By Roshan, New Age Islam
10 June, 2015
“Remember how excited we’d be if we found a letter waiting for us when we got back home from school!” exclaimed Simu, the deep creases that lined his forehead rapidly unfolding as he broke out into a toothless smile.
“Oh yes! And what joy it was, wasn’t it, to hear the postman call out, ‘There’s letter for you! Take it, and give me a cup of tea in return!” I added.
"That was so many years ago,” Simu sighed.” They used to make films about postmen and pen-friends back in those days. What little it took to make us happy, wasn’t it?”
“Well, we didn’t think of postmen and letters and pen-friends as ‘little’ things then, did we?” I added. “I certainly didn’t. They were among the biggest things in my life. They really made my day back then!”
“When was the last time you got something in the post?” Simu asked.
“Hmmm....I received a bill the other day, and a cheque some months ago. But as for a letter, well, it’s been years,” I replied. “No one I know writes letters these days. I don’t. I can’t remember the last time I wrote out a shopping list, leave alone a letter! Even people in remote villages now have mobile phones, and with E-mail and SMS and ‘What’s Up’ and I don’t know what else, who’d bother to write a letter?”
Simu poured out some tea into a saucer and took a deep, noisy slurp.
“Ah, how times change!” he exclaimed as he placed the saucer on the tray in front of him. “They used pigeons to send letters at one time, and human runners, too, and look at what all they’ve invented now! Remarkable, na! I know my time is coming soon, and who knows what new things they’ll invent after I’m gone!”
At over 80, Simu was acutely aware that he hadn’t much time left. That’s what he kept talking about. No matter what the topic of our conversation, he would land up linking it with death.
“Do you know something? If you think the postal service is going to wind up, what with all this new gadgetry, you’re sadly mistaken!” Simu said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“No matter what new inventions they come up with,” Simu said, “we—each one of us—will continue to get letters. Letters from God, I mean. People may stop writing letters, but God won’t ever will. His postal system will never wind up.”
“Oh! What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“It’s like this,” Simu began to explain. “Some 50 years ago, when I was just short of 40, the first white hair sprouted on my head. That was a postcard from God, telling me that I had passed the peak of my life and had entered the second half of it. It was time to rethink my life. The passion of youth had to give way to reflection and introspection.
“Then, ten years later, my eyesight began to dim. In my younger days, I prided myself on my perfect vision. But now I was forced to wear spectacles! And do you know what that was? It was an aerogramme—a letter sent by air mail, somewhat more urgent than a postcard—sent by God to remind me to mend my ways, for my time was now running short, as was my energy. It was a message to tell me to stop trying to change others—which was something that I had been all busy trying to do—and, instead, to focus on changing myself.
“A decade after that, do you know what happened? I lost almost half my teeth! One by one, they decayed and fell off. That was what they called a Quick Mail Service letter—it’s faster and costs more than a postcard or even an aerogramme. It was a message from God for me to turn aside from everything else and to live for Him alone. It was a way to remind me—for I really needed to be reminded—that just as I had lost my teeth, one day I’d lose all the material wealth that I possessed, that I’d leave this world as utterly empty-handed as I had been on the day I arrived here.
“And do you know sort of mail came in the post for me last year? A whole host of very urgent telegrams! You know what a telegram is, don’t you? In our times, almost the only time you got a telegram was when someone had died. Telegrams were so expensive by those days’ standards that people would send them only for urgent things like that.
“Over the last year or so, I’ve been flooded with telegrams—urgent messages from God. I’ve developed a shooting pain in the chest that stabs like a knife sometimes. It is with great difficulty that I manage to drag myself out of bed these days—my feet simply can’t bear my body’s weight. And then my knees have begun to make a grinding noise—grrrrr, grrrrr, grrrrr—when I walk. And what is more, I’m beginning to forget things. Last month, I was in the bank and had to fill up some forms, and you know what happened? You probably won’t believe it! It’s so embarrassing, but I’ll tell you. I forgot, you know what? My name! Can you believe it! But thanks to God, the lady at the reception recognized me and helped me to remember my name, otherwise can you imagine what might have happened!
“Do you know what all these are? They are all telegrams, urgent messages from God—to tell me that the time for my meeting Him is about to arrive, much sooner that you and I expect. Death can overtake me at moment now—as it can overtake you, too, even though you’re probably just half my age.”
Saying this, Simu fell silent. In a short while, he was snoring.
I finished my tea, wrapped my shawl about me and shut my eyes as I reflected on the ‘postcard’ and the ‘aerogramme’ from God that I’d already received some years ago, and of the ‘Quick Mail Service letter’ and telegrams addressed to me that might soon be on their way!