Sunday 8 February 2015


2015-06  Tagore: The Post Office - How to be happy selling curds

Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian writer of all forms of literature (as well as a painter and composer), predominantly wrote in Bengali, though several of his poems and plays have been translated into English. Originally written in Bengali in 1912, Dak Ghar was translated into English as The Post Office and performed in 1913 by the Abbey Theatre Company in Dublin and London. The play was then published in 1914. To this day, The Post Office is the most renowned and beloved of Tagore's dramatic works, and it is still regularly produced in the United States and abroad. 

The story is about Amal, an eight year old boy who is terminally ill and confined to his bed by the family physician. His only contact with the outside world is through his window. From there he watches village life, engages passers-by in eager conversation from the vantage of his open window.  Only by dying is the boy finally set free. The play is a poignant tribute to the human spirit that gathers hope, even where there seems to be none. It symbolizes the whole human experience of the uncorrupted soul with its yearning and flights of imagination being trapped in the limitations of the body.


Dairyman. Curds, curds, good nice curds.
Amal. Curdseller, I say, Curdseller.
Dairyman. Why do you call me? Will you buy some curds?
Amal. How can I buy? I have no money.
Dairyman. What a boy! Why call out then? Ugh! What a waste of time.
Amal. I would go with you if I could.
Dairyman. With me?
Amal. Yes, I seem to feel homesick when I hear you call from far down the road.
Dairyman [Lowering his yoke-pole] Whatever are you doing here, my child?

Amal. The doctor says I'm not to be out, so I sit here all day long.
Dairyman. My poor child, whatever has happened to you?
Amal. I can't tell. You see I am not learned, so I don't know what's the matter with me. Say, Dairyman, where do you come from?
Dairyman. From our village.
Amal. Your village? Is it very far?
Dairyman. Our village lies on the river Shamli at the foot of the Panch-mura hills.

Amal. Panch-mura hills! Shamli river! I wonder. I may have seen your village. I can't think when though!
Dairyman. Have you seen it? Been to the foot of those hills?
Amal. Never. But I seem to remember having seen it. Your village is under some very old big trees, just by the side of the red road--isn't that so?

Dairyman. That's right, child. 
Amal. And on the slope of the hill cattle grazing.
Dairyman. How wonderful! Aren't there cattle grazing in our village! Indeed, there are!
Amal. And your women with red sarees fill their pitchers from the river and carry them on their heads.
Dairyman. Good, that's right. Women from our dairy village do come and draw their water from the river; but then it isn't everyone who has a red saree to put on. But, my dear child, surely you must have been there for a walk some time.
Amal. Really, Dairyman, never been there at all. But the first day doctor lets me go out, you are going to take me to your village.
Dairyman. I will, my child, with pleasure.

Amal. And you'll teach me to cry curds and shoulder the yoke like you and walk the long, long road?
Dairyman. Dear, dear, did you ever? Why should you sell curds? No, you will read big books and be learned.
Amal. No, I never want to be learned--I'll be like you and take my curds from the village by the red road near the old banyan tree, and I will hawk it from cottage to cottage. Oh, how do you cry--"Curd, curd, good nice curd!" Teach me the tune, will you?
Dairyman. Dear, dear, teach you the tune; what an idea!

Amal. Please do. I love to hear it. I can't tell you how queer I feel when I hear you cry out from the bend of that road, through the line of those trees! Do you know I feel like that when I hear the shrill cry of kites from almost the end of the sky?
Dairyman. Dear child, will you have some curds? Yes, do.
Amal. But I have no money.
Dairyman. No, no, no, don't talk of money! You'll make me so happy if you have a little curds from me.
Amal. Say, have I kept you too long?
Dairyman. Not a bit; it has been no loss to me at all; you have taught me how to be happy selling curds. [Exit]

[If you like this anecdote, you may read THE POST OFFICE in full; it is studded with many such gems -- like the episode of Sudha, the flower girl.] 



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