ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Narayan was a prolific Indian write whose exquisitely crafted stories and novels provided witty and perceptive observations about life in India. He received the sahitya academy award in 1958 for ‘the guide’. “the missing mail” is taken from the collection ‘Malgudi Days’ which has stories involving incidents and experiences in the life of the people of the fictional city named Malgudi that remains central to all of poet’s works.
This story revolves round Thanappa, a village postman. He took four hours to cover the Four roads of Malgudi because he was friendly with the people for whom he brought the mail and often sat down to chat with them. He shared their joys and sorrows, offered them advice about their problems or worried about their welfare. He talked about their jobs, their parents or their children. He had, thus, become a part of the life of the villagers.
He was most friendly with Ramanujam whom he knew from the time he had given the news about the birth of his daughter, Kamakshi, Ramanujam started worried about Kamakshi’s marriage when she grew up. His father-in-law had kept a sum of Five Thousand Rupees for Kamakshi’s marriage and he too wrote and reminded Ramanujam of his duties. He felt Ramanujam was not making sufficient efforts for his daughter’s marriage and reminded him to start looking for a groom for Kamakshi. Ramanujam was also worried as the wedding season was almost over and very few auspicious dates were remaining. At such a time, Thanappa not only consoled him but also told him of a boy in Delhi. Thanappa told him that the boy belonged to the same caste and his wedding negotiations with another part had nearly broken down. Thanappa presented the boy’s horoscope to Ramanujam which also matched with Kamakshi’s horoscope. Thanappa convinced Ramanujam to go to madras with Kamakshi to negotiate the matter. Finally the marriage was settled for the 20th of may. Thanappa put his heart and soul into the prevarications for the marriage and the wedding was solemnized.
Fifteen days later, Thanappa handed Ramanujam a letter and a telegram. The letter contained news of his uncle’s illness and the telegram contained the news of his demise in his native town, Salem. When Ramanujam was in grief, Thanappa pointed out that the letter and telegram were dated 19th and 20th may. Th day of Kamakshi’s marriage. Ramanujam become angry and scolded Thanappa for delaying the delivery of the mails. Thanappa gently said that he had delayed the delivery of the mail because he didn’t want the marriage to be disrupted. He even told Ramanujam that he could complain if he liked, as he did not mind losing his job for helping in Kamakshi’s wedding. As he was about to leave, Ramanujam said that he had no intentions ton complain. Thanappa understood his felling and went away.
This shows that sometimes one comes across people who are so selfless and crying that they help others even at a risk to themselves.
SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS :
(1) Comment on the title ‘The Missing Mail’.
Ans: The title ‘The Missing Mail’ sounds mysterious and arouses the reader’s curiosity as he feels that some mail is lost or delayed and he/she wonders about the consequences of this loss. But actually, the story is about the delayed delivery of a letter and a telegram, by the postman, conveying bad news. The postman feared that the delivery of the would create a disruption in the wedding. So he delayed the delivery of the mail by fifteen days even at the risk of his job.
(2) Is Thanappa’s action justified?
Ans. Thanappa was a well-wisher of Ramanujam. He realized the trouble Ramanujam had to face in fixing up Kamakshi’s marriage. Though unhappy to see the telegram, he withheld the information as he left that what had happened, had happened and that the delay in marriage would not help in any way. As he did want the marriage to be disrupted, he delayed the delivery of the mail. As his motive was selfless and honorable, his action is justified.
(3) Ramanujam was worried about his daughter’s marriage. Mention some of the thingsthat troubled him.
Ans. Firstly, Ramanujam was worried that Kamakshi would be of seventeen years in a few days, which was considered too old age for marriage. Secondly, Ramanujam’s father-in-low thought that he was not active in finding a groom for his daughter Kamakshi and his letters were getting fiercer everyday. Thirdly, there were only few auspicious dates left and Ramanujam had still not found a groom.
(4) Explain the role of Thanappa in Kamakshi’s marriage:
Ans. When Ramanujam was unable to find a suitable match for Kamakshi, Thanappa told him about a boy in Delhi, who belonged to the same caste. He also brought the address and horoscope for Ramanujam. Later on when the negotiations fell through over the question of Kamakshi going to Madres with Ramanujam , Thanappa convinced him to go to Madras. When the marriage was settled for the 20th May, he put his heart and soul into the preparations for the wedding. Finally he delayed the mail giving news of the sickness and the subsequent death of Ramanujam ‘s uncle so that the marriage would not get disrupted.
LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTION :
(i) Suppose one of Ramanujam ‘s relative has complained to the postal department against Thanappa for dereliction of duty. The postal department has asked Thanappa to explain the circumstances and present his defence, if any. Thinking yourself as Thanappa state why you adopted a course of action which tantamounted to an offence. Write your statement.
