‘The Letter’ written by Dhumaketu is the story of an old coachman whose daughter Miriam, married a soldier and went to live with him. Ali missed her and gave up hunting after he realized the pain of separation. Five years passed but he kept on waiting for Miriam’s letter. He went to the nearby post-office daily in the hope of getting a letter from her. But no letter ever came for him.
Rather the clerks and other officials made fun of him. They would call out his name in mischief and when Ali would go to the window they would laugh at him. Ali used to feel bad about all this. The postman started taking him to be a madman. But Ali, not bothering about all this, returned every day to the post office just to hear a word from his daughter or about her well-being.
Towards the end of his life, his ill-health prevented him from visiting the post-office daily. He couldn’t breathe properly. So, one day, when he visited the post-office, he told one of the clerks to do him a favour by forwarding Miriam’s letter to his grave. He offered him five golden guineas for this. There were tears in his eyes. He was never seen after that and then nobody bothered to inquire about him.
Time passed. One day, the postmaster had a problem. His daughter, who lived in another town, fell ill. He anxiously waited for news of her but there was none. It was at this moment that he was reminded of Ali and his anxiety about getting a letter from his daughter. This realization made him truly repentant of his rude behaviour towards Ali. Meanwhile, there was a letter addressed to Ali.
He decided to hand over the letter to Ali himself at 4 o’clock.
That night the postmaster could not sleep. At five, he heard a soft knock at the door. He opened the door only to find Ali standing there. The postmaster handed him the letter. Ali immediately disappeared after taking the letter.
Just then, Lakshmi Das, the clerk who had taken the guineas from Ali, came there and saw the postman talking to someone. He was astonished to hear Ali’s name and so informed the postmaster that Ali died three months ago. The postmaster could not believe this.
That evening, both of them went to visit coachman Ali’s grave and placed the letter there. Now, the postmaster realized the value of human feelings and emotions in terms of letter and envelopes. Now, they were not mere postcards but much more than anyone could realize.
Q. Ali in the story, “The Letter”, is a lonely man. How does the writer bring out his loneliness?
A. Ali lived all alone after his only daughter Miriam had got married and left him. He was passing his days waiting for a letter from his daughter. Ali walks his lonely way to the post office. The whole town is wrapped in deathly silence.
Q. “For now the postman understood Ali’s heart and his very soul.” Explain.
A. The postman understood Ali’s heart and soul when his daughter lay ill in another town, and he was anxiously waiting for news from her. The worry and anxiety for her daughter changed the postmaster. He understood Ali’s heart and soul and his yearning for his daughter.
Q. What was the reason behind Ali’s unshakeable faith that he would receive a letter from Miriam one day?
A. Ali had immense love and affection for his daughter. He was also aware of the fact that his daughter loved him so much. He had faith in Allah. All this brought conviction in him that he would receive the letter of his daughter, Miriam one day.
Q. Describe the early morning scene when Ali visited the post office.
A. It was the early dawn of the winter season. The stars were still glowing in the grey sky. The sound of grinding mills and sweet voices of women singing at their work were coming from some houses. The occasional bark of a dog and the screech of a bird could be heard. The whole town was wrapped in deadly silence but Ali was going to the post office.
Q. What were Ali’s reasons for giving up hurting?
A. After marriage Ali’s daughter went to Pubjab with her husband. Ali felt pangs of separation from his daughter. Then he realized that he must not kill any bird or animal as they would have the same grief of separation.
Q. Why could Ali not enjoy a sportsman’s pleasure of hunting anymore after Mariam left him?
A. After the departure of Mariam, Ali began to live utter solitude. Having felt the agony of separation, he began to imagine the grief of separation in the life of birds and animals that hunting caused. He became kind and sympathetic towards animal and left the grim business of hunting.
Q. In the story, “The Letter” the postmaster called Ali ‘a pest’. Do you find his comment justified? Explain.
A. No, the postmaster is not justified. Ali was indeed an epitome of love and affection. His fatherly love is applaudable. He went to the postmaster to inquire about the letter only when he felt that he would not be able to come to the post office the next day. The postmaster failed in measuring the depth of love in Ali’s heart of hearts.
Q. ‘Ali displays the quality of love and patience.’ Give evidence from the story to support the statement.
A. Being ignited by the feeling of love and affection, Ali would go to the post office regularly. He never bothered about the heat or cold caused by others. His love for his daughter gave him the courage to tolerate all sorts of scolding and humiliation. He used to sit on the verandah of the post office waiting for the letter. He never became impatient.
Q. How did the postmaster’s attitude towards Ali eventually change?
A. The postmaster humiliated Ali as he failed to realize the fatherly love of Ali. In the course of time, he got the news of the illness of his daughter. He began impatiently and snatched a letter from a clerk thinking it to be the letter of his daughter. But it was the letter of Miriam. Then he confessed his guilt and decided to hand over the letter to Ali himself.
Coachman Ali – Coachman Ali was an old man who wore tattered clothes. he had been an expert shikari. He had the hunter’s instinct in his very blood and bones. no animal could escape from him. But when his only daughter, Miriam got married and went off to Punjab, he understood the true meaning of love and separation.
He lost his interest in hunting and kept thinking about his daughter all the time. His patience and his love for his daughter was so strong than for the past 5 years, he had been going to the post office every day, waiting for her letter patiently.