The Missing Mail is a short story taken from Malgudi Days, a collection by R. K. Narayan which has stories involving incidents of the fictional city named Malgudi. The Missing Mail is a story about an affectionate, sincere and conscientious postman who understands the value of human relationship.
Thanappa was a postman. His beat covered Vinayak Mudali street and its four parallel roads. He took nearly six hours to cover his beat. It was because he tried to be friendly with people for whom he brought letters. He used to take personal interest in their lives and problems. He would comfort one, console another and give hope to the third. He sympathized with one who didn’t get a lottery or another whose interest had been delayed. With others, he would talk about their jobs, children or old parents. On hot days, he would enjoy buttermilk at someone’s house. He had thus become a part of their life. Everybody liked him.
Thanappa was most friendly with Ramanujam. He was a senior clerk in the Revenue Division Office. Ramanujam’s wife was away in his village. She gave birth to a daughter there. One day a postcard came for Ramanujam. Thanappa read it. He did not deliver letters to the midway addresses. He went straight to Ramanujam’s house. He gave the letter, asked for sugar and congratulated Ramanujam. He had become a father, though of a daughter. He also praised the name Kamakshi given to the baby.
Years rolled by. Kamakshi grew up into a tall, beautiful young girl. Ramanujam started having worries about her marriage. Once Thanappa brought to Ramanujam a letter from his father-in-law. Then he came to know of Ramanujam’s worries. These worries were quite a few. Thanappa gave his opinion on these problems. He also tried to guide Ramanujam towards their solution. The old man had demanded a photo of Kamakshi. Perhaps he wanted to find a match for her. Ramanujam told Thanappa that his old father-in-law was in a hurry to marry Kamakshi off. He had set apart five thousand rupees for her marriage. The old man thought that Ramanujam was not making sufficient efforts for his daughter’s marriage. Thanappa consoled him saying that old men have their own anxieties. Ramanujam said that money alone was not enough to get a match. Thanappa agreed and said that nothing could happen before the destined hour. Sometimes horoscopes did not agree, or the dowry demand was too high, or the looks of the girl were not approved. Thanappa would be angry at these. He said that the people were blind not to see the beauty of the queen like girl.
The marriage season was passing away Only three auspicious dates were left. Kamakshi would be seventeen in a few days. Her grandpa’s reminders were becoming fiercer. There was no end of Rarnanujam’s worries. He drew blank everywhere. He lost hope of getting a son-in-law. He said that there was no son-in-law left for him anywhere. Thanappa pointed out that such words were inauspicious. He consoled Ramanujam by saying that things happened when God desired them. Then he proposed to contact the parents of a boy who lived in Delhi. They were of the same caste. The negotiations of the boy’s marriage with another party (Makunda’s daughter) had nearly broken. Thanappa brought the horoscope of the boy from Makund. A ray of hope touched Ramanujarn’s family.
Negotiations started. Many letters were exchanged. At last Kamakshi’s photo was approved. Thanappa helped solve the porblmes which came. Once a question arose whether Ramanujam should go to Madras with Kamakshi to show her to the boy’s family. The family was divided over the question Thanappa advisted Ramanujam to take the girl to Madras. Ramanujam followed Thanappa’s advice. Soon Ramanujam wrote a letter from Madras. The marriage was nearly settled. They wanted the marriage to be performed on 20th May. They insisted on it because the boy would be going away for training for three years. This too was agreed upon, though the time for arrangement was very short. Kamakshi’s maternal grandfather sent Rs. 5000 along with his blessing. With that money the marriage was to be a grand affair for Malgudi. Thanappa placed himself at the disposal of Ramanujam during all his off- hours. He assured Ramanujam everything would be all right by the grace of God.
At last the day of wedding came. The pandal was full of sweet smell of sandal, flowers and holy smoke. The bridegroom was seated in a chair. Thanappa brought him several letters of congratulations. Then he himself congratulated the bridegroom. He called the young man a distinguished match for Kamaskshi. The bridegroom smiled happily. Then Thanappa went to the kitchen for his tiffin and coffee.
Ten days later, he gave Kamakshi a scented envelope from her husband. Thanappa was happy. He said that she would soon go away to her husband. She would forget Thanappa and Malgudi. Then he turned away. He did not wait to know the contents.
A few days later Thanappa brought a postcard and a telegram for Ramanujam. The postcard him that his uncle was seriously ill in Salem. The telegram gave the news of his death. Ramanujam was very sad to know it. He sat down on the pyol. He was unable to bear the shock. Thanappa looked equally miserable.
Thanappa told Ramanjuam that he had to make a confession. He pointed out that these were dated 19th and 20th May – day of the marriage – for delivery. He was unhappy. He did not deliver them on the dates they were received. Ramanujam was very angry at Thanappa’s withholding the mail. Thanappa said that he did not want the marriage to be disturbed so he didn’t deliver them on time. He told Ramanujam that he could complain against him if he wanted. He was ready to face dismissal from service for this. Then he turned to go. Ramanujam called him back and assured him that he didn’t intend to complain, though he was annoyed with him. Thanappa understood his feelings and went away.