Friday, 27 June 2008

Father Returning Home

My father had his own workshop. The set-up was just ten minutes away from home. Father would leave for work at 8:30 a.m., come back for lunch at one and go back again. He would call it a day at seven. He was always around when we needed him. We were fortunate. But I remember having friends whose fathers worked in towns and reached home late, in spite of having an inscrutable urge to be with their children. They took the train to work and back home...the crowded Mumbai locals, which ferried human beings like they were ferrying cattle. But still, when those fathers reached home there was not an inch of weariness on their faces, it was always a sense of joy, the joy of seeing their kids running to them.

Dilip Chitre's poem 'Father returning home' captures the feelings of such a father,

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 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 th 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 chappati, 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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