“Father” by Prafulla Roy depicts a family that survived the tragedy of Partition which began in 1947. The British colonial government withdrew from South Asia. The nation of Pakistan was created. This story stems from this time in history.
The protagonist of the story is Shekharnath, an eighty year old man, who suffers from arthritis. His days are filled with reading, eating, and sleeping. Now, Shekharnath lives with his son Sandip and his family: Shobhana, his wife and their children. Sandip, an executive in a large company, enjoys spending time with his family.
Shekharnath moved to Calcutta thirty years before from Mirpur after the tragedy in 1963. While he was at work, Shekharnath’s wife had been burned to death in their house, and their five year old daughter Khuku had been kidnapped. His two sons were at school. No one had heard from her since the abduction.
Shekharnath wakes up from a nap on the balcony. A taxi stops, and a middle age lady comes to the house. Almost immediately, Shekharnath knows who it is. He had hoped that she was dead. After thirty years and so much pain, he shuts himself in the room and refuses to see her.
After she leaves, Sandip tells his father about his Khuku's visit. Shekharnath learns that his daughter had been saved by an officer in the region. He took her into his house. He tried to find the family, but they had moved to Calcutta. He married Khuku. Now her husband is joint secretary in the Ministry of Education. They have a son, a doctor, and two daughters, who are in college.
When the tragedy occurred, both men lost someone valuable in their lives: the wife and the mother. Sandip was young when his sister was abducted, and he grieved for her. But the Father’s feelings are more complex.
His wife was afraid of the riots, but Shekharnath disregarded her feelings and fears. His grief and sadness are compounded by his guilt. His child was kidnapped. In his mind, unspeakable things had been done to her. She was better off dead. His deeply held idea of honor and chastity created the illusion that those who survived the abduction had brought shame to their families.
The old feelings of racism stun him momentarily when Sandip tells him that Khuku was saved and married to a Muslim. After contemplating what had happened, Shekharnath realizes that it was wrong not to see his daughter. His grandson takes him to the airport where he emotionally holds his daughter and her son-in-law for the first time in thirty years.
Sandip, an intelligent, caring man, provides for his father. When his father refuses to see his sister, Sandip feels humiliation. For the first time, he speaks boldly to his father when he describes the meeting with his long-lost sister, now called Didi. Concerned for his sister and her emotional well-being, Sandip grows frustrated because his father only shows interest when he mentions that Khuku is married to a Muslim. Sandip emphasizes that his sister is very happy with her husband and family. That is all that should matter!
Sandip went on, “It is terribly wrong, Father, that Didi will never come back her to us.”
Two men, different generations, tragic memories—both want the same thing in the end.
Reunited with his daughter, Shekharnath can hardly contain his joy:
As he watched them, Shekharnath thought to himself, “What a fine boy!” and at that moment he was not at all aware of the age-old tradition running in his blood.