A Mission


As the rooster bellows at first light, the gleaming bicycle is ready for the day. It isn’t just a bicycle but a harbinger of hope, love, pain, surprise, and disappointment. The bicycle sets its pace every morning as Nathu Ram rubs the machine earnestly, right till the rails and rims glisten in the ochre dawn. The approaching retirement does not dim his fervor.

As the village postman, folks await the tinkling of the lofty bell perched atop the silver handlebar. “Postman Chacha” the fond acronym always brings a smile to his face.

Postman Chacha’s two-wheeled ride sweeps into the post office. Unlocking the tiny hutment every morning feels like the greatest joy to him. As the windows and doors are unlocked to welcome in another new day, the mail truck swerves into the courtyard.

“Manoj Bhai, please step down for some tea”. He is welcomed with the steaming brew as he squats under the Peepal tree. Sipping the fragrant tea Manoj’s sudden shrug catches Nathu’s eyes. “What is it Manoj Bhai? Is the tea unappealing?”

“Oh! No. Not at all.” Manoj sighs, “Infact, it soothes my weary bones after the uphill drive. It is this chit-chat at the head post office that is unnerving.”

“Post offices in the far-flung areas including this will shut down soon”, Manoj continues as Nathu’s face turns pale.

“What?” is all that Nathu blurts before sitting with a thud, almost losing balance. “What happens to us? Why?”

“The Internet be cursed Nathu. It is akin to the jinxed black cobra in the village temple that is transforming fertile lands to the wilderness.”

Manoj bids goodbye and good luck while Nathu promptly pedals towards the Sarpanch’s abode.

He greets the Hukkah smoking octogenarian, “Namaste Sarpanch Ji.”

The latter responds with a raised hand “Kaise Nathu. Sab kushal mangal na?”

Kahan Sarpanch Ji” Nathu replies. “I hear the post office may be closing soon. Have you known? Where will I go?”

“Why do you worry! You have a pension to sustain you,” replies the Sarpanch emphatically.

“This isn’t about money. It is the emotional connect I share with the villagers through letters. I will be distraught. You have to suggest a way out.”

The Sarpanch ponders intensely before replying, “Nathu, my dear, these decisions are taken at the top. I have no say. Except that now I have another task to put the derelict building to some use.”

Nathu’s mind is distraught. With just the two of them and the bicycle, there is nothing to occupy him. The thought makes him shudder. He continues sitting, pensive, lost in thoughts, eyes closed. And then suddenly he jumps up like Archimedes rising from the bathtub, exclaiming. “Sarpanch Ji! Even if the post office is shut let the building remain. Let me convert it into a postal museum!”

The Sarpanch looks up, impressed. Smiling, he continues, “Work out a plan and then we will take it to the Panchayat.”

Nathu cycles back beaming as bright as the bicycle, ”I’m on a mission now!”

Saravjot Hansrao

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