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:
- old age in a modern society.
- cultural identity.
- the generation gap.
- the future of the individual in the city.
Find evidence in the poem for each and every theme