2.5 Father Returning Home
Explanation of the poem
Father returning home is an autobiographical poem written by Dilip Chitre (1938 – 2009). He was born into a prominent literary family. Dilip Chitre, a bilingual writer, writing in Marathi and English, is best known for his translations and revival of the Marathi Saint poet, Tukaram. Chitre was a writer, painter, translator, filmmaker and a teacher. Dilip Chitre once remarked, “Everyone is a minority of one”. Through this poem, the poet convincingly presents his idea that our singular experiences lead us to imagine that each of us is an isolated minority.
The poem has two stanzas of twelve lines each. The poet depicts the picture of his own father a Suburban commuter returning home from work. In the crowd also, he is all alone from inside. The poet has expressed feelings of regret for his father who has worked hard throughout his life. In spite of his lifetime hard work, he is neglected, uncared and ignored and has to spend a sad solitary life. The problems of old people who are by default compelled to undergo alienation and loneliness is highlighted throughout this poem. The first line contrastingly reveals, details of the father’s condition. ‘father travels on the late evening train’ – this line indicates that he has no personal method of transportation for his journeys and that the hour of that journey is late.
The narrator further creates a monotone atmosphere. The father is among silent commuters. He has no will, desire, or energy to carry a conversation. This ‘silent’ quality reflects a level of alienation between the father and his surroundings. This alienation is a prominent concept of the poem.
The father stands among the silent commuters in the yellow light. Here the ‘yellow light’ represents the fear or fright of the father. The poet focusses on the sense of insecurity that is developing in our old generation who are being ignored and neglected by the youngsters.
‘Suburbs slide past his unseeing eyes’ – in this line ‘unseeing eyes’ indicate that the father is in deep thought, unaware of what is passing through’.
The father’s image on the train with ‘soggy’ clothes and a ‘black raincoat stained with mud’ is a defeated and sad visual.
Even ‘his bag stuffed with books falling apart’ showcase that no element of his current state is in good condition. His bag is disintegrating under the heavy load of books. This is symbolic of his mental condition as well of his soul and body that longs for rest. His bag represents his physical state and it is he who is really mentally falling apart.
It is a rainy day, as his shirt and pants are soggy and his black raincoat is stained with mud. The reference that he struggles to carry a bag stuffed with books, suggests that he might be into any academic profession. He could be a teacher a professor or an editor or so. His father is keen to reach home as early as possible. He crosses the gray platform without wasting time. This is his daily routine. The gray platform is a symbol of his dull and colourless life.
Further the poet says that his father gets off the train like a word dropped from a long sentence. Here, the poet suggests that his father’s existence in this vast world is insignificant. His absence doesn’t matter to anyone at all. He crosses the track in a hurry, he wants to get away from the humid weather quickly and seek some comfort at home.
In the Second stanza the narrator describes his father in his home. Back home even, he is all alone. The narrator sees him drinking weak tea and eating a stale chapati. This indicates that he is deprived of good food and also has to suffer severe solitude. But his father does not have any complaints against it. Into the toilet, he thinks hard about the degradation of social values & relationships, and the isolation of man from man-made world. The indifference that he experiences in the outside world, he experiences the same at home also. He is well aware of his isolated state and may be quite fearful about it. He trembles while washing his brown aged hands. He trembles due to weakness which is physical but he also shivers at the thoughts of where the new society, generation is led to. The lines – ‘a few droplets cling to the graying hair on his wrists’– indicate that he is just somehow holding onto his dull life.
The narrator describes the children as ‘sullen’ because they are different from the previous generation. They lack affinity & feelings. It is the trend of the modern generation. Children do not share a healthy relationship with the father. They do not share their joys and sorrows with him. There exists a communication gap which leads to a generation gap. There is no connection, bond, attachment formed or created. Everything seems artificial and detached. Father is unhappy in his life, and the connection he desires with the children he loves is denied by those very children. It also creates a line of division between the two generations within the household. The reference that the children have often refused to share jokes and secrets with him indicates that the father wants to be a part of their ‘jokes and secrets’ and that longing makes the division more heart-breaking. What the father truly wants, seems out of his reach. He is miserable. There is a level of helplessness that is heightened.
The father does not find anything to look forward to, in his unexcited present life. Anyways, his father has set up his own routine. To compensate for all the loss, he listens ‘to the static on the radio’ as he goes to sleep. The radio does not receive a good signal due to the bad weather. ‘Static on the radio’ literally is just the hum of the radio. Nothing coming out in terms of music or radio show or anything. It’s just static and he uses the sound to learn to sleep and he dreams. This is typical of the elderly people, who rely on their past and future. The father has nothing worthwhile to think of in the present. To get rid of his suffering, he turns to dreaming, dreaming about his past. He dreams about his ancestors and grandchildren. The ancestors and grandchildren represent the father’s past and future. In his dream he finds some solace in them from his present situation. This may be his own way to escape from the cruel reality.
The father finally finds rest and peace not on the train, not when he comes home, or when he is having his evening meal, but when he sleeps listening to the static over radio. This is extremely sad and the readers are left feeling nothing but sympathy for this father.