SAJEEPEDIA

THE POST OFFICE BY TAGORE | DETAILED SUMMARY

THE POST OFFICE

The Post Office‘ is a play written by Rabindranath Tagore. It is a two-act play with no scenes to divide between the actions. No lack of lucidity is there however, as Tagore cleverly divides between actions with the entrance and exit of characters which obviously mark the division of scenes. The Post Office The Post Office The Post Office

‘The Post Office’ was first performed in English in front Tagore by the Irish Theatre in London in 1913. The play was originally written in Bengali in 1912 and Tagore named it ‘Dak Ghar’ in that language. Then it was translated into English and published in 1914. Until today, the play stands as one of the most produced plays of Tagore in India and abroad. William Butler Yeats was the first to produce the English version of the play.

THE POST OFFICE SHORT SUMMARY

Madhav adopts a young boy named Amal. Amal is an orphan boy. He is seriously ill and vulnerable, so he is confined to bed and not permitted to get out of the room as per the advice of his physician. If he has contact with autumn wind and sun that will end up in ruin to his health. Amal’s longing to get liberated from his confinement is evident in his questions to every passerby at his window. He makes contact with the passersby and befriends almost everyone – the dairyman, the watchman, the headman and Sudha, a little flower girl.

Amal looks at his life as a barren land, a desert, where even the water is a mirage. He longs for the stream of life in the outer world. He often dreams of such a life and even fantasizes about a life in an imaginary world. He dreams to become a postman when he grows up, as this job would make him busy with work in the outer world. He gets tired speaking with strangers at his window. Madhav is anxious to preserve the boy’s life by every possible means.

Amal has heard from the watchman that the King’s Post Office is set up nearby to deliver letters to the children from the King containing small notes. At once Amal hopes to receive a letter from the King for sure one day. He sees a flower girl named Sudha on the way to work, stops her and befriends. A troop of boys are going to play. Amal stops them and requests them to play at his window, providing all his dolls. On account of his revelation to the damp air at his window, now his physical condition deteriorates, it seems soon he will embrace death.

Amal still wishes to ask Gaffer about the places he has been. He also inquires whether the King has sent him a letter. The physician arrives and after checking him, he informs that Amal’s health is declining and it is impossible to hold him up anymore. The King’s Herald enters and announces the arrival of the King at that night to visit Amal. The Royal Physician follows the Herald and to try some advanced medications. The oil lamp is blown out for the starlight to come in. All are quiet. Amal falls into an internal sleep. Sudha arrives and innocently requests the physician to whisper into Amal’s ears that she still remembers him, unaware of his death.

THE POST OFFICE SUMMARY

ACT 1

At the beginning of ‘The Post Office’, Madhav is seen speaking with the village doctor. Obviously they both are talking about sick Amal, an orphan boy adopted by Madhav. Madhav says the doctor that his heart is fully occupied by the boy and even a mere thought of separation from the boy would make him awful. The doctor consoles Madhav and advises on medications and care taking. The Post Office The Post Office The Post Office

Amal is an orphan boy at Madhav’s home. He is confined to bed owing to a certain fever as prescribed by the physician, because, even a moment revelation to the damp autumn wind and the sun will make his health critical.

Gaffer, one of Madhav’s acquaintances, enters. They bite each other in words. Then Madhav informs him that he has adopted a child as his wife was dying to adopt a child. Before he has adopted Amal, money-making was a kind of passion to him. But now he earns all only to spend for medications of the boy with pleasure. Gaffer inquires from where the was picked up. Madhav replies that the boy is a distant relation to his wife. He lost his mother at his infancy and his father the other day recently. Then he details the doctor’s advice to keep the boy away from autumn wind and sun as all the organs of his body are at loggerheads with each other. He seeks Gaffer’s support, for Gaffer is an expert in keeping children indoors. Gaffer exits. The Post Office The Post Office The Post Office

