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.
The poem speaks about the inner loneliness of the poet’s father, the utter alienation he is experiencing in the twilight years (man’s estrangement from a man-made world) as he ceases to matter to his children who no longer share anything with him. All the while he is trying to evoke, through the racial conscious, the invisible connection with his ancestors who had entered the sub-continent through the Khyber Pass in the Himalayas in some distant past (the allusion is perhaps to the migration of the Aryans to the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia). The poet uses some fine imagery to describe the pain and misery lurking in the old man’s soul as he travels in the local train .His bag stuffed with books is falling apart refers to the state of the old man’s mind which has turned senile after all that knowledge it has acquired through years of dedicated study.
A wonderful image is used to describe his getting down from the train: Like a word dropped from a long sentence .The uniqueness of the image lies in the highly evocative visual picture of an old man dropping off from the train as though he is no longer relevant to the train which will now move forward with other people to their destinations.The old man is just a word in the syntax of life. The sentence that is long enough to carry several words forward each contributing to its overall meaning now drops off one stray word, which is no longer required.
The other interesting image is the eyes and vision, which occurs in the poem again and again. The suburbs slide past his unseeing eyes is a pretty image. The second one is his eyes dimmed by age fade homeward.
Above all we may look at the dexterous use of words to convey the “twilight” atmosphere in the poem : evening train, yellow light, unseeing eyes , his eyes dimmed by age fade homeward ,gray platform.