It’s really uncommon for an Indian who’s read even little English in his school to not know R.K. Narayan—I fondly call him the Story Grandpa of India; well, the Millennials, at least. Most of us have read at least a work of his or two as part of our curriculum. Others would still know him thanks to Doordarshan’s version of Malgudi Days.
I’m a gawaar guy as opposed to these city-kids my friends at Meraki Post are (not that either is a bad thing; ahem!). I grew up in a township located near a remote village in south Gujarat—pretty close to the home of the Asiatic Lions that people keep talking about. I grew up among people so well-knit, that we practically knew all of the several hundred families in the township. It was a place where every old woman was every kid’s grandma, and every middle-aged man or woman was every kid’s uncle or aunt. Everyone knew what was for dinner in the neighbour’s house, and everyone knew the pathetic numbers I received as scores in school.
And The Missing Mail portrays one such society, where the postman, Thanappa, has been a postman his entire career, and knows everyone in the little town of Malgudi. He’s “part and parcel of their existence, their hopes, aspirations and activities.” He’s a man who has a personal connection with everybody in the town, and especially with this one Ramanujam from the Vinayak Mudali Street.
The story is a fast-paced one, with scenes shifting twice within the same page. Just like that. The story travels almost one whole generation in those few pages.
The main content in the story is about Ramanujam’s daughter’s wedding. Thanappa plays the spine in the whole process starting from getting them the horoscope of the boy from Delhi, to being part of the discussions in the family as to how to go about the arrangements, to spending all of his off-work hours towards the wedding arrangements—he even cuts short his little talks with everyone so he could use the time for the preparations. It’s about how he goes beyond being a deliverer of messages to being a true friend; so much that he even makes a hard decision at a point that could potentially affect his career.
What I particularly liked about the story was how it shows what a personal human connection is, a connection which transcends everything including blood and career—something we Millennials can hardly comprehend and not call “intrusion”. You really have to read the story to know it.
And at the end, the story—like all of R.K. Narayan’s—leaves you with food for thought: what really defines the right or the wrong; what really are borders or the so-called “line”. It talks about things such as social progression and forgiveness. And most importantly, about friendship.
I’m sure many of you would’ve already read the story, or watched it. But if you’d like to travel to those days back in the ’90s (when you read or watched these beautiful pieces of work), go ahead and get yourself a copy of the book, and read the story.
What’s more? You could suggest short stories that you’d like us to read. Better yet, read along with us!
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