"The Postmaster might have left for his house, by now", she thought as she began walking towards the road. "Even he has his own children and he would like to spend some quality time with them too, I don't want to make him late." She increased the pace at which she walked in the gloomy wet afternoon. She walked past the cowsheds coming onto the path that connected the village to the main road. This path was full of mud which immediately molded into the footprints of the people who walked through it. The cold winds brushed against her cheeks and she inhaled pure air which reminded her of the first rain of the season right after the scorching heat of the dirty summer that had passed. She felt a freedom in some sense, but a bondage to this village in other ways. She had never seen the city. Her tiny 9 year old body had known her grandmother, her annually visiting parents, the postmaster and his children for her entire life up until now. She considered the postmaster as more of a father figure than her own father because of those some memorable minutes of everyday that the postmaster used to spend with her. She was very fond of him and even if he did not get a mail for her from the city, he did come to visit her describing his journey from the city to the village each day. He used to get mango sweets from the city for her everyday and hearing her little laughs and innocent voice made him fond of her, all the more. She wanted to send something to her parents that day and she was very considerate of the postmaster's time. She had made a small card for her parents which she wanted delivered by the next week the week that would mark the same time in the previous year that they had come to visit her. She missed them. Her grandmother was old and remained within the house for most of the day. She took care of her grandmother.
There was nothing special about this little girl, except for the fact that she was deeply caring for all those she had seen since birth. Her life was within the village but soon to be changed in a few months.
It was finally raining. The monsoon had arrived very late this year but when it did, the entire city flooded within a few hours only. The bell rang. She walked towards the door looking through the eye hole. It was the postmaster.
"How are you baby? You've grown so big! Here, I got these sweets for you. My little baby has grown into such a beautiful woman! I thank God that I finally met you. When are you coming home? "
His voice seemed old and tired but had the same excitement as earlier. She observed the white beard on his face and his spectacles, which were wet. His body had developed a hunch while his enthusiasm seemed immortal. His smile showed off his yellowish broken teeth as he spoke continuously not even pausing for a breath. His smile complimented the wrinkles on his face. His fingers had bent more than normal, disfiguring the shape of his hands but his simplicity remained untouched. He didn't wait for even one answer from her. The cold winds of the rain cooled the skin of her nose. She looked incessantly at the Postmaster, happy that he had visited her after so many years. She joined her hands and greeted him like before and felt like she was transported back to her house in the village. A child like innocence awakened her soul as she heard the postmaster's story describing his journey from the village to the city. "When will you come to the village, my dearest? We all miss you a lot. Do come soon."
"Sure, kaka, I will come soon, thanks for visiting......" she replied to him.
"What are you doing at the door, Ayesha?", a womanly voice asked from inside the hallway. Who is it? Why are you standing at the door when no one's there? I know you're stressed about your next project, doesn't mean you act this way. Take sometime off and then start your research okay? one rejection from the company doesn't mean you will loose further projects too. " The voice seemed to grow louder as it came nearer.
"Ayeshhh...who was it?"
"It was the postman. Yeah, you're right. Thanks mom!", there was an emptiness in her voice.
"You're always welcome, now tell me what do you want for dinner? Dad's going to be late today. It's just you and me what would you like to eat? "
"Don't know, you pick", she didn't feel like replying. Something had shaken her.
"Mom, you remember that postmaster? It was him at the door. "
"Yeahhhh, not possible though! Poor guy was such an honest man. Such a noble soul and so caring. Whenever we were to receive any of your posts, he always made it a point to make sure they get delivered as soon as possible. Always. He knew the meaning of a family and it seems he respected your grandmother also very much. Poor fellow died of sickness, some years ago only. His wife had come to visit us, when we went to the village around 2 years ago. It seemed it was a difficult time for them."
"Whaaat....He died?" a chill ran down her spine, she just couldn't believe what she had just heard. Her hands grew colder. Her mouth drier. Those words threw her into a fit of nervousness.
"Yeah, why? He died a few years ago and we wanted to comfort his family so we sent them some food and money for a couple of months after his death. His wife moved to the city to support the family soon enough. She's in fact done a great job with the children , you bet."
"Where are they?"
"The daughter is studying in college, she tried to work evenings to help her mother, while the son is back in the village. He's been doing some work here and there, stuck to fields as yet. Guess you always need someone back in the village when you have some land and farming eh? Everyone can't just leave everything and move to the city, like us...."
"Ayeshh, Why are you so surprised? What happened? Why did you bring up the postmaster so suddenly? So you said there was a postman at the door. What did he bring?"
"Nothing......he ....uh just a message."
"what kind of message? Okay anyway, I want you know that I have spoken to your dad and we're booking our vacations over the weekend, so you better be free. Please don't keep any plans with your friends this weekend, okay?"
How could he have come? Was he really there? She ran outside the door and tried to find signs of him. Was it a prank? She didn't believe in pranks. And there was no one apart from her parents who knew about the Postmaster, enough to play a prank on her. She went back in and checked the calendar. It was the exact date 15 years ago, that her parents had brought her to the city. There were no posts after that. It was the last day she had ever met the postmaster. Was this trying to lead her anywhere? Her memory revived to her the postmaster's stories especially about his innumerable journeys from the city to the village post office where he described old people and their struggles. Where he emphasized the ignorance of some of the very old populace of the village and how his mere presence brought back a smile to the faces of those expectant elder people. It was as if, he reconnected them to their families who were away from them for most parts of the year, even if it was just for a few minutes. He described how absolutely proud he felt about cycling for 10 kilometres everyday just to deliver notes of paper that enlightened an old aged person. He believed that the words of the letter were so strongly powered that even that one word from an entire letter of 200 words was enough to emotionally stir up an old man's heart that would tear up every time he got a chance to read the words of his own son's written letters. He highlighted his duty as one of the most important part of the journey in reconnecting people's hearts and he was so incredibly proud of himself for this.
It seemed like she finally found a way to fulfill her passion. Her soul's calling. The arrival of the postmaster had given her an idea of creating an old age home in her own village where there were many people who were left back or perhaps abandoned by their children, most of whom had left the village in a bid to create a better life in the city. A richer life. A wealthier life. And perhaps, a heartless life.
She made up her mind. Her parents were against her move back into the village, but she remained adamant. She wanted to move. Her house in the village was very modest, even though it was huge and had the capacity to house at least 15 people comfortably. It was part of her childhood. She had to return back to it at some point in her life. That point was here. She used her architectural school skills as she renovated the entire place enhancing the facilities that she could provide to this vulnerable, old people who spent most of their time in fields and their own huts in the village. She remembered the postmaster's words and his graceful smile after delivering a mail to her every time, he visited her in her childhood. She walked in the mud barefooted, allowing her feet to yield every time she took another step ahead. She felt bonded to the spirit of this village but free to make her own home, far from the city that her parents had taken her into, for a better future. Or was it something she never wanted? This place made her feel back into her roots. It made her feel complete. She founded "Ayesha's home", where many old people were taken care of each month. Her effort managed to reach the administration of the village that made changes in their entire postal system to improvise on better communication and messaging services throughout the district.
One afternoon, she stared at the closeness of the mountains, surrounding the village, as if they are trying to talk to her about how much they missed her while she in the city. She stood by the porch of her house and heard the postmaster again, this time.
"Ayesha, I'm proud of you, thank you!" in the same voice that brought mango sweets for her as a child.
She checked the date, it was the date the postmaster had expired.
She never heard from him again.