Amal comes in. He requests permission from his uncle (Madhav, the adopted father) to go out. But Madhav denies. On being asked why he should not be out, Madhav says that the doctor doesn’t allow him. Amal deplores his situation and wishes that he were a squirrel or any other animals that would enjoy its life without a barrier. Madhav advises him to read much books to become a learned man in future. But Amal is determinant that he doesn’t want to be a learned man, he wants to measure the far away hills and everything around him instead. Apparently Madhav is not happy at his reply. He says that the hill stands upright as a hurdle signifying that it won’t let him out. Amal thinks the other way however. He says that the earth raises its hands as it can’t speak, signalling the people live far away and sit alone by their windows. Madhav blames him for being so crazy telling him that the learned men never think nonsensical like him. Amal charges him illustrating a crazy man whom he met the day before. The man carried a bamboo staff on his shoulder with a small bundle at the top, a brass pot in his left hand and an old pair of shoes on. He goes without an idea as to where to go, but to search for a work anywhere there. Seeing that crazy man, Amal says, he also wanted to go up to the stream, but his auntie denied permission assuring him to take up there once he recovers from his illness. But still he wishes to go about finding things to do like that crazy man. Amal’s concern is that no one takes him out, on contrary everyone forces him shrink to four walls.

A dairyman selling curd on the streets stops by Amal’s room at his request. He inquires why he has stopped him. Amal replies that he feels homesick and wants to join him since he can enjoy roaming along streets. But, as prescribed by the physician, he is confined to four walls although he doesn’t know the reason for his confinement as he is illiterate. Amal asks the curd-seller where he hails from. He replies that he is from the village which lies on the Shamli river under Panchmura hills. Amal is intrigued to imagine the astonishing sight of the village with very big old trees and women-folk in red saree carrying pitchers home from river. He admits to the curd-seller that he has actually never seen his village but he requests him to take him to his village after he gets well. He further adds that he also wants to learn from him to cry curds and shoulder the yoke like him and walk along the road long way around. He doesn’t want to be a learned man but want to carry curd along and sell it from village to village. And also wants to learn the tune in which the dairyman cries out for selling curd.  The dairyman feels it a pleasure to give the boy some curd at free of cost since he has taught him how to be happy selling curd. Money matters a little to him.

After the dairyman leaves, a watchman arrives hearing Amal’s cry for some curd from his window. He inquires the boy what is the noise about. Amal begins to imagine how life would be a bliss to be with the watchman as he will take him straight to the king. The bell sound he gongs at proper intervals is like a music to hear. Amal likes to hear it when his time comes. The bell strikes when it is midday to have lunch and his uncle has to be back at work after his meal is over and his aunt would fall asleep with Ramayana in hand. His bell sounds to tell the people that time waits for none. Amal imagines to fly with time to a far away mysterious land known to none. A doctor better than this village doctor may come to release him one day from his house arrest and take him to that mysterious land. He asks the watchman when will the great doctor come to untie his fastened wings. But he gets a shut up call from the watchman. Though he can’t get out from the four walls, when he hears the ding dong sound of the bell, he feels as if he is taken away to another land.

Amal sees a new big house the other side where people come and go out and inquires the watchman what is up to there. He says it is a new post office of the King where the letters from the King will arrive at. Amal hopes to receive a letter from the King one day as the newly established post office is to dispatch letters from the king for children containing tiny notes. He grows impatient to ask the watchman when he will receive his letter from the King and who will bring the letter to him. The watchman replies that in front of his window the king has set up his Post Office  with golden flags flying high in the building and he has several postmen with a round gilt badge on their chests to dispatch the letter to the recipient. Amal wishes to become the king’s postman when he grows up. The watchman appreciates the boy’s wish to be a postman, though it is a difficult task delivering letters from door to door, it is a needed one. He leaves on seeing the headman afraid if he catches him gossiping with the boy, there will be a great to do then. After he leaves, Amal thinks it would be splendid to receive a letter from the King every day, but who will read them to him. He doesn’t know to read. Auntie would be busy with her Ramayana. If no one is there to read him the letters, he will keep them safe and read them when he grows up. Then he thinks what will happen if the postman can’t find him as he is confined to his room. The Post Office The Post Office The Post Office

Amal yells at the headman to stop. The headman bursts into the boy and calls him a ‘wretched monkey’. Amal asks him whether the postmen revere him as everybody else does. The headman says that they don’t but obey his command however. Amal requests him to tell the postmen that he sits by the window, so that they would find him easily when they have to deliver his letter from the King. When Amal asks why he is so cross with him, the headman replies angrily that it is his habit, if he wishes, he may even complaint to the King that Madhav is a devilish swell, who has made a little pile of monkey. Amal is obviously displeased with his behaviour, says the headman not to take the risk of sending him the King’s letter. The headman leaves.

