Discuss the story "Father" by Prafulla Roy.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"Father" written by Prafulla Roy is considered to be a Partition story. The story stems from 1947 when the British Colonial government left south Asia.  From that event, Pakistan was created  taking lands from  eastern and western India.  The diversity of the people involved led to rioting, killing, sexual abuse, and abduction of women and children. 

The primary setting is Calcutta.  The story's narration is third person looking at the story through the main character's eyes.  

Suffering from arthritis, the protagonist Shekharnath has lived eighty years.  His family now consists of his only living son Sandip and his wife and two children.  Sandip's wife, Shobhana, takes tender care of her  father-in-law.

Looking back in the past has become easier than it once was. A flashback takes the old man back to the time when his wife Hemlata wanted to leave their home in Mirpur because she was afraid for her children, particularly their 5 year old daughter Khuku. Riots and murder were occurring everywhere with disagreements between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. Shekharnath disregarded his wife's fears.  

In 1963, during a riot, Hemlata was burned to death in their house and their daughter Khuku was kidnapped.  Khuku was never seen again. This event brings the conflict to the story of the man fighitng within himself against his guilt.

Many years later, a woman comes to the house. Shekharnath recognizes the woman's voice.  It is his long-lost daughter. The old man had hoped she was dead. The tradition of purity and chastity kept the daughter's memory at bay. She was better off dead. The old man refuses to see his daughter, now called Didi.

There are several themes that run throughout the story.  The honor of the family finds importance to the old man. Didi's husband is Muslim.  Her husband saved her life and has provided a home and family with her. Still, Shekharnath remembers the old dissension between their people.

Even though she was a child and had nothing to do with her predicament, if she had been raped or molested it would bring shame to the family.  That is why the old man had wished his daughter to be dead.  Through her death, she would stay forever pure, and the family would not be dishonored. 

The importance of family surrounds the entire story. The son and his family enjoy each other. They work together to take care of the grandfather because he is their ancestor.  Before his wife was tragically killed, Shekharnath's family was happy. When the old man realizes what he will miss if he allows his daughter to leave, he goes to her and proudly welcomes her and her husband into his arms. 

Another theme is the old man's guilt.  He could have taken his family away when his wife wanted him to go.  He ignored her; and she died and his daughter was taken.  Part of his difficulty in seeing his daughter is not the honor, but the shame that he feels for all the years that were taken from her because of his arrogance. The daughter has searched him out; she wants the relationship.  Through this acknowledgement, the old man is set free to enjoy his new found family.

Shekharnath took from the bag a gold necklace and a diamond ring. Giving his daughter the necklace, he said, 'I've not given you anything.  Your mother had these made for your wedding.'

The story comes full circle with the promise of  reuniting the family in the future.  Sandip will be proud that his father was able to put aside the old ways and greet his daughter.


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