Play: The Post Office (Dak Ghar)
Author: Rabindranath Tagore
Bookhad Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I conduct a brainstorming session at the workplace. The idea is to demonstrate the varied inputs people bring to the table based on their perspective. It’s a session designed to appreciate the various points of view of people and bring the same acceptance to the professional environment. We generally interpret a poem, construct blackout poems, or indulge in lateral thinking. Almost always, the outcome of such sessions is smiling faces. Not because we’ve been able to achieve some semblance of acceptance to bring to the workplace, but because we are able to appreciate the multi-faceted human experience. After some initial hesitation, people say the weirdest of things. And then, they smile. A lot.
This is exactly what The Post Office does to the brotherhood of readers. It evokes multiple interpretations and responses to this lucid and charming play. The premise is that of a boy named Amal who cannot leave the house on account of an unnamed, incurable disease. Amal sits in the window and converses with the various people who pass by expressing his fantasy of receiving a letter from the King. It is written in such a simple and striking language that it’s hard not to smile and empathize with Amal. The play is divided into two acts. In the first act Amal interacts with the passersby and in the second he is bound to the bed. The ending of the play is ambiguous and wide open for interpretation. Here is where the magic happens.
Tagore has ended the play in such a way that you could have believed anything. Some people say that this play is about a child who is unbelievably happy even in the face of death. Some say that the entire construct is how Amal dreams up a joyous life before submitting to the ‘eternal slumber’ i.e. death. Some say that Amal is a representation of the human mind that fantasies of traveling far and wide and is yet contained in a space from where it cannot go. Some say that it’s a metaphor for Tagore himself – anxious to leave the narrow confines of his “room” and awaiting a “King’s letter” to leave. Some say it’s just full of innocence about children and what adults have to learn from them.
The Post Office was translated into English by W. B. Yeats and was aired over the radio in Europe during the Nazi occupation in World War II. The play was also performed in July 1942, in the Warsaw Ghetto, when the Polish doctor, educator, writer, and children’s rights activist Janusz Korczak had the children in his orphanage stage this play. It was the central theme of Amal who is faced with death and yet unafraid that may have resonated with them. And then, within a month, he and the children were taken away and gassed.
Whatever you may interpret it as, this is a play worth reading and even re-reading. I would put this as one of my best reads this year – length notwithstanding. Here’s an online link to the play: http://www.eldritchpress.org/rt/po.htm
Thank Bookhad later.