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CBSE Class 10 English Literature Reader Solutions The Letter

The Letter —– By Dhumaketu
Quick Review

‘The Letter’ written by Dhumaketu is the story of an old coachman whose daughter Miriam, married a soldier and went to live with him. Ali missed her and gave up hunting after he realized the pain of separation. Five years passed but he kept on waiting for Miriam’s letter. He went to the nearby post-office daily in the hope of getting a letter from her. But no letter ever came for him. Rather the clerks and other officials made fun of him. They would call out his name in mischief and when Ali would go to the window they would laugh at him. Ali used to feel bad about all this. The postman started taking him to be a mad man. But Ali, not bothering about all this, returned every day to the post-office just to hear a word from his daughter or about her well-being.

Towards the end of his life, his ill-health prevented him from visiting the post-office daily. He couldn’t breathe properly. So, one day, when he visited the post-office, he told one of the clerks to do him a favour by forwarding Miriam’s letter to his grave. He offered him five golden guineas for this. There were tears in his eyes. He was never seen after that and then nobody bothered to enquire about him.

Time passed. One day, the postmaster had a problem. His daughter, who lived in another town, fell ill. He anxiously waited for news of her but there was none. It was at this moment that he was reminded of Ali and his anxiety of getting a letter from his daughter. This realisation made him truly repentant of his rude behaviour towards Ali. Meanwhile there was a letter addressed to Ali. He decided to hand over the letter to Ali himself at 4 o’clock.
That night the postmaster could not sleep. At five, he heard a soft knock at the door. He opened the door only to find Ali standing there. The postmaster handed him the letter. Ali immediately disappeared after taking the letter.

Just then, Lakshmi Das, the clerk who had taken the guineas from Ali, came there and saw the postman talking to someone. He was astonished to hear Ali’s name and so informed the postmaster that Ali died three months ago. The postmaster could not believe this. That evening, both of them went to visit coachman Ali’s grave and placed the letter there. Now, the postmaster realised the value of human feelings and emotions in terms of letter and envelopes. Now, they were not mere postcards but much more than anyone could realize.

Extract Based Questions (3 marks each)

Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Q. 1. ‘The whole universe is built up through love and the grief of separation is inescapable.”  (Board 2014, Set PRE2N18, QUD9VQW)
(a) When did the speaker acquire this philosophy ?
(b) What pain has the speaker gone through ?
(c) What does the word ‘inescapable’ mean ?  
Ans. (a) The speaker here is Ali. He had been a hunter and known for his expertise in killing but now when he is
away from his own daughter he realizes it.
(b) The pain of separation.
(c) Something that can’t be avoided/prevented. (CBSE Marking Scheme, 2014)

Q. 2. The postmaster did not receive his own letter all that day. He worried all night, and getting up at three, went  sit in the office.
(a) Replace any one letter of the word ‘receive’ to change its meaning.
(b) Why was the postmaster worried ?
(c) What did one night spent in anxiety teach the postmaster ?
Ans. (a)Receive—deceive.
(b)The postmaster was worried because his daughter was not well and he had not received any letter from her.
(c)One night spent in anxiety taught the postmaster that letters are not mere words, they are emotions and something which is priceless.

Q. 3. But when the evening of his life was drawing in, he left his old ways and suddenly took a new turn.   (Board Term-I 2013, Set 101)
(a) What does the phrase ‘evening of his life’ refer to ?
(b) What do you understand by the phrase ‘he left his old ways’ ?
(c) Why did he take a new turn ?
Ans. (a) It refers to old age of Ali.
(b) Ali had been a hunter but later he stopped ‘his old ways’ i.e., he stopped hunting animals.
(c) He took a new turn as he had realized the meaning of love and separation.

Q. 4. “In the grey sky of early dawn, stars still glowed, as happy memories light up a life that is nearing its close. An old man was walking through the town, now and again drawing his tattered clothes tighter to shield his body from the cold and biting wind”.  (Board Term-I 2011, Set 44)
(a) Whose life is drawing to a close ?
(b) Where is he going and why ?
(c) What does this show about his character ?  
Ans. (a) Coachman Ali.
(b) To the post-office in order to check if his daughter has sent him a letter.
(c) He is determined and doesn’t care for physical comforts.

