Father Returning Home

Dilip Chitre: His Biography

Dilip Chitre poetDilip Purushottam Chitre (Marathi: दिलीप पुरुषोत्तम चित्रे) was one of the foremost Indian writers and critics to emerge in the post Independence India. Apart from being a very important bilingual writer, writing in Marathi and English, he was also a painter and filmmaker.

He was born in Baroda on 17 September 1938. His father Purushottam Chitre used to publish a periodical named Abhiruchi which was highly treasured for its high, uncompromising quality. Dilip Chitre’s family moved to Mumbai in 1951 and he published his first collection of poems in 1960. He was one of the earliest and the most important influences behind the famous “little magazine movement” of the sixties in Marathi. He started Shabda with Arun Kolatkar and Ramesh Samarth. In 1975, he was awarded a visiting fellowship by the International Writing Programme of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa in the United States.

Works on Poetry 

His Ekun Kavita or Collected Poems were published in the nineteen nineties in three volumes. As Is,Where Is selected English poems (1964-2007) and “Shesha” English translation of selected Marathi poems both published by Poetrywala are among his last books published in 2007.

Film Career 

He started his professional film career in 1969 and has since made one feature film, about a dozen documentary films, several short films in the cinema format, and about twenty video documentary features.

Awards and Honors 

He worked as an honorary editor of the quarterly New Quest, a journal of participative inquiry, Mumbai.

Among Chitre’s honours and awards are several Maharashtra State Awards, the Prix Special du Jury for his film Godam at the Festival des Trois Continents at Nantes in France in 1984, the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s Emeritua Fellowship, the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program Fellowship, the Indira Gandhi Fellowship, the Villa Waldberta Fellowship for residence given by the city of Munich, Bavaria, Germany and so forth. He was D.A.A.D. ( German Academic Exchange) Fellow and Writer-in-Residence at the Universities of Heidelberg and Bamberg in Germany in 1991–92.
He was member of a three-writer delegation ( along with Nirmal Verma and U. R. Ananthamurthy) to the Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia), Hungary, the Federal Republic of Germany and France in the spring and summer of 1980 and to the Frankfurter Buchmesse in Frankfurt, Germany in 1986.
He travelled widely in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America as well as in the interiors of India; been on the visiting faculty of many universities and institutions, a consultant to projects. He was the Honorary President of the Sonthhheimer Cultural Association, of which he was also a Founder-Trustee.

Death 

After a long bout with cancer, Dilip Chitre died at his residence in Pune on 10 December 2009.

Listen to the poem and watch the video

Read: Father Returning Home

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.

Home again, I see him drinking weak tea,
Eating a stale chapati, reading a book.
He goes into the toilet to contemplate
Man’s estrangement from a man-made world.
Coming out he trembles at the sink,
The cold water running over his brown hands,
A few droplets cling to the greying hairs on his wrists.
His sullen children have often refused to share
Jokes and secrets with him. 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.

Watch, read and listen. Annotate your poem.

Father Returning Home focuses on a certain individual, a commuting father, returning home from work in the Indian city of Mumbai, although it could be any large city anywhere in the world.

The atmosphere within the poem, narrated by a son or daughter, is rather gloomy and pessimistic. There is little emotion shown as the father ends another day at work and hurries back to a house that is not altogether a home.

Dilip Chitre, painter and film-maker as well as poet, taps into his own father’s biography and creates a powerful and imagistic poem, the speaker closely observing the actions of the unhappy protagonist.

Purushottam Chitre, his father, is said to be the inspiration for this poem as he migrated from his birth town of Baroda to Mumbai to try and better his life. The poet has also been influenced by this city:

“Mumbai figures in my early Marathi and English poetry in different ways and at several levels. I perceived the metropolis in juxtaposition with primordial nature as perceived in my childhood. There was a discord. There was a sense of manmade alienation that haunted me.”

In the poem life is not so easy any longer – the father has become a figure of pathos and has lost his raison d’etre.

The major themes include:

  • alienation.
  • rootlessness.
  • old age in a modern society.
  • isolation.
  • cultural identity.
  • the generation gap.
  • the future of the individual in the city.

In pairs

Find evidence in the poem for each and every theme

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