Anita Desai's story encourages the reader to reflect on the idea of "devotion." Varma, the father, is proud of his son because he believes that his achievements will ensure him continued success and reflect well on the family.
Varma has not considered that as he ages, he might become dependent on his son, which is what happens. Rakesh takes seriously the commitment he made to medicine and does everything in his power to prolong his father's life and, if possible, restore his health. At the same time, the son grows up to be very much like his father, proud and self-confident—or, his critics might say, arrogant. In both regards, then, Rakesh shows his devotion to his father.
In the end, Varma begins to see the consequences of his over-investment in his son's achievements. The ironic ending represents a logical way in which all the events would have played out.