Amal requests a girl to stop. She is Sudha, daughter of a flower-seller, who is already late for work and has no time to spare for him. She regards him as a late star in the morning and asks whatever is the matter with him. Amal says, she doesn’t wish to stop; he doesn’t care to stay on here either. He knows one thing clear that his doctor won’t allow him out. She understands his feelings that always looking out of the window and watching must make him tired. Also she advises him to follow doctor’s advice and not to be very naughty wishing to be out as people will be cross with him. She asks him to close the window, he says no as only this window is open and all others are shut. He inquires him who she is. She says that her name is Sudha, the nearby flower-seller’s daughter. And her work is to gather flowers in basket. He also wishes to be out with her as he can be able to collect flowers from topmost branches right out of sight. He says, he knows all about Champa of the fairy tale and his seven brothers. If he is allowed, he will go right into the dense forest and flower out as a Champa where the honey-sipping hummingbird rocks at the end of the thinnest branch. On being asked whether she can be his sister Parul, she says, she can’t be as she is Sudha, the daughter of Sasi, a flower-seller. It would be an enjoyment for her if she can lounge like him free from duties. But she has a lot of work everyday as she has to weave garlands as many as possible a day. When Amal asks what would be her great times, she says, she is happy with her doll, Benay the bride and Meni the pussycat. She leaves in a hurry promising to visit him late in the day when she comes back. The Post Office The Post Office The Post Office

Then Amal stops a troop of boys off to play. He asks them what will they play. One of them says, there are to play at being ploughmen and another boy showing  a stick, says that that is their ploughshare. Another boy says, they two are the pair of oxen. Amal asks whether they are going to play all day long. The boys say yes and they will be back only at the sunset. The boys ask him to join them. He says, he can’t as it is his doctor’s advice. Amal requests them to play there itself in front his window with his dolls which are getting dirty. He also requests them to play in front of his window for sometime everyday. He can get new dolls for them, once they become old. The boys consent. Then he feels sleepy when he hears the bell sound. Before the boys leaves he enquires them whether they know the King’s postmen and they can find him if there’s a letter for him. The boys reply that they will surely find him. As Amal requests further, the boys agree bring one of the postmen when they come back the next day morning.

ACT 2

At the opening of the second act, Amal is seen withdrawn to bed as his condition worsens on account of his exposure to wind squatting near the window everyday. 

Amal asks Madhav whether he can go near window and would the doctor mind if he does so. Madhav denies permission since being at window still worsens his health. Amal says, he may miss Fakir pass the window if he is not there. Amal replies to Madhav when he questions who Fakir is, that Fakir is his acquaintance and he comes and chats to him of the many lands where he has been, and he loves to hear him. As Fakir is about to pass the window, Amal requests Madhav to bring in him.

Fakir (actually Gaffer in disguise) comes in. When Amal welcomes Fakir to sit by his bed, Madhav opens out to tell him that Fakir is actually Gaffer. But Gaffer quiets Madhav with a strong winking. Amal asks Fakir where he has been to this time. Fakir says, he is just back from the Parrot’s Isle. Amal reminds his promise to take him along with him as his follower when he recovers from his illness. Fakir keeps his promise and also offers to teach him so many traveller’s secret. Madhav is apparently displeased to hear from Amal say that he wants to go along with Fakir. Fakir, then, explains the Parrot’s Isle which is situated in the sea. There are no human, only birds which sing and fly. It is a land of wonder with greenery hills on it. No hills without waterfalls, they are fascinating. The waterfalls are like molten diamonds and pebbles sing and dance with the flow of water. The birds would look at him like, he is nothing but a man who is an insignificant creature without wings, inferior to them. Since Amal has already fixed up with curd selling business when he grows up, he doubts whether he will be able to pursue his business among birds and their nests. This again makes Madhav feel uncomfortable. He exits. Then Amal asks Gaffer whether the King has sent him a letter to the Post Office. He replies that his letter is on the way. Amal then explains what all he fantasizes of King’s letter. Though Gaffer is not so young as Amal, he can visualize everything Amal describes. Gaffer promises Amal that he will take him to the King once he gets well and declares to ask the King to make Amal his postman. This will keep Amal busy in delivering letters door to door and thereby he will get an opportunity to stay away from home all day long, since he feels staying in the room the whole day makes him feel that the day is much longer than it actually is. Amal still doubts if he will be able read the king’s letters. Then Gaffer asks him if it will be enough if it just bears his name. 

