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The Post Office

Rabindranath Tagore

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The Post Office is a play written by Rabindranath Tagore, first published in 1912. It tells the story of Amal, a young child who suffers from an incurable disease. Because of this, he is confined to his home where he lives with his adoptive uncle. To pass the time, he stands in the courtyard and talks to people who go by, asking where they are going. Finding out a new post office is being built, Amal starts imagining that he will receive a letter from the King. He is mocked for this by the village headman who goes as far as to pretend that Amal has received his wish, and that a letter from the king has arrived and that it promises that the royal physician will come and attend him. In fact, the physician really does come; however, he arrives too late to help Amal. Tagore wrote The Post Office in four days.

This book has 18 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1912. This is a translation by Devabrata Mukherjee and was first published in 1914.

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Excerpt from 'The Post Office'

[Madhav's House]

Madhav. What a state I am in! Before he came, nothing mattered; I felt so free. But now that he has come, goodness knows from where, my heart is filled with his dear self, and my home will be no home to me when he leaves. Doctor, do you think he—

Physician. If there's life in his fate, then he will live long. But what the medical scriptures say, it seems—

Madhav. Great heavens, what?

Physician. The scriptures have it: "Bile or palsey, cold or gout spring all alike."

Madhav. Oh, get along, don't fling your scriptures at me; you only make me more anxious; tell me what I can do.

Physician [Taking snuff] The patient needs the most scrupulous care.

Madhav. That's true; but tell me how.

Physician. I have already mentioned, on no account must he be let out of doors.

Madhav Poor child, it is very hard to keep him indoors all day long.

Physician. What else can you do? The autumn sun and the damp are both very bad for the little fellow—for the scriptures have it:

"In wheezing, swoon or in nervous fret,
In jaundice or leaden eyes—"

Madhav. Never mind the scriptures, please. Eh, then we must shut the poor thing up. Is there no other method?

Physician. None at all: for, "In the wind and in the sun—"

Madhav. What will your "in this and in that" do for me now? Why don't you let them alone and come straight to the point? What's to be done then? Your system is very, very hard for the poor boy; and he is so quiet too with all his pain and sickness. It tears my heart to see him wince, as he takes your medicine.

Physician. effect. That's why the sage Chyabana observes: "In medicine as in good advices, the least palatable ones are the truest." Ah, well! I must be trotting now. [Exit]

[Gaffer enters]

Madhav. Well, I'm jiggered, there's Gaffer now.

Gaffer. Why, why, I won't bite you.

Madhav. No, but you are a devil to send children off their heads.

Gaffer. But you aren't a child, and you've no child in the house; why worry then?

Madhav. Oh, but I have brought a child into the house.

Gaffer. Indeed, how so?

Madhav. You remember how my wife was dying to adopt a child?

Gaffer. Yes, but that's an old story; you didn't like the idea.

Madhav. You know, brother, how hard all this getting money in has been. That somebody else's child would sail in and waste all this money earned with so much trouble—Oh, I hated the idea. But this boy clings to my heart in such a queer sort of way—

Gaffer. So that's the trouble! and your money goes all for him and feels jolly lucky it does go at all.

Madhav. Formerly, earning was a sort of passion with me; I simply couldn't help working for money. Now, I make money and as I know it is all for this dear boy, earning becomes a joy to me.

Gaffer. Ah, well, and where did you pick him up?

Madhav. He is the son of a man who was a brother to my wife by village ties. He has had no mother since infancy; and now the other day he lost his father as well.

Gaffer. Poor thing: and so he needs me all the more.

Madhav. The doctor says all the organs of his little body are at loggerheads with each other, and there isn't much hope for his life. There is only one way to save him and that is to keep him out of this autumn wind and sun. But you are such a terror! What with this game of yours at your age, too, to get children out of doors!

Gaffer. God bless my soul! So I'm already as bad as autumn wind and sun, eh! But, friend, I know something, too, of the game of keeping them indoors. When my day's work is over I am coming in to make friends with this child of yours. [Exit]

[Amal enters]

Amal. Uncle, I say, Uncle!

Madhav. Hullo! Is that you, Amal?

Amal. Mayn't I be out of the courtyard at all?

Madhav. No, my dear, no.

Amal. See, there where Auntie grinds lentils in the quirn, the squirrel is sitting with his tail up and with his wee hands he's picking up the broken grains of lentils and crunching them. Can't I run up there?

Madhav. No, my darling, no.

Amal. Wish I were a squirrel!—it would be lovely. Uncle, why won't you let me go about?

Madhav. Doctor says it's bad for you to be out.

Amal. How can the doctor know?

Madhav. What a thing to say! The doctor can't know and he reads such huge books!

Production notes: This edition of The Post Office was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 11th April 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'The Inner Courtyard of the Amber Palace' by John Gleich.

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