. It is six months now. I have joined government school in class VI. My teacher here also says, I am very good.
Miss, my friend said you do not like me. I hit him. I feel bad, I say sorry. I drink yesterday. I drink very less. I was angry. Mother asked what happened, I shouted. I go in the room and I cry. I cry and sleep. Morning I tell mother I will never drink. She put her hand on my head. She was happy.
When you will come? When you put your hand on my head. I read in paper, Kerala is very far. I will come some day. But now you come please.
He gasped his breath and reread.” Elementary,” said he. It is not the first letter. He frisked for the one in the bundle. He sorted all the letters of Dhanesar and arranged in ascending order. By the time he finished sorting, it was 5 pm. Kumar Saab called Nirmal and asked to lock the gates properly. He asked if he can stay back to which he replied, “Whatever you have found, it can wait. The door at the end of the hallway must be secured.”
That night was intriguing. He had zillions of questions. Who is Asha? Why Dhanesar admired her colossally? He slept wide awake.
Next morning he opened the main gate, cleaned the garden and parking of the office on time. Kumar Saab came and saw Nirmal walking restlessly. “Why are you walking on your itchy feet”? He unchained the office gates and enquired. He responded with a weak smile. Nirmal opened the postbox, fifteen letters today. On other days he would have felt ecstatic.
He finished his work and hid himself in the backwards. He opened the first letter
Dear Asha Miss
Why you go? We talk only about you. You teach well. Miss Hema is also good. But you very good.
I go school daily. I work morning. Sometimes I sleep in class. Math is hard but I like counting. I read English paper. It is very hard. My friends laugh. They say, Angrez ho gaya hai.
I stop drinking. Mother is happy. I told Babu*, no drinking. He shout, said get out. I teach my brother and sister.
Miss, please come here. I will study more.
He concluded that Dhaneshar hwrote this letter to his teacher who left the school. Asha Miss must be a government school teacher. He took out the third letter and read aloud.
Dear Asha Miss
I write always. You never reply. Are you good Miss? I gave the last letters to Hema Miss. I told her to give you, direct. She said yes.
Today I am very happy. I passed class 10th. Prasad Sir said I am very intelligent. Government also gave me prize. 2000 Rupees. I got two Sarees. One for my mother and one for you. I will give you when you come here. I gave school bag and frock to my sister. She was happy.
I went to your school. Asha Mission. Hema Miss was there. She was happy to see me. I asked about you. She said you live very far and at peace. She said I am young now. I feel shy.
She asked to teach students of your school. I teach them on Sundays.
I work in a factory now. I calculate the salary of the workers daily. I get good money. I collect money for my house. My house leaks in rain. So I want to build a cement roof. Mother is happy. I am happy too.
I sometimes feel sad and alone. Miss, Please come back. When you were at school, I liked it. I like it now also but not like that time. Now I am young. I feel happy but not fully. I feel…I not know. Like empty.
Please come I will tell you.
Nirmal was delighted by the integrity of this young lad. He adored his teacher. How difficult to find it nowadays. One question was haunting him, why did letters remain undelivered. He opened the fourth in the row.
Dear Asha Miss
It has been six years. I must have forgotten me, but I will never forget you.
I passed in my Intermediate exam. I ranked third in Jharkhand state. Prasad Sir is very proud of me. The principal was very happy. He said I am the first student to pass with distinction. Prasad Sir asked me to study Maths for my graduation. He asked me not to worry about fees. Government will take care. Miss, my mother said she will start looking for a girl. For my marriage. I said no. I want to study and work first. She got angry. She said I am 22 now. No one will marry me if I grow old. I said I will not grow old in a year. My mother is a stubborn woman.
I go to your school on Sundays. I learn English and now I teach also. I read books also. Story books are interesting.
Miss, do you get my letters? The post office is not very good here. Will you ever come back? I miss you less now. But I will always wait for you.
Nirmal contemplated for Asha and Dhanesar. His subconscious nagged him till worrisome. He opened the next letter in hand.
Dear Asha Miss
I doubt you get my letters. I am in my Graduation second year. My studies are going well. I started writing Hindi stories. Hema Miss asked me to send it to local newspaper. Someday I will write about you too.
I want to tell you about this girl I met at your NGO, Anita. She finished her class 10th examination. She is a lovely girl. I like talking to her. The emptiness has lessened.
We live in a concrete house now. Mummy is very happy. Babu has quit drinking. My sister is good at studies.
I hope you are doing well there. If possible, please write to me once.
Yours truly Daneshar
Nirmal could not contain anymore. He opened the last one in hand.
Dear Asha Miss
I am getting married to Anita next month. We love each other.
I want to say thank you. Thank you for showing faith in me. Thank you for believing in an ill-mannered, abusive and thankless child. You made a human being. I will never forget you.
And the emptiness is half-full now. Peace is afar.
Nirmal looked around. It was dawn. His emotions shifted with letters till he was positively chocked.
He walked out of the post-office, unchained the bicycle and paddled across the Jhumaar river. The Asha Ujjawala board was shining faraway. Hesitatingly he stepped into the premises.
“Yes?” asked the receptionist.
“I want to see Hema Madam. Is she here?”
She looked skeptically at his khaki uniform and inquired the purpose of the meeting.
“Please tell her, I want to talk about Asha Madam. My name is Nirmal”.
She came back in a few minutes and asked him to go inside.
“Hema Madam”? asked Nirmal.
She nodded and requested him to sit down. She was an elegant lady in her late 50s. Nirmal narrated everything about the letters and kept forth the bundle on the table.
She stared immensely at those envelopes. She sighed and started looking for something in her cupboard. Nirmal kept a cool head. She retrieved an envelope from an old file.
She talked out, “Asha was kind and enthusiast. She volunteered education for underprivileged kids. She worked for a missionary at Alapuzzha, Kerela. She came to Jharkhand in 1994. She taught English and Maths at Asha Ujjawala NGO. She brought change in their lives. Most of them were reckless, alcoholic and abusive.
One such student was Dhanesar. He was obstinate and poor-mouth. She handled him patiently. He started changing, ennobled. She encouraged her to adopt good habits and he complied. They bonded like kith and kin.
In 1996, she went back home. She was going to get married on May 14th at Alleppy beach. Friends, family and guests were going to the wedding in a bus. Bus was rammed by a train at an unmanned railway crossing. Everyone died.
I could never gather enough courage to tell Dhanesar about this accident. He discovered the truth from the staff members of Alleppy a few years after his marriage.
Sobbing uncontrollably, she handed him the envelope. He empathized with her.
Sitting near the edge of the over-bridge at Jhumaar river, he bowed down at the sunset.
He opened the letter.
You are most dear to me. You have a heart of ‘gold. I would like my son to be like you.
Once I come back from Alapuzza I will take all your responsibility of studies and livelihood.
Your loving teacher
Horizon was glorifying his lifted spirit. He had to bring peace to many unfulfilled lives. Messenger post-master.
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