Summary and Analysis of Dhumaketu’s The Letter
Dhumaketu’s The Letter is about human emotions and their importance in a person’s life. The central character in this story is Ali who used to be a hunter in his days of youth. He used to be a skilled hunter and many said that it was because of his brutality on the poor animals that God had punished him and he was leading a lonely life in old age. Whatever be the reason, the poor man was in the habit of visiting the village post office every day. He would start for the post office quite early at the time of day break. He would walk to the post office when the entire town was asleep and the dogs were barking on the path. He would visit the post office like it was his Mecca. Once the wooden arch of the post office was visible, his heart would be filled with joy and he would sit in its veranda.
This had been his routine for years. The clerks would call his name in jest. When Ali would ask for his mail, they would laugh and make a joke of him. For last five years Ali had no news from his only daughter Miriam who had married a soldier and left for Punjab with him. Once his daughter had left him, he felt bitter and had left hunting. However, he had not lost and waited eagerly for any news from his daughter. The post office like a holy mosque became his place of pilgrimage and he sat in a specific corner of the building every day. Ali waited and waited and the postmen made a game of him.
The clerk talked to the postmaster of Ali’s madness and how he troubled them every day for a piece of mail that was never to arrive. Ali used to see the peons of firms visiting the post office for mail and sometimes he would see the inexpressive face of the post master when the door was thrown open. One day after everyone had left, Ali too got up and saluted the post office. The post master observed this and asked a postman if Ali was mad. The postman said that yes he was and whatever be the weather he does not forget to come to the post office. The post master worried that who would trouble himself to write to a mad man.
After that, Ali did not come for several days and no one inside the post office had as much sympathy for him that they could guess the reason. However, they were feeling surprised. At last Ali came and he looked weak. The signs of an approaching end were on his face. He gently asked the postmaster if there was any mail from his Miriam. Ali had little sanity left in his head and he could not understand that the postmaster was a public official used to be treated with utmost respect. The post master was in a hurry. When Ali pressed him to look for Miriam’s mail, he grew annoyed and rebuked Ali for being such an annoyance. Ali had lost his patience but not his faith. He stood up to go but then stopped to talk to a clerk coming behind him. He gave the clerk five golden guineas he had saved and requested him to send his daughter’s letter in Allah’s name to his grave when it arrived. He was never going to come again and ask for the letter. After that Ali was never found on the Post office’s premises.
However, soon trouble visited the post master and his daughter lay ill in another town. He was waiting anxiously for any news from her and when he saw an envelope of the right size, he grabbed it eagerly. When he read the address on the envelope he was shocked to read the name of Ali. He could now feel Ali’s pain and sorrow. Dhumaketu has highlighted the irony that the post master was subjected to the same fate as Ali. He had treated Ali harshly and now fate was harsh to him. The kind of guilt and remorse that the post master was feeling is not difficult to imagine. In India, the public officials are generally stubborn and full of attitude and here Dhumaketu apart from highlighting their heartlessness has also highlighted that every human is under the control of God and what you do to others can tomorrow be your fate.
While he was worried he heard a soft stroke on the door and eagerly leapt from his chair to see Ali standing outside the door bent with age. Lines of tears running down from his eyes had left their mark on Ali’s face but there was a kind of unearthly light in his eyes that made the post master afraid. He quietly handed Ali the letter and shrank back in fear. Son, when the clerk and postmen arrived they told the postmaster that Ali was dead three months ago. The post master was startled at their declaration. He turned and saw the letter lying near the door. He had started doubting his senses and tried to confirm with the clerk. That evening he went to Ali’s grave with Lakshmi Das and laid the letter there. However, his heart was heavy and he felt a bitter pain in his conscience for not being able to understand Ali’s pain. His heart was restless and the same pain gnawed at his heart.
Ali is an engaging character and so is the post master who is initially stubborn and emotionless but undergoes a change of heart in the story. Dhumaketu has given an important lesson trough The Letter. However high your status in the society be, always treat the elders with sympathy. Second, how you treat the other creatures decides how God will treat you. If you want to earn God’s love, you must love others. At the centre of the story is this irony that people do not understand others and treat them harshly without knowing that God is watching them.