Last Updated on October 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 605
Rakesh, a young Indian man who earns the top position in his national exams, is the son of a traditional family. The first of his family to receive an education, Rakesh achieves incredible success, eventually becoming a wealthy doctor who owns a clinic and serves his community. Through his adolescence and early adulthood, Rakesh orients his life around his parents' wishes: he studies hard, achieves high marks, embarks on a lucrative career, travels but returns home, and even marries a woman of their choosing. Indeed, his entire life is a product of the devotion for which the short story is named.
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Although Rakesh appears content with his life, readers must wonder how satisfied he is with the choices his parents made for him; though he has achieved much, his accomplishments have always been shared. The conflict between Rakesh and his father, Varma, becomes a battle of will between an obedient son and his unwilling father. For Rakesh, who has always lived in the shadow of his familial obligations, his unceasing effort to improve his father's ailing health is simply expected. He does what he feels must be done for the good of his family, much to the irritation of his uncooperative father. Rakesh’s actions indicate his character: he is a kind-hearted, family-oriented man who cares only to fulfill his responsibilities as a dutiful son, regardless of whether or not his father wishes him to. His single-mindedness fractures his once-strong relationship with his father, as, ironically, Rakesh’s devotion no longer endears him to his aging father.
Varma is Rakesh’s father. Initially, Varma takes immense pride in his son’s accomplishments, humility, and appreciation of his father. Rakesh’s success reflects positively on his father, and the man takes great pleasure in basking in his son’s wealth and achievements. Generally, he is a humble man who continues to work for many years after his son becomes wealthy, and he cares deeply for his family. Varma expects much from his son, but his expectations seem to stem from a place of care and excitement rather than harsh demands.
As he ages, Varma first loses his wife, then begins to lose his health. Rakesh, ever dutiful, takes tighter control over his father’s health. He attempts to plan a healthy diet for his ailing father but unintentionally takes the few joys Varma holds dear. The duty-oriented son Varma once praised has become a source of resentment, and the aging man sees his young son as a demanding tyrant who purposefully restricts his happiness. The story ends as Varma, overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and restriction, calls his son a captor and begs for death.
Rakesh’s mother is a traditional wife and homemaker; her son’s overwhelming success seems to be her most significant source of pride in life. Although she goes unnamed, her presence in the story is deeply felt. She is a major influence on Rakesh’s life choices, including his marriage to Veena, and her death deeply affects the happiness of her widowed husband, Varma, who begins to lose interest in life.
Veena is Rakesh’s wife. She is a compliant, unimaginative, and docile woman who Rakesh only marries because his mother requested it of him. Veena is a good wife who does her duties well and without complaint, carefully following Rakesh's orders regarding his father's diet and ensuring that the old man’s diet remains uncompromised. Varma imagines that she gets perverse pleasure out of this tyranny, but Veena is such a kind, caring woman that such vindictiveness would be out of character and unlikely.