Q. 5. An old man was walking through the town, now and again drawing his tattered clothes tighter to shield his body from the cold and biting wind. (Board Term-12011, Set 61)
(a) Who was the ‘old man’ ? Where did he intend to go ?
(b) How did he brave the adversity of the weather ?
(c) What trait does his walking to the post-office even in biting cold weather reveal about his temperament ?
Ans. (a) The old man was coachman Ali. He intended to go to the post-office in the hope of hearing from his daughter.
(b) The poor man was ill-clad and his tattered clothes couldn’t protect him from the biting cold. Still defying the weather he held his clothes tight and continued walking.
(c) Ali’s defiant attitude towards the unfavourable weather highlights his firm determination and immense will power.

Q. 6. “Tortured by doubt and remorse, he sat down in the glow of the charcoal sigri to wait”. (Board Term-12011, Set 45)
(a) Who is the person referred to in this extract ?
(b) Why is he tortured by remorse ?
(c) What is he waiting for and why ?
Ans. (a) The postmaster.
(b) He had been cruel, callous and insensitive towards Ali.
(c) He was waiting for a letter from his daughter as she was unwell.

Q. 7. “The whole universe is built up through love and the grief of separation is inescapable”. (Board Term-12011, Set 48)
(a) When did the speaker acquire this philosophy ?
(b) What pain has the speaker gone through ?
(c) Whose love changes the speaker and how ?
Ans. (a) The speaker here is Ali. He had been a hunter and known for his expertise in killing but now when he is away from his own daughter he realizes it.
(b) The pain of separation.
(c) It is the love for his daughter Miriam that has changed the speaker. Now, he no longer hunts.

Q. 8. ‘But for the faith and love that warmed him, he could not have borne the bitter cold’. (Board Term-I 2011, Set 40)
(a) Who is being referred to as ‘he’ in the given extract ?
(b) Why was ‘he’ in the bitter cold ?
(c) How was he able to gain strength to bear the bitter cold ?
Ans. (a) Coachman Ali.
(b) He went to the post-office daily despite the bitter cold and waited for a letter from his only child, Miriam. 1
(c) His love for his daughter and faith that she would write to him gave him strength to bear the bitter cold. 1

Q. 9. ‘For several days Ali had not come to the post-office. There was no one with enough sympathy or understanding to guess the reason, but all were curious to know what had stopped the old man.’   (Board Term-12011, Set 21)
(a) Why did Ali come to the post-office ?
(b) Why had Ali stopped coming to the post-office ?
(c) Why were all curious to know ?
Ans. (a) Ali came to the post-office in the hope of finding a letter from Miriam.
(b) Ali stopped coming to the post-office because he had died.
(c) All were curious to know because he had been a regular visitor and now had stopped coming to the postoffice altogether.

Q. 10. ‘Ali came out very slowly, turning after every few steps to gaze at the post-office. His eyes were filled with tears of helplessness, for his patience was exhausted, even though he still had faith.’   (Board Term-12011, Set 23)
(a) Ali’s eyes were filled with tears because…………………..
(b) Ali had faith that…………………..
(c) His patience was exhausted because…………………..
Ans. (a) the postmaster had misbehaved with him.
(b) he would hear from Miriam.
(c) he had not received any letter from Miriam during the last five years.

Q. 11. Beholding the wooden arch of this building, the old man was filled with the joy that the pilgrim feels when he first sees the goal of his journey.  (Board Term-I 2011, Set 18)
(a) Ali’s walking to the post-office daily even in biting cold weather shows his…………………..
(b) The post-office is referred to as Ali’s place of pilgrimage as he…………………..
(c) Ali’s daughter got married…………………..  
Ans. (a) optimism.
(b) went there with faith and hope.
(c) five years ago.

Short Answer Type Questions (2 marks each)

Q. 1. The postmaster says to Ali, ‘What a pest you are brother ?’ Do you agree with the statement ? Give reasons.  (Board 2014, Set PRE2N18, QUD9VQW, Board Term-I 2011, Set 19)
Ans. Ali is not a pest. Though Ali comes daily to the post-office; he waits patiently without disturbing anyone. Hope lures him to the door whenever the post-office employees jokingly call out his ‘name’. But he does not rebuke them. He silently goes and sits on his seat not bothering or troubling anyone.

Q. 2. Why was Ali leading a cheerless existence ? (Board 2014, Set QUD9VQW)
Ans. Value Points :
Old and lonely, no happiness, desperately longed for a letter from his daughter. People insulted and ridiculed him.
Detailed Answer:
Ali was an old man who lived a life of loneliness. There was no happiness in his life. His only daughter had shifted to Punjab after getting married and he desperately longed for a letter from her end. People at the post office insulted him, ridiculed him but he paid no attention to them. He only wanted a letter from his daughter. It seemed that the only aim of his existence was to get a letter from his daughter which came only after his death. He didn’t receive it while he was alive and thus led a cheerless life.

Q. 3. Why did Ali visit the post-office daily ? (NCT 2014) (Board Term-I 2011, Set 28)
Ans. Ali used to visit the post-office everyday. He had been visiting the place for many years with the hope that one fine day he will receive a letter from his only daughter, Miriam. (The Letter)

Q. 4. Why could Ali not enjoy a sportsman’s pleasure of hunting any more after Miriam left him ?
(Board Term-I 2013, Set 8SRR)
Ans. Value Points:
Understood the meaning of love and separation-gave up hunting partridges-could now understand the grief of parents of the hunted animals went through after getting separated from their young ones.
Detailed Answer:
Ali was a skilled hunter. No animal could escape his eyes. The moment he saw any rabbit or partridge it was as good as in his bag. But then suddenly his life changed. His daughter Miriam got married to a soldier and went to live’ in Punjab with him. Ali got no news of her after that. He became sensitive and realized the meaning of love and separation. He could no longer enjoy a sportman’s pleasure because he felt that the animals and birds must also be having the same feelings and he stopped hunting. He could understand the grief of parents of the hunted animals which they went through after getting separated from their young ones.

Q. 5. What were Ali’s reasons for giving up hunting ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 18, Set 41)
Ans. Ali was a sure shot. He realized the pain of separation on being separated from his daughter. So, he gave up hunting as he could no longer bear the thought of children being separated from parents.

Q. 6. How do you know that Ali was a familiar face at the post-office ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 43)
Ans. Ali went to the post-office daily. He was the first one to be there, people knew him and laughed at him, called out his name and enjoyed seeing him jump.

Q. 7. Why according to Dhumaketu was the post-office a sacred place for Ali ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 54)
Ans. When Ali’s only daughter, Miriam, married and went away, he realised the pain of separation and understood the loneliness and grief. It had been five years and he was anxious to receive a letter – news of well being from his daughter. So he would visit the post-office daily, as a ritual in the hope of receiving a letter from Miriam.

Q. 8. Ali had lost the zeal to do anything else except to come to the post-office and wait for his name to be announced. Comment. (Board Term-I 2011, Set 67)
Ans. Ali had lost the zeal after his daughter married and shifted to Punjab. He realized how sad life was and he gave up hunting. His only aim in life now was coming to the post-office like a pilgrimage and collecting his letter.

Q. 9. How can you say that Ali was an embodiment of love and patience ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 59)
Ans. Ali was a loving father, always expecting a letter from his daughter who lived with her husband after marriage. Since the last five years, he had got no news of his daughter. He went to the post-office everyday to enquire if there was a letter from her. This shows that he was an embodiment of love and patience. .

Q. 10. Who was Lakshmi Das ? Why did Ali give him money ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 53)
Ans. Lakshmi Das was one of the employees of the post-office. Convinced by his faith that he would receive a letter from his daughter. Ali gave Lakshmi Das five golden guineas to deliver the letter at his grave, when it came because he knew his end was very near.

Q. 11. How did loneliness come into Ali’s life ? (Board Term-I 2011 Set 54)
Ans. Ali was a hunter earlier. He had one daughter who got married to a soldier and left Ali. There was no news of her for five years. Ali became lonely and suffered from the pangs of love and separation. He gave up hunting. He always expected a letter from his daughter Miriam and regularly went to the post-office to look for her letter.

