Both of these stories were included in R. K. Narayan's collection of short stories, The Astrologer's Day and Other Stories (1947). Most of the thirty stories in the collection were published first in The Hindu Times. Just as many publications do,The Hindu Times placed length requirements on the stories and they are all seven to ten pages long. The collection was first published in London. I have done a prior post on the lead story, "The Astrologer's Day". I really liked this beautifully written story and I have been able to locate a copy of the full collection online so I have decided to read all of the stories. I have not yet decided how I will post on the stories. They promise to be an excellent addition to my reading life. Narayan is considered the first Anglo Indian writer with a wide international readership.
R. K. Narayan (1906 to 2001-Chennai, India) was an immensely prolific highly influential author. He was one of the very first authors from India who wrote primarily in English and was one of the very first Indian writers to be read widely outside of India. In addition to fifteen novels, he published in his life time five collections of short stories.
Many of Narayan's stories and novels are set in an imaginary town that he created and populated. It is said to be in southern India.
"The Missing Mail" is about a very intrusive mail man. He knows every bodies business based on the letters he delivers to them. When an important looking letter comes he will often stay around until the addressee reads the letter so he can know what is about. Here is how he talks to his clients.
" Your son at
Hyderabad has written again, madam. How many
children has he now ?
" "I did not know that you
had applied for this Madras job"
Everybody on his route liked him. He was in a way a source of hope for them. Maybe he will bring good news from a relative with a fine job for a nephew in London, maybe the start of negotiations on a marriage He was especially close to one family that he had been delivering mail to for over 25 years.
The family is being pressured to find a husband for their oldest daughter and the post man knows all about it. When he sees in his daily route a letter from a very serious marriage prospect he at once brings the letter over even though normally it would be toward the end of his route. Negotiations are bogged down. So far the families have never met in person, only through letters. Now things reach a crisis. The potential groom will start a three year training program soon and they do not get the marriage arranged soon then it will not be allowed by the groom's family until the training is complete. The family and the postman are now in mad panic to get things done. (What follow is spoiler but I think the plot needs to be relayed to give a sense of the involvement of the post man in the lives of the family.)
A telegram arrives at the postal office for delivery to the girls father advising them a a close relative has died. The mail man knows that this will delay the wedding beyond the possible date so he does not deliver it. He waits until the wedding is over then he delivers it. He explains what he has done he knows he will be fired if this is reported to his boss. Life goes on and nothing bad happens to the post man.
"The Doctor's Visit" center on one of the most highly regarded doctors in the area. Many doctors in the area will sugar coat their diagnose of a seriously even fatally ill patient. The doctor in the story tells the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear. For this his opinion is greatly respected and trusted. One day he pays a professional visit on his oldest friend, a man he has been close to since they were in grade school. The doctor's professional opinion is that the man may well be terminal. He has a decision to make now and seems to learn a valuable lesson about faith and love.
Both of these stories are written in simple beautiful style. I am assuming that his first primary audience for his stories did not have English as a first language.