Nov 22, 2011

My First Short Story

This is my first-ever attempt at fiction. I actually wrote this more than a month ago. When I read what I wrote, I was for some reason, deeply embarrassed. I put it away and felt myself wince inwardly whenever I thought about it. I opened it again today, and decided that it had to be posted. Good or bad, I wrote it and I would never get anywhere if I did not share it, I thought. 

So here it is. If you happen to read it, I would value any words of encouragement, advice, and feedback. Thanks!

The Postman’s Story

Nanjappa was getting old. He was tired all the time and he could feel it in his bones. His skin, once tight and rough, seemed limp and soft now. His muscles sagged and his shoulders drooped slightly as he walked. With just a couple of years to go before he could retire from his duties as a postman, he carried on with his daily routine out of mere habit.

He hadn’t always been like this. In his younger days, Nanjappa was full of vigour, excited about his job. He wore a smile on his face, collecting and delivering letters in his small town. The townsfolk were not great in number; they always recognized him when he was on rounds. He had a smile for everyone and sometimes he even stopped to chat for a while.

No, the postman job hadn’t been too bad after all. It was just right for him, simple enough for his average intelligence, strenuous enough for his hardworking nature. He had always been physically strong. Riding his bicycle for most part of the day was never too hard for him. He loved meeting people and talking to them every day.

The job got him through a lot. He had seen to the education of his two children. They were all grown up now, and had left the town to lead their own lives. He was able to make a decent living all right, provide well for his wife and make sure they would live comfortably in their old age with a little help from their son.

And yet, he couldn’t wait to retire. He was tired. Everything seemed to have lost its luster. The people he used to meet earlier were either old or dead. A newer generation had occupied the town. A generation that seemed to have no time for letters. No time for anything at all, let alone the simple pleasures of life. They seemed aloof and busy. Nanjappa felt lost. 

That morning was no different from the others. Having reported to the office at 8 AM, Nanjappa set out for his rounds, emptying the post boxes. He had followed the same route every day for forty years now. He went about it zombie-like; his mind was always elsewhere. Something gripped his heart, a sort of sadness that would not let go.

He reached the post box outside the Boys School. There were hardly ever any letters in that one. He opened the lock to the door at the back and found a small pile at the bottom which he pulled out. He always looked through the letters before he stacked and put them in his bag. Sometimes people put rubbish in the post box. 

Looking at envelopes cheered him up a little. The neatly printed addresses in block letters and carefully pasted postage stamps were a familiar sight that brought him comfort. Running his fingers over the handwriting of the people of that town made him feel connected to them.

As he made his way through the pile, he stopped at a strange looking letter. In fact, it wasn’t a letter at all. It was thick, a makeshift envelope from paper torn out of a child’s notebook. Across the center, written in pencil, where the words, “To  - The Nuspaper.”  He looked at it for a few minutes, unsure of what to do. He then stuffed it into his pocket. It would have to wait. 

He trudged through the rest of his day, relieved to get back home by sunset. His wife greeted him as usual with a cup of steaming hot tea, which he took out to his usual place in the small verandah. Comfortably seated on his cane chair, he closed his eyes and sipped the tea, allowing its aroma to relax him for a while. He laid his free hand on his chest, feeling something bumpy in his pocket. In an instant, he remembered the childish scrawl.

Pulling out the letter, he turned it over once and then tore it open. Out fell a couple of more folded sheets of notebook paper, filled with the same writing in pencil. He spread them out and read:

Roudi Sheetar
In my colony today, there was a big sound. Many pipal were shouting on the street. My amma and abba were scard. They told me to go inside my room and hide under the bed. Then they loked all the doors and windos in the house. Then they also came and sat on my bed. When they did not see me, I slowly looked outside the window.

There were many men and boys on the road.  Maybe hundrid, thouzand. They had big-big stones and sticks in there hands. They were all showting and jumping up and down. They were trying to beat each other with the stones. There was lot of roudygiri. They were not afraid. They looked like very brave men. I saw our galli ke ladke also – Mallik, Faisal bhai, Imran, e tc. They were looking angry.

Suddanly, all the people became quite. They were looking back. Now they were looking afraid. Then I saw one big, big man coming. He came and stood in the middal. He was the biggest man. His hands were big with big big mussals. His hair was long. Some pippal went and stood behined him. The other men were trying to go and haid. The big man shouted loudly. Then he started running. The others were afrad of him and running away like my abba’s chickans.

He caut some men and started beating them. His was doing too good faiting. I got very ecksited.  I also started shouting Dishum Dishum! It was like the cinema fighting on the TV. Then my abba heared me. He pulled my ear and scolded me. Then he pushed me under the bed and told me - stay there.

After some time, I heared some pulice siran. Then everything became quite. Then my amma and abba asked me to come out and amma went to make chai for everybod. I went to amma and asked her who was that big man. She did not tell. She told to go and read my books.

In the night I heared amma and abba talking. Then I understud evrything. That big man’s name is Roudi Sheetar. He is a bad man, my abba was saying. He was telling to amma that he is afraid about me. I done know why. But this is the story about Sheetar Uncle. 

Dear nuspaper,
I like to write storys. My mama said that his freind wrote storys put in some magzins. I don know any magzins. Only nysupaper. So I told my friend and he told if we put it in the post box, it will go to nuspaper. Till now I sended ten. You did not put anything. Plise put my story in tommoros paper. I will be waiting.
Yasseen - III A.

Nanjappa was laughing out loud. It had been a very long time since he had even smiled. Hearing him, his wife came out too. He read the story to her, and they laughed together. They agreed that it was the sweetest thing they had ever heard of.

Nanjappa was impressed with the lad and wanted to do something nice for him. So he thought about it for a long time, and then he crafted a little note of his own.

Dear Yasseen,
We read your story. It was very good. We read it to our children too, who are of your age, and they liked it very much. However, we do not put children’s stories in our newspaper. When you become big like your abba, you send us stories and we will print them. But please keep sending your stories now, our children want to hear more.

Yours Respectfully,
The Newspaper.

He gave it to the watchman of the Boys School and asked him to pass it on to Yasseen of III A. The watchman gladly agreed to do so, being an old friend of Nanjappa’s.

Nanjappa hoped it would work. He hoped that the boy would keep writing, that he would get to read more of these delightful creations. He wasn’t disappointed. A few days later, he found another letter from Yasseen waiting for him, with a new story about Kabootars, and a thank you note to the nysupaper uncle.

Nanjappa was overjoyed. After a long time, he felt he had a connection again, a human connection. It was something to rejoice. He began each day with vigour, looking forward to the time he would open the post box near the Boys school. Every two or three days, there would be a new story waiting for him. Sometimes he sent a few praises and comments back to the boy in little notes, through the watchman.

He was a changed man now. He felt energy returning to his body, a spring came into his step. He caught himself whistling one day, something he hadn’t done in years. The little boy’s stories, simple as they were, had a magical, healing effect upon him. He was happy again. Happy in his heart.

This routine of exchanging stories and notes went on for about two years, until it was time for Nanjappa to retire. By now, he had a stack of papers, placed neatly in a cardboard folder. He would read them every single day, he decided, with his hot cup of evening tea.


Twenty years had passed and Nanjappa was now a frail old man. His beloved wife had long left him, and he lived with his son in the city. He kept to himself mostly; his grandchildren were all grown up and there wasn’t really anyone to talk to. He lived in a tiny room on the first floor of his son’s bungalow, everything he needed was there. For company, he still had his faithful old folder of stories woven by a child, which he hadn’t failed to read every single day since he had retired. These stories were his only escape, a small sign of solace in an otherwise incomprehensible world.

He was reading the newspaper one Sunday morning, through his bottle-thick glasses. An article in the supplement caught his attention. It was written by a man reminiscing about his childhood years. Now a famous writer, he told of how he began his journey by writing stories to a mysterious person who communicated with him through the postbox outside his school. Nanjappa felt his heart stop for a split second. Could this be the same boy? He read on excitedly.

The writer went on to describe his innocent joy when he received a response from the newspaper he wrote to. He believed he was in touch with them for around two years. It was only when he was much older that he realized it couldn’t have been the newspaper that wrote back to him. He talked about his deep gratitude to the person who really did reply, whose readership spurred him on to write more.

Nanjappa was now positive about the identity of the writer. His eyes skipped to the bottom of the article. Yasseen, it said. There was a contact number below it.

His eyes filled with tears. He hurried over to his son, asking to dial the number for him. With shaking hands, he took the mobile, listening to the ring. A man answered. They spoke for a while.

A week later, there was a visitor at the door for Nanjappa. A young man clad in a white kurta and pyjama ran up the stairs to finally meet his first reader. He entered the room and immediately embraced the old man with the wispy gray hair. They had never met before, yet they spoke with the familiarity of old buddies. The great difference in their age seemed hardly a barrier.

After a few hours, the young man, visibly elated, left the house with an old, dusty folder cradled in his arms.  He held it as though it was his most valuable possession. Inside his room, the old gentleman lay down gently on the bed, a blissful smile slowly unfolding on his crinkly lips.