Ans. At the outset, let me make it clear that whatever I did was from a humanitarian angle. I had no selfish motive or bias against anyone. The only offence I am supposed to have committed is my failure to deliver a letter and a telegram to Mr. Ramanujam as soon as they were handed over to me by post office.
Well, here is my explanation. There is a superpower above all of us which guides all our thoughts, actions and desires. You may call it god or Conscience, whatever you desire. My consciences advised me not to deliver the postcard containing the news of the serious illness of Ramanujam’s uncle at Salem. Had I done so, Ramanujam would have rushed off to Salem to attend to his ailing uncle. In that case, all the preparation for Kamakshi’s marriage would have been seriously hampered.
I got the telegram dated 19th announcing the death I was on the horns of a dilemma. Not delivering the letter and telegram meantiderellction of duty. I am well aware of the punishment - it may be as harsh as dismissal. On the other hand was the future happiness of an innocent girl, Kamakshi . I felt as if my own daughter was appealing to me for help. Guided by parental feeling, I decided to suppress the news for a for night and risk punishment for an action which didn’t harm anyone.
If my conduct is judged by mere professional standards. Well I have erred, but for the first time in my career of thirty years as a postman. However , if you judge my action on humanitarian angle, You will find that my good act, which brought happiness to all concerned, deserves commendation.
I sincerely pray that the views of the party concerned i.e. Ramanujam ,his father-in-law and his daughter, Kamakshi, may kindly be sought before disposal of my case on purely technical grounds.
I believe in your stice and mercy. Submitted for your kind perusal.
(ii) Kamakshi is finally married in the ‘The Missing’. Kamakshi receives letter from her mother after a month of her marriage highlighting the role played by Thanappa in Kamakshi’s marriage. Imagining yourself as Kamakshi mother write the above letter.
Ans . 10,Vinayak Mudali Street
25 July, 200X
I have just received your loving letter. You have asked about the death and welfare of Thanappa . I fell pleased as well, you will be pleased and astonished to learn Thanappa’srole in your marriage. I fell pleased as well as surprised at his angelic role in your life. It was Thanappa who gave the address of the groom’s father and brought the groom’s father and brought the groom’s horoscope. He helped the family during the negotiations. Perhaps you know all this.
However there is one thing which has sprung just last week which has suddenly raised him to the pedestal of a god in my esteem. Do you know he risked everything to see your wedding performed on the auspicious day fixed already?
The secret was revealed by Thanappa himself . he came yesterday and confessed the dereliction of duty on his part. He deliberately withheld with held the news of illness of your father’s uncle and his subsequent death. He came to know from the postcard that your father’s uncle was seriously ill at Salem. Then he came to know of his death from the telegram. These were received on the day of your marriage. Had he delivered them in routine, your marriage would not have passed off peacefully. Your father would not have approved of wedding bells when an old man in the family was lying on dealth -bed or breathing his last.
Perhaps Thanappa knew the sentiment of your father. That is why he wifully held the letter and telegram back. Like a philosophers he thought that whatever has happened, has happened. It cannot be undone now. Nobody can revive the old man. Then why postpone the wedding of Kamakshi. In fact, he behaved as a caring father. He delayed the mail deliberately for over a fortnight of your marriage. Then he confessed everything to your father and expressed his readiness to face any punishment. This shows his greatness. His spirit of sacrifice has ennobled him in my estimation. You owe your happy married life to him.
Your father behaved in a equally noble manner. He just raised his voice and said, “postman, I am only sorry you did this….” Your father knew that withholding the mail is a serious offence and the postman could lose his job if he complained. But he also realized the motive which had prompted Thanappa to do so. He understood the paternal felling of the old man and forgave him for the lapse. He assured Thanappa that he would not complain against him to the authorities.
(iii) Give the character sketch of Thanappa .
Ans. Thanappa is the main character of the story. He is a part of the life the people of Malgudi and he shares their joys and sorrows. He offers advice to their problems or worries about their welfare. He is considerate and understanding and consoles Ramanujam when the latter’s father-in-law feels that he is incapable of finding a groom for Kamakshi. He is a god-fearing person and he feels that things happen only with God’s will. He is optimist and he reassures Ramanujam when he feels that Kamakshi will never get married. Thanappa is practical and he convinces Ramanujam to go to Madras along with Kamakshi for further negotiations regarding the marriage with the Delhi boy. He is not bound by orthodox views. He is genuinely concerned about Kamakshi’s welfare and puts her joys above his own job. This is evident from the fact that he is willing to sacrifice his job by delaying the delivery of the latter and the telegram giving news about the sickness and death of Ramanujam’s uncle respectively rather than let Kamakshi’s marriage get disrupted.