The women inmates remember their loved ones and the pain of getting away from them For SaMvitti ‘Sharing Story’, SahityaMitra Neela Gupta shared a short story by Shree Gaurishankar Govardhanram Joshi ‘Dhumketu’ ‘Postoffice’ with women inmates of Vadodara Central Jail. The session was conducted by SaMvitti Foundation.
The session started with a conversation between the narrator and the listeners. The SahityaMitra asked them about the word ‘Virah’ it’s meaning and any experiences they want to share. They replied with the famous characters of Ram, Sita, Maa Yashoda, Devaki, Kunti, Radha… and the pain of getting away from our loved ones.
The SahityaMitra then started the story of an old man ‘Ali’ who was also going through this pain. The story as one of the characters in the story – a clerk named Lakshmidas. The story shows the pain which the parents go through when their children go away and how their life changes over time. It also shows the change of perspective of other people when they go through the same suffering.
This is a story of an old coachman ‘Ali’ who used to walk down to a post office every day in the morning since last 5 years. He would sit in the corner of the veranda and wait for the clerk to announce his name for receiving a letter from his daughter Mariam. She was his only daughter who was married to a soldier and living at a far-away place. Ali was longing to hear from her.
In his younger days, Ali was a clever hunter and derived pleasure from the bewildered terror of the dying birds. But especially after his daughter’s marriage he started feeling lonely and was experiencing the pangs of separation. Now he realized the pain and suffering the birds and animals might have felt when he was hunting them. He no longer enjoyed hunting. Now all he wanted was some news from his daughter which hadn’t come so-far.
After 5 years came a time when for several days, Ali was not seen in the post office. Everyone noticed this but nobody had sympathy enough to find out what really happened to him. At last, one day, Ali came again, but, now it was difficult for him even to breathe and there were clear signs of his approaching end.
He met the postmaster and asked him if there was any letter from Mariam. As the postmaster was in a hurry, he got annoyed and scolded Ali by saying that, “If the letter had come, he would not eat away his letter. It would be delivered to him obviously.” Saying this the postmaster left. Ali called a clerk Lakshmidas and gave him five golden coins and asked him to deliver Mariam’s letter to his grave if it came. The clerk accepted the coins and agreed to do that. Slowly Ali left from there and was not seen by any one after that.
One day, the postmaster’s daughter who lived in another town fell ill and he was anxious to hear from her. He searched for a letter from his daughter from the pile of letters and surprisingly found a letter which was addressed to ‘Coachman Ali’.
Having gone through the pain himself, now the postmaster remembered how he had scolded Ali and realized how much his haughty temper might have hurt Ali. He called Lakshmidas, the clerk, and asked him to find out where was Ali. He kept Mariam’s letter with himself.
The whole day postmaster kept on waiting for a letter from his daughter but did not receive a letter. He kept worrying about her health. As he was able to experience the suffering himself, his attitude toward Ali changed. He decided that he would himself hand-over Ali’s letter. But sadly, Lakshmidas came with the news that Ali had died three months back.
The postmaster felt sad and still had Mariam’s letter in his hand. That evening postmaster went to Ali’s grave to place the letter there. After keeping the letter, he stood there silently. In those silent moments, he understood the importance of connection and separation. He realized that letters are not just pieces of paper but they are actually a part of someone’s heart. They connect one heart to another. And this connection keeps us alive with joy and hope.
When the story ended, participants shared similar experiences from their lives about separation from their families and loved ones. They also wrote a letter to their loved ones, addressed to SaMvitti and to SahityaMitra.
One of the listener Shaku Vaghela said, “The story touched me. Through the story, I missed my daughter and my mother. I worried about my daughter. I am sure she must be taking care of her studies and our house. My mother used to wait for me when I came from office but now I don’t know how is she.”