Answers to questions from the Letter by Dhumaketu: Chapter Three Class Ten
Working with your partner note down the feelings of the old man.
- – Aggrieved
- – Exhausted
- – Eager
- – Agitated
Can you think of reasons for these feelings? Discuss with your partner and note down possible reasons.
There can be several reasons behind the feelings. Some possible reasons are:
- Old age, loneliness. Distance from children, lack of care.
- Answer the following questions by ticking the correct options:
(a) Ali’s walking to the Post Office daily even in biting cold weather shows his __(ii) optimism_____(Ali was optimistic of getting his daughter’s news).
(b) The Post Office is referred to as Ali’s “place of pilgrimage” as he__(iii) went there with faith and hope___.
(c) The Post Master’s rudeness to Ali reveals his _(i) lack of empathy___________.
(d) Ali did not come to the Post Office for several days as _(ii) he was upset by the Post Master’s rebuke__(He had lost his patience when the postmaster rebuked him)__.
The Post Master was waiting for (ii) a letter from his own daughter__.
- Answer the following questions briefly.
(a) Who was Ali? Where did he go daily?
Answer: Ali was an old man who used to be a hunter in his days of youth. The only living member of his family is his daughter Miriam whom he has not seen for years. He visits the post office daily with the faith and hope that her letter will arrive. However, old age and loneliness have turned him nearly mad. The postmen make fun of him and tease him by calling his name daily even if no mail has arrived in his name.
(b) “Ali displays qualities of love and patience”. Give evidence from the story to support the statement.
Ali’s longing for his daughter’s mail is the first sign of love in his heart. He treats the post master with respect and patience by calling him Sahib when he asks him if any mail has arrived in his name from his daughter. He again demonstrates patience when he hands over the five guineas to the clerk requesting him to send Miriam’s letter to his grave when it arrives. “Yes. It is true. Today is my last day: my very last, alas! And I have not seen Miriam, I have had no letter from her.” There were tears in Ali’s eyes as the clerk slowly left him and went on his way with the five golden guineas in his pocket.”
(c) How do you know Ali was a familiar figure at the post office?
The postmen jest about Ali and his daily routine. “In the midst of this procedure a jesting voice from inside called, “Coachman Ali!” The old man got up, raised his eyes to heaven in gratitude and stepping forward put his hands to the door. The postmen also discuss his madness and that he has been punished for the sins he committed in his youth.
(d) Why did Ali give up hunting?
Ali used to be a clever hunter with acute hunting instincts. However, as his age grew he left his old lifestyle and abandoned hunting. His daughter had left him and loneliness had crept deep into his life which made him shun his old lifestyle.
(e) What impression do you form of the postmaster after reading the story ‘The Letter’?
The postmaster appears a self-centered man whose eyes have opened by the end when Ali’s ghost visits him. He behaves insensitively when Ali comes to him asking for his mail and he rebukes Ali for his stubbornness. He cannot understand Ali’s pain and like any public servant talks with an air of haughtiness. He cannot tolerate Ali a poor, old man around him and so gives him a cold rebuke for wasting his time.However, the story shows that he is not entirely bad and has only become so because in India people expect the senior public officials or ‘Hakims’ to be so. His heart has changed when his own daughter falls ill and he is longing to get a message from her. The letter shows that at the core we are all humans and even the post master and we all have a conscience.
(f) The postmaster says to Ali, “What a pest you are, brother!” Do you agree with the statement? Give reasons for your answer.
The post master had not time for Ali as he was occupied with his own job. However, Ali kept coming and asking him for mail which left him feeling irritated. He got to know of Ali’s madness from the postmen and clerk. Moreover, he wore the haughtiness of a senior officer and Ali was an ordinary man who hardly deserved the postmaster’s attention.
(g) “Ali came out very slowly, turning after every few steps to gaze at the post office.
His eyes were filled with tears of helplessness, for his patience was exhausted,
even though he still had faith.” Why were Ali’s eyes filled with tears of
helplessness? What had exhausted his patience but not his faith?
Ali had lost patience but not faith. He had felt helpless when the postmaster gave him a hard rebuke. The postmaster’s rebuke touched his heart and he nearly lost his hope of getting Miriam’s news. His eyes were filled with tears as he left the post office building and his heart was heavy.
(h) “Tortured by doubt and remorse, he sat down in the glow of the charcoal sigri to wait.” Who is tortured by doubt and remorse? Why? What is he waiting for?