Don't Miss a Post! Subscribe or Follow for free updates.


  1. Awesome writing for a first attempt. And I loved the plot. How even a single reader and his/her reply makes the writer float up on cloud 9. I could so relate to it with my blog.

  2. @Keirthana: Thank you so, so much. At this point, I'm thankful to anyone who would just read my story, let alone say a nice thing or two. Thank you for taking the time to plod your way through it. Means a lot to me!

  3. Wow, that was brilliantly written! :) I could totally relate because I remember even today how my dad and mom would read through my childish 'poems' and encourage me. And I really liked the way you have described Nanjappa- it kind of reminded me of the postman Thanappa in RK Narayan's work titled 'The Missing Mail' (That was a lesson we did for English in grade 9!) Looking forward to reading more stories penned by you!:D

  4. It's a very touching story, talks about simple people, simple lives. I loved it. The only thing I would change is the "plus" in this line "Plus, he loved meeting people and talking to them every day.".

    Keep writing! :)

  5. @Sruthi: Thank you so much, your words mean a lot to me. I read somewhere that every writer begins by imitation, so I'm trying to walk in the footsteps of my favourite authors. Thanks, I have more stories to come!

    @Nags: Feedback taken, the plus does sound odd there when I come to think of it. Thank you so much, please keep reading!

  6. Congratulations for the courage to publish what you have written. I agree that keeping it to oneself is not going to lead to anywhere.

    Assuming you're open to feedback -- even negative ones -- let me share my thoughts.

    1. This is a mistake pretty much everyone starting anew makes: saying everything they thought of. The first 5 paragraphs are what you thought to conceive Nanjappa character. They don't really add much to the story... you could have removed that part.

    2. Another common mistake is saying instead of showing. You say Nanjappa wasn't so happy with the way his next generation was living. I believe you're trying to make Yasseen look different from that crowd. But that distinction doesn't show strongly because you aren't "showing" how/why Nanjappa disapproved the younger generation he was seeing.

    Nanjappa reports at work at 8am. He begins his day. Now you can describe in detail the things he does. Most of us don't know the complexities of a postman's job. Talk about those complexities. And "show" the postman's thoughts as he's doing those complex things. If you can show to the reader that Nanjappa does these reasonably complex things without really thinking about them, readers would infer that he's doing his job mechanically.

    3. The story of the boy. You could have read some real 8-year-olds' writing before writing this. A kid's writing would have lesser spelling mistakes and more grammar errors. And the choice of words won't be so great. (I have never seen a kid say "I was excited", for instance.)

    Again, I am saying all this with the assumption that this feedback can be of help. I am no big writer, nor a serious reader... so take this all with a pinch of salt.

    As I was reading your story, I found out why I cannot write a good story. (Because I am not that interested in people... I'm so freaking selfish.) Thank you for that.

  7. And what a fine first short story it. You have got the main ingredient down pat - you have a story to tell.
    Is it perfect? Maybe not - editing/revising may help.
    Is it readable? It certainly is.
    Keep on writing.

  8. Nice and touching story, Sumitra! Maybe if you re-read it a couple of times, you will be able to trim it and keep it shorter, nevertheless, its a fine story indeed.

    The point where I found an emotional peak is when Yaseen's story finally gets published and after 20 years of close correspondence, the two friends finally meet. I have personally felt an emotion like that when I bumped into good friends after a long time.

    I hope you keep writing..

  9. @Kannan: Let me begin by thanking you for taking out the time to read through my story and come up with these valid suggestions and insights. Not everyone would do that for a stranger and I appreciate it deeply.

    About your feedback, I'm thrilled to receive it. The points you make are valid, each one has something for me to reflect on and make use of in my future writings. Thank you!

    It's an interesting point you make about being interested in people. I never thought about it that way. I don't know if I've started writing fiction because I'm interested in people. It's just that the ideas, my muse, was always there, only off late I have started to pay attention to it and write down whatever it tells me. I don't think anyone can make a conscious decision to start writing fiction. I'm really not sure I'm doing it because I'm interested in people. And I believe that everybody has a story to tell.

    Well, please keep reading and commenting. I'd really like that. Thanks again!

  10. @Subroto: Thank you, that's a really big compliment there. Feels great. Thanks for the encouragement, I will keep churning out more. Please come by more often!

    @Vikas: Yep, I will pay more attention to re-writing and editing in the future. It's kinda hard to evaluate my own work, my own baby. It's a skill I will have to develop.

    Thank you for reading through the mistakes and getting to the essence of the story. I'm glad to have written something you could relate to.