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Picture of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore This is a feeble translation of "Postmaster", a story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The objective is merely to urge readers to read the original, or better translations. The story is about a postmaster who is used to city life but has to take up duties in a remote village, far away from his loved ones. An orphan girl does the housework for him. The postmaster feels very lonely. In order to ward off his loneliness the postmaster takes to writing poetry wherein he suggests that there can be no greater joy than to live in the midst of nature. But, contrary to the sentiments expressed in his poems, the postmaster pines for the city life; he longs to be in Kolkata with its tall buildings and tarred roads. Again, in order to overcome his loneliness, the postmaster takes to teaching Ratan, the orphan girl. Perhaps, because the girl is also companionless like him that the postmaster feels a kind of affinity for her and tells her about his family members and his longing for them, something which he would have hesitated to tell others. In course of time, the girl becomes fond of the postmaster and regards him as an elder brother. Ratan herself had a brother whose memory is uppermost in her mind; perhaps that memory makes her long for a brother. The postmaster also feels an affection for her, but his heart yearns to go back to his family in Kolkata; the affection is that of a master, and not of a brother! The postmaster, unable to face the separation from his family, resigns from his job. Before going away, he offers monetary assistance to the girl. The girl is distressed that a sister's affection was sought to be weighed in terms of money. She, of course, declines to take the money, but her little heart hopes that the postmaster will take her along with him, or he would return back to the village. A truly heart-rending story! After reading the story one cannot help feeling angry at the postmaster. Why didn't he take Ratan along with him? Well, the conditions were very different when this story was written: It wasn't an open society then; girls were married off at a very young age; there were all kinds of social differences and taboos. Only a person with courage could have taken the girl along with him; the postmaster, in contrast, appears to be of timid type. Perhaps that's the reason why he laughs away the question and counters "How is that possible?" when the girl asks him whether he would take her home along with him. Wonder whether the story would have a happy ending if written in today's times.

(This story is being republished)

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Reformer reformed!

Funny picture of dog wearing a hat It was Monday, the start of another week. After enjoying two days at home I had to return to the metropolis where I worked. I savoured the three-hour bus ride on the expressway, and upon reaching the metropolis hailed a cab to take me to my office. I had a nagging suspicion that the cab driver was taking me for a ride. I had been in the metropolis for six months now and always visited my hometown, which was only 180 kilometres away, on weekends. I took an early bus to reach the metropolis around 10 am, and then a cab or an autorickshaw from the bus stand would take just 20 minutes to reach my office and the fare would be around 40 rupees. I had become quite accustomed to these journeys, and had become quite familiar with the surroundings. But the cab driver was driving on a road which was unfamiliar, and the surroundings did not strike any chord. Maybe he is following a shorter route, I thought to myself. En route, the cab driver pointed out landmarks of the city as though he were a travel guide. He had recognized I was a stranger in these parts - these cab drivers have an uncanny knack of recognizing strangers from natives. Even after 30 minutes when I could see no sight of my office, I began to get worried. There was no doubt now that he was taking me for a ride. He was following a longer route to charge me a higher fare. But I could do nothing about it now.

(This story is being republished)

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Two-thirds honest!

A naughty boy has eaten one banana and left the skin on the plate Five children - Anil, Bipin, Chandra, Deepak and Edwin come to me for some coaching in their studies. The children are very mischievous and are always up to some prank. One day I bought three bananas, and kept them on the table. The children had already arrived. I told them to wait for a while as I wanted to have a wash. After returning, I found one banana had been eaten and the skin carefully placed on the table itself. I smiled inwardly recalling the pranks I had played as a child myself. But the culprit had to be found out and reprimanded for taking things that did not belong to him. It had to be the work of only one of the boys. I questioned them and each one made three statements of which two were true and one was false. From the statements can you tell who ate the banana?

(This puzzle had been carried before and is being republished)

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  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
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  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu