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Father Returning Home

Father Returning Home by Dilip Chitre

Poet-Dilip Chitre

One of the foremost Indian writers and critics to emerge in post-Independence India.

Wrote in Marathi & English

A painter, filmmaker, and magazine columnist

A critic, An Artist and Translator.

Born in Baroda

Family moved to Mumbai in 1951

Awarded by Sahitya Academy for poetry and translations works, started at the age of 16.

Published poems –

“Collected Poems(1990)”.

“Anthology of Marathi Poems(1945-65)”.

The poem- Father Returning Home

Alienation of the elder person in a modern world

Isolation of old age

Estrangement from family

Loneliness in modern cities

Modernisation

Loss of historical and cultural identity

It is taken from “Travelling in a cage”.

It draws a portrait of suburban commuter.

It depicts poet’s father’s dull, monotonous, and pitiable daily routine.

The theme of the poem –

A Forced Alienation, separation from the Modern Society, loneliness, isolation from the family.

New words:

Commuters : those who travel regularly from one place to another typically to work

Soggy : wet or heavy with water

Stained : soiled or discoloured spot

Falling apart : breaking into pieces

Fade : to lose freshness

Humid : damp

Grey platform : ‘grey’ suggests old age, dullness, sordidness of a father’s life.

Contemplate : think deeply

Estrangement : alienation, loneliness

Stale : not fresh Contemplate

Tremble : to shake involuntarily

Cling : to adhere, to remain

Sullen : bad tempered

Static : not changing or developing (Here tedious voice of the radio)

Ancestors : a person in one’s family who lived a long time before.

Subcontinent : a large landmass that forms part a continent

Nomads : migrants, gypsy

Narrow pass : the Khyber Pass , Aryans, the people enter the Indian subcontinent through the Khyber Pass in the ancient time.

Explanation of the poem

My father travels on the late evening train

The poem begins with the speaker’s description of his father’s journey to home. The father is travelling in the late evening train after finishing his work for the day. ‘Late evening train’ indicates that the father works for a long time.  So, he regularly returns late home.

Standing among silent commuters in the yellow light

The father is standing among the silent (commuters )passengers in the yellow light inside the train compartment. This line shows his sufferings during the journey. After working so hard, he is returning home standing on the foot- board, as he doesn’t get any seat to relax. The ‘silent commuters’ are not friendly enough to talk to him. The yellow light is showing dull atmosphere. All these things intensify his agony and reflect the monotonous journey.

Suburbs slide past his unseeing eyes

The sub-urban part of Mumbai is disappearing in the moving train. The poet’s father has no intention to look at these places. He has no interest to see these scenes as he has seen them many times. He finds nothing new or interesting in it. So, the sliding landscapes also increase the sense of monotony.

His shirt and pants are soggy and his black raincoat

Stained with mud and his bag stuffed with books

Is falling apart.

Now the poet makes us aware that it is a rainy day. His father’s dress is all wet with the rainwater. His black raincoat is stained with mud. The bag he is carrying is filled with books. He is struggling to handle it.

These lines are again show the difficulties of poet’s father. He faces the difficulties during his journey. It gets even worse in the rainy season. The black raincoat might indicate the lack of color in his dull life.

His bag is full of books. It hints that he is an educated and scholarly man. But it doesn’t have any importance in his ordinary routine journey.

His eyes dimmed by age fade homeward through the humid monsoon night

Here the poet gives us an impression of his father’s age. His eyesight is dimmed by old age. The father looks homeward with his low vision through the humid monsoon night. The gloomy atmosphere also reflects the dullness of his life.

Now I can see him getting off the train

Like a word dropped from a long sentence.

The poet’s father gets down from the train.

Here poet Dilip Chitre has used a fine simile in comparing his father to an unimportant word in a long sentence. This is quite unique. He says that his father gets down just like a word dropped from a long sentence. The poet indicates how unimportant his father is to the crowd in the train. It does not really make any difference whether he got down or not. He is not that relevant to the rest of the world.

He hurries across the length of the grey platform,

Crosses the railway line, enters the lane,

His chappals are sticky with mud, but he hurries onward.

After getting off the train the father hurries towards his home. He crosses the grey coloured platform and the railway line and finally enters the lane. His ‘sticky with mud’ chappals can’t prevent him hurrying onward.

The poet has used the word ‘hurries’ twice to bring in a sense of escapism from the dull humid atmosphere, grey platform and muddy streets where no one would care for him. He just wants some peace at his own home.

Home again, I see him drinking weak tea,

Eating a stale chapati, reading a book.

The second stanza of the poem ‘Father Returning Home’ begins here. In this stanza the poet depicts the isolation of his father in his own home.

The poet’s father reaches home like the other days. The poet sees him drinking tasteless tea and eating a stale chapati. The poet shows how nobody cares for him even at his own home.

The father concentrates on reading a book while having his tea. He does not expect more care form his family members and accepts the weak tea and stale chapati without complaint.

He goes into the toilet to contemplate

Man’s estrangement from a man-made world.

Now the speaker’s father goes into the toilet with a thought of how men become isolated from the man-made world. And this line nearly sums up the theme of the entire poem. The father is indeed aware of his estranged situation and hopes to find some support in the family. But the hope is diminished as he reaches and finds the same indifference there.

Moreover, the toilet might act as a symbol of how small his world has been. The toilet seems to be the only place the man has to go to contemplate over his loneliness.

Coming out he trembles at the sink,

The cold water running over his brown hands,

The father comes out from the toilet and goes to wash his hands at the wash basin. The speaker observed him trembling at the sink when cold water was running down his brown hands. His trembling might be due to his old age and the coldness of the water.  He may have the fearful thought of his isolation from the rest of the world.

A few droplets cling to the greying hairs on his wrists.

A few drops of water clinging to the grey hairs on his wrists may have some greater implication. Water generally symbolizes life and grey hairs stand for the old age. So, the old man’s life is just holding on to his old age. This life has no significance to anyone else.

His sullen children have often refused to share

Jokes and secrets with him.

The poet shows the old man’s relationship to his family members. His children refuse to share jokes and secrets with him. They don’t have a friendly association with their father. They regard him as an outdated and unwanted burden.

He will now go to sleep,

Listening to the static on the radio, dreaming

Of his ancestors and grandchildren, thinking

Of nomads entering a subcontinent through a narrow pass.

At the end of the poem, we see the father going to sleep listening to the radio and thinking of many things like his ancestors, his grandchildren and of the Aryans, the people entering the Indian subcontinent through the Khyber Pass in the ancient time.

The sound of the radio is even bored (static). It gives another reference to the old man’s miserable life. However, his dreaming of his ancestors and grandchildren gives the impression that he finds some solace in thinking about his past and future generation. It is an attempt to escape from his baseless routine-life devoid of human contact.

His thought of the Aryans may indicate that he is thinking of how the society has changed since the ancient times when they had come here. Now the modern world has no place for the elderly people. There are no one to think about their loneliness. Thus, the poem ‘Father Returning Home’ by Dilip Chitre sympathies with the old -neglected people in our society. It shows the harsh reality of isolated and neglected old persons.

See More-

Song of the Open Road

Indian Weavers

The Inchcape Rock

She Walks in Beauty

Small Towns and Rivers

Activity No. 1

Q. Read the extract and complete the activities given below.(10)

My father travels on the late evening train
Standing among silent commuters in the yellow light
Suburbs slide past his unseeing eyes
His shirt and pants are soggy and his black raincoat
Stained with mud and his bag stuffed with books
Is falling apart.
His eyes dimmed by age fade homeward through the humid monsoon night.
Now I can see him getting off the train
Like a word dropped from a long sentence.
He hurries across the length of the grey platform,
Crosses the railway line, enters the lane,
His chappals are sticky with mud, but he hurries onward.

A1. Choose     (2)

Choose the correct statements from the following and write them.

1) The father travels by late evening bus.

2) The father is not an old person.

3) The clothes of the father are very wet and unpleasant during the journey.

4) The father crosses the railway line to come home.

A2. Give proof   (2)

The season described in the extract is rainy season. Give the proof from the extract.

A3. Personal response (2)

Describe any four problems of train journey that a common man faces in a general bogie.

A4. Poetic device (2)

Write one example with explanation of each of the following figures of speech from the extract.

1) Alliteration                       

2) Simile

A5. Poetic creativity (2)

Compose a short poem in about four lines on your father.

See answers in the following book-

Activity Workbook for Std. XII

Price Rs. 350 + Courier/Postage Rs. 50

Total Rs. 400

Send amount by Phone Pay or Google Pay to-

Prof. Tushar Chavan 9850737199

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