Q. 12. Why did the postmaster get annoyed with Ali ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 64)
Ans. Ali asked the postmaster to write down Miriam’s name in his register as it could be useful when a letter should come from her. The postmaster was annoyed at Ali’s ignorance as Miriam’s name was of not any significance to anyone except her father – coachman Ali.

Q. 13. “Ali got up and saluting the post-office as though it housed some precious relic, went off-a pitiable figure a century behind his time.” In this extract what do you understand by the phrase ‘precious relic’ and ‘a century behind his time’.  (Board Term-I 2011, Set 17)
Ans. The phrase ‘precious relic’ here means the letter from Ali’s daughter ‘Miriam’ for which he was waiting. ‘Century behind his time’ means in this fast paced world Ali happens to expect a letter from his daughter, relentlessly coming to the post-office for five long years, braving severe weather condition. So, he is old fashioned.

Q. 14. Why was Ali called a ‘mad man’ by the men at the post-office ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 22)
Ans. Ali came everyday to the post-office without fail to look for a letter from his daughter. He had been waiting for the letter for five years. So the men at the post-office called him a mad man.

Q. 15. What kind of childhood did Ali’s daughter have? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 24)
Ans. Ali’s daughter had a very lonely childhood. She had little communication with her father as most of the time he was out of home, busy hunting with his friends.

Q. 16. What is the role of ‘the letter’ in the story by Dhumaketu ? (Board Term-I 2011, Set 25)
Ans. The whole story revolves around the letter which Ali had been waiting for. Again it is the same letter which transforms the postmaster and makes him realize the essential worth of a human letter.

Q. 17. What was Ali’s profession when he was young ?
Ans. Ali was a hunter. When Ali sighted the earth-brown partridge, the poor bird was as good as in his bag – his sharp eyes would spot the hare crouching in yellow brown shrub and in another moment it was dead, even the best hunting dogs would fail but Ali never missed to notice game nor did he ever miss his mark.

Q. 18. What brings about a change in the postmaster ?
Ans. At first the postmaster is arrogant; he rebukes Ali and is insensitive to his feelings but after separation from his daughter he realizes his mistake and goes to Ali’s grave to place the letter there.

Q. 19. Why was Ali undisturbed by the insensitivity of the people ?
Ans. Ali was a loving and devoted father. He was undisturbed by the insensitivity of people because he was desperate to get a letter and that had become a mission and all other things were insignificant.

Long Answer Type Questions (4 marks each)

Q. 1. Justify the title ‘The Letter’. (Board Term-I 2012, Set 19)
Ans. Terribly missing his daughter, indifferent to bad weather and health, Ali went to the post-office everyday without fail in the hope to receive a letter from his daughter. The employees at the post-office made fun of him. Not bothered by their jokes he returned to the post-office the next day. Even when he was not well, struggling to breathe, with clear signs of his approaching end he made to the post-office. With his patience exhausted, but faith intact he gave five gold guineas to the post-office clerk with a promise to deliver the letter at his grave after his death. The entire lesson is woven around the letter and Ali’s optimism to receive it one day.

Q. 2. Coachman Ali and the post master share feeling of guilt but their realization comes a little too late to make amends. Describe what they feel guilty about and how the realizations comes to them. (Board Term-I 2012, Set EC2,56)
Ans. Coachman Ali gambles and drinks in his younger days without caring for his family. It is only when his daughter runs away that he realizes his mistake. Life turns over a new leaf and he waits day in and day out for a letter from her which never comes. Finally, when the letter does come, he is no longer alive.
Postmaster makes fun of Ali. Only when his own daughter is ill and he gets no news of her, he realizes Ali’s pain and anguish. He feels sorry for having made fun of Ali. When the letter comes, he decides to deliver it himself and make personal amends for his behaviour but it is too late but Ali is no more.

Q. 3. After paying five gold coins to Lakshmi Das, Ali rests assured that he would get his daughter, Miriam’s letter, although at his grave. He writes down the account of the journey of his life and his feelings for his daughter. As Ali, write the diary entry in 150 words. (O. D. Comptt. 2010)
Ans.

15 September 2014 10 p.m.
Dear Diary

After meeting Lakshmi Das and giving him five golden guineas, I am feeling relieved now. I only wish that he will surely deliver Miriam’s letter at my grave. What a miserable life I have led for the last five years.

Being a staunch lover of humanity I realised that the whole universe is made through love and grief of separation is inescapable. After the marriage of my daughter Miriam, I have realized what separation is. I have not got any letter from her for the past five years.

I wanted to tell her and shpw her that I have changed. I have left hunting since the day of her marriage. I wanted to tell her how much I love her. So, I became a routine visitor to the post-office for having news of my own daughter, though I was called by the names like ‘pest’, ‘mad person’, etc. But I never minded and waited for the letter only. The postman made fun of me. The post master scolded me but I had a hope for the letter. Father’s heart would always miss the daughter though I was always humiliated by everyone in the post-office.

Now, I sense my last days are approaching. I have given five golden guineas to the clerk Laxmi Das and requested him to put my letter on my grave when it arrives. Ultimately, I have to leave for my heavenly abode believing the letter would come, though after my death.

May God bless you Miriam.

Q. 4. You are one of the villagers who have noticed Ali and his helplessness. Write a letter to your friend giving an account of the life and experiences of this lovely man. (O. D. Comptt. 2009)

Ans.
ABC Lane
Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur ‘
18 May 2014 Dear friend

Today, I would like to tell you about coachman Ali’s life story which will definitely bring tears in your eyes. A man who died grieving for his daughter and spent many years endlessly waiting for a letter from her. Coachman Ali was a clever shikari who was not able to pass even a day without hunting. But in the later half of his life, he left his old ways and his life took a new turn. When his only child Miriam got married and left him. For five years, he had no news of her. He now understood the meaning of love and separation. Whenever he waited for his daughter Miriam’s letter outside the post-office, employees of the office laughed at him and called him a mad man, but he remained undeterred. He became unwell and knew his end was near. Therefore, he handed over five gold coins to a clerk at the post-office and told him to deliver Miriam’s letter to him at his grave. When a letter for Ali arrived, the clerk, true to his promise, went to Ali’s grave to deliver Miriam’s letter. It is a story of an ordinary man who died waiting endlessly with no one to understand his grief and loneliness.

Abu

Q. 5. Lakshmi Das, the clerk makes a diary entry regretting his misbehaviour towards Ali when he pestered him. Imagine you are Lakshmi Das. Make the diary entry in 150-175 words. (Delhi II, 2008)

Ans.
18 June 2014
10 p.m.

Dear Diary

What a situation it was when Ali pestered me to take the money only to deliver the letter at his grave as he felt that the end of his life was near. I saw tears in his eyes but not his emotions and feelings. I was happy to get the golden coins and put them into my pocket. After giving me the coins, Ali was never seen again. Later I came to know that he was no more as he did not visit the post-office for a long time. I realized that I was wrong. I could not understand a father’s feelings for his only daughter. There was one of the officials who always made fun of him and spoke rudely to him, called him a pest and misbehaved. But now I am regretting my misconduct towards him. My conscience has awakened. I realize he just used to come to seek his daughter Miriam’s letter but we treated him badly.

I had to keep the promise made to him and I put the letter on his grave as promised. I feel a sense of fulfilment within myself and I will write a letter to his daughter.

Laxmi Das

Q. 6. Imagine you are the postmaster and have just gone and laid Miriam’s letter on Ali’s grave. You come back home and reflect on whatever’s happened. The newly awakened father’s heart in you is reproaching you for having failed to understand Ali’s anxiety. As the postmaster write a diary entry in about 150-175 words outlining your feelings. (Board Sample Paper 2006, Set-II)

Ans.
17 July 2014
11 p.m.

Dear Diary

Today, we had gone to deliver Miriam’s much awaited letter to Ali. But unfortunately, the letter was delivered to Ali’s grave. I am in a position to understand Ali’s concern and anxiety. My newly-awakened father’s heart is reproaching me for having failed to comprehend Ali’s misery. I have now realized the value of each letter and will never again view them merely as envelopes and postcards. My heart is filled with compassion and regret at having rebuked Ali so much that I actually visualised seeing Ali enter the post-office even though he has been dead for the past three months. I think, I will spend the rest of my life repenting my callous attitude at not having understood a person’s pain, helplessness and misery.

Value Based Questions (4 marks each)

Q. 1. Life is often a reflection of one’s own deeds. God renders us according to our deeds. Do you think Ali and the postmaster are examples of this philosophical thought ? (The Letter) (Board 2014, Set PRE2N18)
Ans. Value Points:
Life is often a reflection of one’s own deeds. God renders us according to our deeds.
Ali realized the meaning of separation only when his daughter left him; earlier he didn’t have time for her.
Post master never understood Ali’s agony and made fun of him.
He too had to face the consequences when he had to wait to get the news of his ailing daughter.(CBSE Marking Scheme, 2014)

Detailed Answer:

There is no denying the fact that life is often a reflection of one’s own deeds. God renders us according to our deeds. We have to believe in the Karma theory and the letter is a good example of this theory. Ali a skilful hunter did not know the meaning of grief and separation until he himself got separated from his daughter Miriam who left him after getting married. Earlier he didn’t have time for her as he was busy hunting animals but after his daughter left, he used to go to the post office and sit there from morning till night, waiting for a letter from her end. The postmaster always made fun of this habit of Ali. He never paid much attention to the emotions and feelings of Ali. He never understood Ali’s agony. But a day came when the postmaster had to face the same consequences when he had to go wait to get the news of his ailing daughter. He understood how difficult it was to wait day after day for something which never came. He realized that letters were not mere postcard or envelops, they were much more than that.
Thus, we find out that ‘The Letter’ is an example of a philosophical thought and people should keep it in mind to lead the life in a humanitarian way.

Q. 2. One feels other’s pain only when one goes through it himself/herself. Explain the postmaster’s change of heart in the chapter ‘The Letter’ and why it took place. (120-150 words) (Board Term-12013, Set 5007,8SRR)
Ans. Value Points:
Postmaster very practical-thinks Ali to be a pest Does not feel any sympathy Ali dies-Postmaster ‘sees’ him and talks to him Finds out about Ali’s death Personally goes to deliver the letter
Understands Ali’s pain only when his own daughter is unwell and away-feels ashamed of his behaviour-One must try to empathise with others. (CBSE Marking Scheme, 2014)
Detailed Answer: .
The postmaster in the story ‘The Letter’ was a very practical man. He used to think Ali as a pest. He had no feeling of sympathy for him or his circumstances. But then times changed and his own daughter fell ill. She lived in another city. He wanted to know about her well-being but was fully dependent on the letter of his daughter that would inform him about it. It was at this moment that he realized Ali’s pain as he himself felt it. He felt ashamed of his behaviour of calling Ali a pest. One day, while he was looking for his daughter’s letter in the heap of latest arrival of letters, he found Miriam’s letter in it. He decided to deliver it to Ali himself. Ali ‘came’ at the usual hour. He talked to him but was later informed that Ali was dead. He was shocked. He decided to go personally to his grave to deliver the letter. Thus the story teaches us to empathise with others.

Q. 3. The word ‘Letter’ is interwoven in the text and imparts us the value of letters which are living documents of human emotions. Justify.
Ans. Letters and envelopes are not merely dead pieces of paper. They are the living documents of human love and concern. Who else but Ali can explain it well who, in the whole chapter, kept on waiting for his daughter Miriam’s letter. He even gave up hunting as, after his daughter’s marriage, he realized the essence of love and the pangs of separation. These pangs of separation transformed even the postmaster who could also understand the agony of a separated father when he himself waited for his sick daughter’s letter. Only a man with a father’s heart can understand the anxiety and worry of another father separated from his child. The whole story revolves round the letter which both the postmaster and Ali waited for. Ali gave five gold guineas to Lakshmi Das to deliver his letter at his grave, after his death telling us the importance of Miriam’s letter. Thus, due importance must be given to letters and they should not be treated as merely pieces of paper. We must realize the value of relations.

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