The Postmaster by Rabindranath Tagore
In The Postmaster by Rabindranath Tagore we have the theme of loneliness, happiness, gratitude, connection, memories and guilt. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Tagore may be exploring the theme of loneliness. The postmaster finds it unbearably lonely living in the village. He has very little work to do and his mind wanders to the idea that perhaps he should find himself a wife. Despite Ratan being an ideal choice for the postmaster. The postmaster never looks upon Ratan as anything more than being someone who can do odd jobs for him. This may be important as Tagore may be suggesting that if the postmaster looked upon Ratan in a different light he may no longer be lonely and he could also possibly be happy. It is also noticeable that the postmaster’s loneliness fades when he is speaking to Ratan and she is discussing her family life. However despite this the postmaster still does not imagine himself marrying Ratan. It is as though he considers her to be a class beneath him and not fit to be his wife. However the reader is also aware that the postmaster does not have many women coming to visit his home who might be prepared to do the same work as Ratan.
It is also interesting that the postmaster when ill relies heavily on Ratan yet at no stage does he show her any sort of gratitude. The only sign of appreciation that the postmaster shows Ratan throughout the story is when he hands Ratan his month’s salary. Something that Ratan feels insulted by. This may be important as it highlights that Ratan was not working for the postmaster for money but she had grown fond of him and hoped that he had grown fond of her. How fond Ratan actually is of the postmaster is also noticeable by the fact that she refuses to work for the new postmaster. She longs to continue the connection she had with the postmaster who in a moment of madness has resigned his position from the post office. He has no plans for his future yet Ratan still wants to be part of his life. If anything Ratan shows the postmaster the dedication that a wife would show a husband yet the postmaster is too blind to see this. He is more occupied with his dissatisfaction of having to work so far away from the city.
It might also be important that the postmaster is able to speak freely when he is speaking to Ratan. He does not feel emotionally embarrassed when he is talking about his family. Something that he would feel should he speak to the men in the factory about his family. Tagore may be highlighting the differences in conversation between men and women and those between men talking to men. The postmaster is at ease when he discusses his family with Ratan. It is as though she understands the postmaster. Ratan too has memories of her family which she readily shares with the postmaster. It is as though the postmaster learns everything about Ratan’s life though at the same time never views her as anything more than the girl who does his odd jobs. Despite it being Ratan who treats the postmaster when he is sick. Just as a mother would do. The postmaster cannot see pass the fact that Ratan is just the girl who does his odd jobs. He is looking for love yet love is standing straight in front of him in the form of Ratan.
The end of the story is also interesting as Tagore appears to be exploring the theme of guilt. While on the boat the postmaster thinks about Ratan and thinks about going back to the village to get her. However his thoughts are based more on guilt than on helping Ratan in any way. Something that is noticeable when the sails pick up the wind and the postmaster soon forgets about Ratan. Ratan on the other hand cannot forget about the postmaster. It is as though she has not only lost a friend but she has lost someone she has fallen in love with. Tagore highlighting that it will take some time for Ratan’s wounds to heal and for her to forget about the postmaster. However she will forget about the postmaster and she will grow attached to somebody else. Somebody who might also abandon her. Leaving Ratan to make the same mistakes over and over again. All because she wants to feel connected and loved by another human being. A very normal instinct for anybody to have. However life sometimes does not work out as simply as we would like it to. Though the postmaster might have seen the complications of starting a relationship with Ratan. Ratan herself sees none. She is a good strong woman who is looking to be loved by the right man. The postmaster was not the right man because he viewed Ratan as being no more than the girl who did odd jobs for him.