Short Stories

The Letterbox

It was the year 2004, Madan kaka retired as a dakiya babu. The whole village of Keshabagh was very thankful and delighted to bid him farewell. Madan kaka had spent twenty-seven years of his life as a postman in the village and had a wonderful bond with the villagers of Keshabagh. He used to bring letters to people, sometimes read the letters for them, write for those who couldn’t write, and helped the youngsters fill out forms for jobs. In the evenings, he used to sit at Sanku’s chai tapri to educate people about upcoming jobs, vacancies, and government plans. He was beloved of all.

After Madan kaka retired, a young fellow named Bheema joined as the new postman in the village. Bheema was not a native of Kesha Bagh, he was very professional and had nothing in similarity to Madan kaka. People of the village would now assemble at Sanku’s tea stall and wait for Madan kaka to arrive who would read them letters, and news and help them write letters to post. Bheema would go to the letterbox near the station, pick the letters, take them to the post office and bring letters to the village. He distributed the letters at the given address and left immediately. No one knew where did Bheema go after his duty hours.

One evening, when Madan kaka was surrounded by the villagers while he was reading out an article from the newspaper, Bheema appeared in the crowd. He asked Madan kaka to come with him privately. Madan kaka went along with Bheema and reached a small hut where Bheema lived. Bheema asked “kaka babu, what do I do of these letters?” and handed him a bundle of torn pages from a notebook that had uneven folds, no address, and no name. Madan kaka was shocked to see that Bheema collected all those papers and kept them safely with himself. He exclaimed, “but I never picked them from the box, where would they go with no address?”.

Bheema said “kaka babu, I think we must do something about these”, and opened the folds of a paper. Madan kaka was touched on seeing what was inside it. He found barely learned alphabets loosely placed below and above the lines of the pages. On opening the letters Bheema and Madan kaka found drawings and messages which asked for ‘papa’! Several letters with the same message left Bheema and Madan kaka with teary eyes. Bheema uttered, “kaka babu, we must find the child and send these letters to the destination it ought to reach. Both of them decided to wait at the letterbox as the letter came in every Wednesday.

Then came the day, Kaka and Bheema sipped tea at a bench beside the letterbox and waited for the child to arrive. After some time, they saw a girl who was barely six years of age, holding her teddy in one hand and a torn paper from a notebook in another. Madan kaka identified the child. He told Bheema about the child’s father who was in the army and got martyred on the LOC six months back. Preeti, the child has been living with her Nana-Nani and mother since then.

As she was new in the village and she observed great companionship between dakiya babu and the villagers, how he bought answers to people’s questions of their relatives and made them happy while reading those letters, Preeti decided to write letters to her late father in the hope of listening from him. Looking at her efforts towards posting letters every Wednesday without delay and the faith in receiving an answer to it, both Bheema and Madan kaka were overwhelmed. Later, they decided that they would make her happy with Bheema’s idea.

A week later, on a lazy evening when Madan kaka was reading articles for people at Sanku’s tea stall, Bheema arrived with Preeti on his bicycle. He and Preeti sat on a bench nearby and Bheema gave a big envelope to Preeti. On opening it, she found a storybook. Bheema told her that her father wants her to read stories and write about the lessons in the letter. Everyone gathered near Preeti. From that day onwards, Madan kaka used to read out articles and Preeti recited the story for everyone.

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