Madhav enters and criticizes Gaffer for spreading rumor that the King has planted his office there to send messages to both of them. The headman has informed it to the King anonymously. As everything reaches the King’s ears, he warns him to be careful as it will bring ruin to them. Amal asks Fakir whether the King will be cross. Fakir assures him that the King won’t be cross with a child like him and a fakir such as himself. By then Amal reveals that he feels a sort of darkness coming over his eyes since the morning. Everything seems like a dream to him, so he longs to be quiet. Won’t the King’s letter come, Amal enquires. Fakir says that the King’s letter is sure to come.

The doctor enters and asks Amal how does he feels today. He replies that he feels awfully well today and all pains seem to have left him. The word ‘awfully well’ makes the doctor anxious. He realizes it is a bad sign. He informs Madhav that it is impossible to hold him much longer and it seems he has got a new exposure to wind. But Madhav assures him that he did his best to secure him. The doctor says that he has felt a peculiar quality in the air, a fearful drought through his front door which is most hurtful. The doctor advises him to keep off visitors at least for three to four days. If it is inevitable let them come by back doors. The Windows should be shut well enough to ensure the sun rays don’t enter the room to keep the patient awake unnecessarily. By then Madhav observes Amal’s eyes are shut up and seems he is sleeping. The headman enters and the doctor leaves saying that he will send a heavy dose which may save Amal.

Gaffer says the headman to keep his voice down as Amal is asleep. Amal raises up from bed however, and says that he can hear everything including a far away noise. He feels like his mother and father are sitting by his bed and speaking to him. The headman mockingly informs Amal showing a blank paper that this is a letter from the King which says that the King visits him shortly. Amal hopes that he will receive his letter from the King, so he is ready to wipe the dust off his feet. The gong of the watchman is heard and the evening star shows up but can’t be seen from inside as all windows are shut up. A knocking at the door is heard and the King’s Herald enters to announce that the King is coming this night at the time of the second watch. He also informs that the King sends his greatest physician to attend on his young friend.  The Royal Physician enters and opens all the doors and windows of Amal’s room. Amal feels extremely well and sees all the stars now twinkling from the other side of the dark. Amal is ready to leave when the King visits him and ask him when he comes to find for him the polar star. Amal requests the Royal Physician to permit the headman to stay with him as he is the friend who brought the King’s letter to him. Madhav whispers to Amal to ask a gift when the King visits him. Amal says that he has made up his mind to ask the king to make him his postman so that he can wander around far and wide, delivering the King’s message door to door. Amal asks what will be their gift to the King. The Royal Physician silences everyone as sleep comes over to him. He asks the oil lamps to be blown out so that only the starlight may stream in. Madhav becomes nervous and asks Gaffer why are they darkening the room and how will starlight help. Gaffer says him to not to disbelieve things anymore. 

Sudha enters calling for Amal. The physician says he is asleep. Sudha requests to allow her to give some flowers into Amal’s hand. She asks the physician when will he be awake. The physician says that he will be when the king directly comes and calls him. She requests the physician to whisper into Amal’s ears that she hasn’t forgotten him and she has come as she has promised him earlier that day, not realizing that Amal is dead.

CHARACTERS LIST

Amal: The central character in the play. An orphan boy adopted by Madhav, who is seriously ill with a certain kind of fever. 

Madhav: Madhav is Amal’s adopted father. But Amal would always call him, uncle. 

Gaffer: Madhav’s acquaintance, who for sometime acts as Fakir, telling the boy various fascinating tales. In some versions of the text, he is named Thakurda. 

Sudha: The daughter of a flower-seller. Amal meets Sudha and befriends her. 

The Doctor: The physician who advises on the medications of the boy. 

The Royal Physician: The Royal Physician is one who attends the King’s illness. He comes to attend Amal when he is about to die. 

The dairyman: A curd seller whom Amal meets by his window and determines to become a curd-seller when he grows up. 

The Watchman: The watchman gongs the bell at regular intervals. The sound of the bell seems like a music to Amal. 

The headman: The headman always be cross with Amal and mocks him badly sometimes. But at the end, he realizes the good heart of the boy and feels anxious about his situation.

 

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