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One day during the rainy season the rains had taken a break, and it was a cloudless afternoon. A soft breeze was blowing and a pleasing scent emanated from the sun-bathed moist grass and trees; it felt as though the warm breath of weary earth was caressing the body. A stubborn bird, from who knows where, all through the afternoon was persistently reciting its complaint piteously in nature's court. The postmaster had no work in hand. The smooth and silky foliage and the glistening layers of cloud left behind by the subdued rains were a delightful sight to watch; the postmaster watched and thought how wonderful it would have been if a loved one had been by his side to share this moment of joy. Perhaps, he thought, the bird too was voicing the same complaint; the lonely afternoon, plunged darkened by the shadows of the trees, also conveyed the same meaning. No one believes and no one knows, but such feelings do overwhelm the low-salaried sub-postmaster in a tiny hamlet on a holiday!
The postmaster heaved a wistful sigh and called, "Ratan". Ratan was sitting under a guava tree eating an unripe fruit. Hearing the master call, she ran up to him breathless and enquired, "You called me, Dadababu?" The postmaster said, "From now on, I will teach you to read." True to his word he spent the entire afternoon teaching her the alphabet; over a few days the pupil learned to string letters together to form syllables.
There was no respite from the rain during the month; it rained incessantly. The canals, ditches and troughs overflowed; the only sounds which met the ears were the croaking of frogs and the patter of the rains. It had become impossible to walk on the village paths - one had to ride in a skiff to reach the village market.
One day it rained heavily since morning. The postmaster's pupil sat for a long time by the door awaiting his call. But when the familiar call, like other days, did not issue she tip-toed into the room with her shabby notebook. She saw the postmaster lying on his bed with eyes shut. Thinking that he was asleep she made to leave quietly when she heard him call, "Ratan". The girl immediately turned back and asked, "What O' Dadababu (elder brother), were you asleep?" The postmaster replied weakly, "I am unwell; just feel my forehead."
In a situation of extreme loneliness the sick body craves some affectionate nursing; the ill person recalls the gentle touch of a bangle-wearing hand on the hot forehead. In his state of illness he likes to imagine his mother or elder sister by his side. In the present circumstance the ailing man's wishes did not go unheeded. The child Ratan remained no longer a child. In an instant she assumed the role of a mother, fetched the doctor, administered medicines, and sat by the patient's side all through the night. She prepared porridge for him, and asked him a hundred times, "What O' Dadababu, are you feeling any better now?"
The postmaster was able to climb out of bed after several days but he still felt very weak. He resolved that he could no longer live in this secluded place; he must seek transfer. The postmaster, citing reasons of ill-health, penned an application requesting for a transfer and dispatched it to his head office in Kolkata.
Relieved of her nursing duties, Ratan once again occupied her rightful station by the door. But unlike in the past she was not often summoned inside now. Sometimes she peeked inside and found the postmaster either sitting on the stool and brooding, or lying on his bed. While Ratan sat outside eagerly awaiting his call, the postmaster eagerly awaited a reply to his application. The little girl, sitting by the door, recited the lessons she had learned in the past over and over again so that when suddenly called inside she should not become muddled but be able to give correct answers.
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu