Literature has enmeshed all sorts of pandemics by wielding pen to the pinnacle of fancy and imagination and coupled in reality at times. It offers the account of people who have dealt with the trauma of pandemics in the past days including the Black Death, flu, influenza, cholera and how to make sense of the world that is totally beyond our control and comprehension. The novel form of fear and ferocity in the name of novel Coronavirus has transformed our lives to a standstill. Reading fiction and poetry in the days of lockdown offer a new world of awareness and enlightenment. These creative outputs make us ponder over the harsh realities especially when we are in the deadly scourge of coronavirus.
I felt the darker sides of a disease and its sways on one’s life in Tagore’s play The Post Office (Dak Ghar). Reading a drama like this in the time of quarantine made me empathize with the young boy made immortal by Rabindranath Tagore. The Nobel laureate par excellence has weaved the patterns for the aspirations of Amal, a child who is destined to confine to his adopted uncle’s home owing to an incurable disease. As the young boy is forbidden by the doctor to move out of doors, he connects himself through the outside world just with the aid of a window. ‘Isolation’ and ‘quarantine’ have become his constant companions. He is still content in his world of imagination and is all set to travel to the other shore. He is too full of hope despite all the hopelessness of his life. He ascertains there is just one life and we should not forget to enjoy the exuberances and ecstasies of life come what may. Amal teaches the world not to leave the hope and feel the world as much as one can.
Suffering, the fundamental reality of human life is explicable in Tagore’s depiction. The Post Office resonates this theme in a phenomenal way. The characters appearing in the play like the curd seller, postman, watchman, Headman and Sudha are touched and transformed by the presence of this innocent little boy. He is capable of imparting a positive vibe to whosoever comes in contact with him. Amal, who is adopted by his distant relative Madhav Dutt suffers from an incurable disease and staying indoors turns out to be the only panacea as per the orthodox doctor. Dutt undergoes a sea change into something rich and strange after this young boy has come to his life.
“Madhav: What a state I am in! Before he came, nothing mattered; I felt so free. But now that he has come, goodness knows from where, my heart is filled with his dear self, and my home will be no home when he leaves”.
Madhav has developed an invincible bond with little Amal in a short span of time. The boy clings to his heart in such a queer sort of way. He somehow wants to save the boy from the clutches of the evil disease. He has no other choice other than confining the boy in a room. Although Amal is destined to be in a room, he finds a ray of hope in the form of window. It is disheartening for a young boy to spend hours in a room sitting near a window facing the garden and the pond. The imaginative and inquisitive fervor of a young mind makes him trail through streams, water, valleys and villages. He can hear the shrill cry of kites from almost the end of the sky. He is a child angel endowed with the typical Tagorean traits. Like Tagore, Amal is a wanderer in his heart. He yearns to be free, to roam around hither and thither though he is willing to submit himself to the dictates of others. His unfathomed curiosity and hunger to explore is boundless. Only ‘the call of the open road’ is in store for him. Amal does not wish to be in the comforts and luxury of a home. He wants to live embracing the nature and to enjoy the dizzy raptures of the wild. The marvel of his imagination is the sole savior in these days of quarantine. He ardently hopes that he will receive a letter from the mighty King and he fancies to become his messenger. His ambition bears fruit at the end of the play heralding the arrival of the King. A tiny boy’s dream is materialized by the mighty presence of the King. Amal’s lifeless body waits for the arrival of King.
A young boy like Amal remaining in the periphery of the notion of productivity is capable of forging a knowledge system of his own through his limited knowledge of the world via his interactions with the people who come in touch with him daily: the headman, watchman, dairy man, village girl, fakir, physician and so. He is not expecting anything from these people other than sharing a few moments. When everybody wants curd from a dairy man, Amal just wanted to learn how to say ‘good, nice curds’. How can one not fall for the affectionate nature and gesture of Amal? Even when living against the looming death, Amal looks ahead with spectacular expectations of a serene life relishing the beauty and escapades of nature.
Amal’s entire universe revolves in, around and within the constraints of a small room and window. In the universe of The Post Office, Amal is submissive and the only one quarantined due to his illness. Even in the uneasiness of his disease, Amal discovers ease through his tiny pleasures. We are more or less travelling on the same boat nowadays owing to the hike in COVID cases. We are driven to compulsory confinement and lockdown. Amal teaches us to bridge the gap between our dwelling and the world in times of the pandemic. Yes, it is time for us to be creative and productive by reading, writing, indulging in online discussions and webinars. There is no lockdown to our literary life. Like Amal, we must also enjoy the life to the lees. Death, the great leveler has its role to be played in everyone’s life. Why to delay our exuberances and luxuries between the edges of birth and death? Live in the present and leave the rest to the general absurdity of life. Oh, yeah. Amal, the pure one is reverberating his impulse to my essence.