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A Kindred Spirit

by Shehnaz Gujral
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Pedaling and endlessly ringing the cycle bell. Beating the metal door instead of the doorbell. Twice a day, around 12 noon, and then again at 4 pm. That was the postman of the village, Ram Prakash. His advent brought a smile on many faces. Ram Prakash, the postman had touched so many lives in the vicinity. Celebrating the festivals and consoling during difficult times, though wasn’t a part of his profession, yet this trait made him a member of the zone.

Raksha Bandhan, a festival of bonding between brother and sister is very popular in North India. Sisters would eagerly wait for Ram Parkash on a propitious day. “Diddi, Behanji, It’s money order from your brother.” Ladies would run to the door to receive the parcel. Since Ram Prakash was staying away from home, he would have a longing to meet his sisters. He would carry around a dozen Rakhi threads, deliver the money order and request all bhenjis to tie the sacred thread. He would be elated to have sweets from his Rakhi sisters.

The monsoon season, with heavy rainfall and water clogged overflowing drains would never dissuade him from his duties. With mud and gravel on the roads, he would effortlessly cycle and bang the door for urgent telegrams. It was a telegram for Preeto, whose husband was in Dubai for the last five years. Unlearned Lady couldn’t make out the contents of the telegram. Ram Prakash read the telegram but didn’t know how to explain that she had lost her husband. Finally, he gathered the courage to tell her that she was now a widow. She had become inconsolable. He called women from the hamlet to help Preeto. He wrote postcards to Preeto’s relatives on her behalf. With his knowledge about the Government procedures, he would always prove to be obliging. The very next day, he went to the post office and brought widow pension form, took her Thumbprint, and deposited it back.
Ram Prakash had become a close member of the affinity. He would offer a helping hand to the illiterates of the village. Filling Post office forms, Pension forms or even admission forms remained a customary task to be done by Ram Prakash. Nobody knew about his family. For the past two years, he hadn’t taken even one left. At the age of 53, he had the zest to play cricket with the boys on his way back from work. Evenings were fruitful as he engaged the illiterate adults teaching them basic language. Every single act of kindness was much appreciated by one and all. Working effortlessly for this adopted community, he never felt the void in his life.

There was much enthusiasm among villagers as they were busy preparing for Diwali. Ram Prakash bought a sack of crackers from the city for the children. He joined lighting the lamps, bursting crackers, and sharing the sweets and confections. The suburb was now all set to rejoice Eid. He prepared Sevaiaan for everyone. No festivity could ever be thought of without Ram Prakash.

He didn’t come to deliver letters for a couple of days. There was unrest among the villagers as they felt a part of their family was missing. The Village Pradhan went to inquire about him. He was in a jumbled state, mixed feelings of happiness and anxiety. Dhano, his daughter had got admission in a Medical College. Paying College fees from his salary was undoable. He didn’t have sufficient savings to pay the College fees. Though he ran from pillar to post to get the loan approved, he could get only half of the amount required. Jittery he didn’t know how to inform his family.

The villagers requested Pradhan to get into the matter. He gave a guarantee at the bank and Ram Prakash could get the loan. A contented person, who could perform his duties well for his family, resumed his work with the same robustness and gusto. He was indebted towards the villagers for their contributions.

Days, Months, and Years flew away. His daughter completed her degree in another five years and it was time for his retirement. He got a farewell from the Post Office and got his settlement amount. It was time to bid final goodbye to the village which was a part of his being. His heart was heavy at the thought of leaving the village, the people who gave him more than he had expected. In a flashback, he remembered the festivals he had spent with the villagers, how he had seen the young children grow into adults. So many memories and emotions attached to the place. Concurrently, he had the longing to be with his family whom he hadn’t seen for the past three years. With moist eyes, he said the final good-bye to take up his responsibilities towards his family. A new postman took charge in place of Ram Prakash.

Now Diwali, Eid or Raksha Bandhan celebrations would be incomplete without a letter at Pradhan’s house from the Postman, Ram Prakash.

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