The postmaster had rebuked Ali because he could not understand his pain. However, as he was waiting for his own daughter’s news it dawned upon him Ali too had felt a similar pain. His pain doubled when he was reminded of his treatment of Ali and made him doubt his own character. The weight on his conscience grew heavier and remorse overtook him. Laden with doubt and remorse he waited for his own daughter’s news. His heart was full of sympathy for Ali and with repentance for what he had done to him.
The writer carefully builds up an atmosphere of loneliness and grief in the story. Working in groups, pick out words/ phrases from the story that build up the atmosphere. Copy the following table in your notebook and complete it.
|An old man was walking through the town, now and again drawing his|
tattered clothes tighter to shield his body from the cold and biting wind.
|evening of his life,|
a cheerless existence,
bewildered terror of the young partridges
|his lonely way,|
evening of his life,
he understood the
meaning of love and separation,
such loneliness had come into his life,
bereft of their parents,
“To my grave.”
anxiously waiting for news,
|his sorrow and anxiety,|
laid bare his human heart,
night of restless anxiety,
Tortured by doubt and remorse,
- Complete the table by explaining the following phrases/ sentences in your own words:
|happy memories light up a life that is nearing its close||At the end people are reminded of happier days, when night nears the end dawn lights up the world|
|the sounds helped him along his lonely way||While he was walking alone, the sounds coming from nearby houses helped him remain confident.|
|the cold used sleep to extend its sway over all things even as a false friend lulls his chosen victim with caressing smiles||Hard cold is just like a false friend, it strikes deeper|
|when the evening of his life was drawing in, he left his old ways and suddenly took a new turn||When he was approaching his old age he decided to leave his old way of life.|
|the whole universe is built up through love and that the grief of separation is inescapable||Grief is just as inescapable as joy, they are two sides of the same coin.|
|the post-master, a man with a face as sad and as inexpressive as a pumpkin, would be seen sitting on his chair inside||A cold unimpressive man with little sensitivity is the post master.|
|And so the clerk, like a worshipper of Vishnu, repeated his customary thousand names||The clerk did what was a custom at the post office.|
|The haughty temper of the official had quite left him in his sorrow and anxiety, and had laid bare his human heart||Ali was left agonized by the inhuman attitude of the postmaster.|
- LISTENING TASK
Causes of neglect of the elderly:
- Breaking of the joint family
- Changing demographics
- Unemployment and poverty
- Lack of sympathy for the poor and the old
Tortured by doubt and remorse, the postmaster sits in the glow of a charcoal sigri that night, waiting for news of his daughter. As he sits, he writes his diary. As the postmaster, write a diary entry in about 150 words outlining your feelings about the day’s events.
Since yesterday my heart is laden with guilt and I cannot help accepting the fact that my fate is justified. It seems that I will not be able to forget the face of Ali. He died waiting for his daughters’ news and I could not even understand the old man’s pain. Had I been kinder to him, my heart would have been free of guilt and my conscience clear. However, I made a mistake and now I am being made to repent for it. May God bless the old man’s soul for I can now understand the pain of loneliness and separation. It seems his ghost visited me and the look on its face has only doubled my pain. It will haunt me for days to come. Alas! If I had not been as insensitive. Whatever, I will wait for news from my daughter. May God forgive me for the mistake I made in ignorance.
(a) The postmaster believes that he saw Ali. What do you think? Discuss with your
partner and present your views in front of the class.
Ali’s ghost has haunted the postmaster when he was waiting for news from his daughter. It seems rather than Ali’s ghost it was the postmaster’s own memories that were torturing him. His conscience had made him recall the situation Ali was in years ago. It is difficult to believe that a ghost visited him. It can be that due to the guilt and remorse the post master started hallucinating.
(b) The postmaster was anxiously waiting for his ailing daughter’s news. On not getting any news he visits his daughter’s town. Now construct a dialogue between the postmaster and his daughter and enact it.
Post master: How are you honey?
Daughter: I am fine. What’s the matter? You look so worried.
Post master: I was so worried about you and your health. I did not even sleep for the last few nights.
Daughter: There is nothing to worry. It was not so serious. I am feeling well now.
Post master: Whatever, I am a father. I cannot help feeling worried. I was totally depressed since I heard of your illness. You did not even write to me. I eagerly waited for news from you.
Daughter: I just told you. It was not very serious. There is no need to worry. I did not feel like worrying you so I did not write.
Post master: I am relieved now but ever in future do you fall ill, do inform me instantly. Your father does not have a very strong heart when it comes to the health of his only daughter.