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Jan 24, 2017

Father Returning Home: Dilip Chitre

Article by
Bijay Kant Dubey

Father Returning Home by Dilip Purushottam Chitre is one of those poems which remind us of our father painted against the backdrop of his unfailing duty and oblation, tireless striving and efforts priceless as for keeping the things tidied and the routine work continuing. His labour gone unwarranted is beyond any doubt, but still complain we, as it is the go of the world, the generation gap taking a toll upon with varied mind-set and mentality, thought and idea, imagery and penetration. On reading it, one if has becomes reminded of Rabindranath Tagore’s My Father, an autobiographical piece of writing telling of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore and his boyhood. Through his father figure and imagery, he has tried to touch upon the life of the commuters coming home and going back to workplace and this continues with. Though it is about his father, Purushottam Chitre, who used to edit Abhiruchi, a famous little magazine, but instead of that there is very good picture and analysis of the commuters who come out in the morning and return by the late evening daily and life passes in journeys, coming and going.

Tennyson’s ‘The old order changeth yielding place to new’ and Wordsworth’s ‘The child is father of man’ are the best to illustrate it. The old age homes with the left and abandoned family members too get pictured automatically. But how many of us can serve?, is the question. All but cannot. This too must be accepted. All cannot take the responsibility.

The poet’s father travels on the late evening train standing among the silent commuters in the yellow light with suburbs sliding past unawares and he lost in the vision of the train stopping to return home. The passing train as usual glides by through halts and platforms with the suburbs moving away from while gathering pace, chugging on the rails, whistling and going. With a bag full of books and laden with, he drops from the train when it halts though it may be the rainy day or not. Braving humidity and wet weather, he goes to and comes back which the children bother and pother it not about. Even old age and ageing may take a toll upon, but he is steady in his movement and retreat. It does not matter if his shirt and paints get wet or rain water drops dampen it. Having alighted from, he hurries along the grey platform to cross over the railway lines to move into the lanes to reach home. His chappals wet with rain waters are mud-stained and sticky.

In the second stanza of the poem, he is seen sipping weak tea and taking stale chapati and reading a book, going into the toilet to contemplate man’s estrangement from man-made world of values and ideas. After coming from the bathroom and freshened up with water, he himself wipes it. There is none to share the jokes and thoughts with him as he keeps doing it all alone. Finally, he goes for sleep listening to the radio, thinking of his ancestors, the way they entered into from Central Asia and his grandchildren.

On reading the poem, images conjure upon the mind’s plane, the late night train coming, the yellow bulbs burning, bogies tumbling slowly, people standing on, it taking time, when reached, the passengers alighting, holding the rods, stepping upon the platform, some jostling to be in and some to be out, commuters dropping by knowledgeably. 

The poem may be called a journey by train too. Man is but a passenger who comes and goes away. The stations of life everyone has but to cross.

In the image of his father we see the image of a pressman, a journalman and as such had been the manual press.

There is also the tale of the big family and nuclear family connected with it sociologically. The generation gap story too cannot be negated. The older generation wanted to be knowledgeable, Baconian and Russellian, but today’s generation is unable to utilize his knowledge as the chances are rare and the competitions so high.

Father Returning Home is a pen-portrait of his father which he has described it so minutely. Chitre’s is an Indian father but of Plath’s daddy different from. If Chitre’s is a portrait taken from ordinary life, Sylvia’s is one of more attachment and affection, full of extraordinary filial love which a daughter feels, shows it and the word daddy strikes us deeply.

The old world and the new world have been contrasted with. Through the portrait of the father, the poet tells the tales of dislocation and displacement as for the belly, bread and butter, livelihood to be earned. What a life the commuter has got as his life spends it in coming and going!
The late evening train, standing among silent commuters, suburbs slide, his unseeing eyes, his shirt and pants soggy, black raincoat stained with mud, bag stuffed with books falling apart, eyes dimmed by age, homeward through the humid monsoon night, chappals sticky with mud, etc. add to the beauty of the first stanza of the poem.
Home again, drinking weak tea, eating a stale chapati, into the toilet to contemplate man’s estrangement from a man-made world, cold water running over his brown hands, droplets cling  to the greying hairs on his wrists, etc. add to the poetic verve and strength of the second stanza of the poem.

The beginning lines tell of the start of the journey and the father as the late evening commuter taking the train from his workplace to his slated destination which is but the daily business of a modern world man, where his house, where his work place, where to go, where to be back to, so full of uncertainty and monotony:

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.

The homeward journey through the humid monsoon night is picturesque:

.  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.

 The poet’s father is but a picture of everyone’s father:
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.

Let us see how he describes:

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.


In the end of the poem, the poet paints the retiring scene:

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.

“Father Returning Home” -by Dilip Chitre
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.



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