A Devoted Son: Anita Desai

Introduction to the Story and the Author

This story opens up the age old debate of generation gap. As we read It me story we will be in a position to express our understanding of devotion. This sure am Awes us to dwell a little into geriatric (pertaining to old age) psychology that is fast plaint significance in recent times.

'A Devoted Son’ is a short story about how peoples attitudes vary in differed circumstances A proud father of a doctor son with sterling personals undergoes a sea change in his attitude towards the end of his life. The story elicits ideas like who is a devoted son? How devoted can a doctor son be? and the like.

Mrs. Anita Desai is popular writer in English. Some of her famous novels include fire on the Mountain; Cry the Peacock, Voices in the City, Bye Bye Blackbird and several short story collections. 'A Devoted Son' is taken from Games at Prilith and other stories


Rakesh was the son of Varma, a worker in the kerosene dealer's depot. He worked very hard and passed every examination in first division. The family celebrated his success with great revelry and joy. His M.D. thesis was much appreciated though only in medical circles. He went to the U.S.A. to acquire professional skill and expertise in his field. In all these years, what amused everyone is not his achievement alone but his respect and humility to his parents.

Many wondered that he still, paid obeisance to his parents at every occasion. And now contrary to popular expectations he returned to India and married the girl of his mother’s choice. Soon he settled down with a clinic, a car and began his practice as a surgeon became the best and the richest doctor in the town. This can certainly be called the achievement of a lifetime. Added to this is the fact that he touches his parent’s feet as a devoted son.

As years passed by, his mother died. He took great care of his father. He brought his morning tea; read newspaper for him; took him to the garden in the evenings for a breath of fresh air. During summer he helped his father sleep in the open lawn. He made the servants carry the old man's bed to the lawn and he personally helped him down the steps on to the bed. After his return from the clinic, every evening he sat with his father and spent some tune with him.

Then came a time when he had to restrict his father’s diet. As he was ageing, rich and fatty foods like oil, ghee, butter, cheese etc. had to be cut down. Sweets were completely forbidden. The old man could not control his tongue. So, he bribed his young grandchildren to get him jilebis from the market. However this arrangement did not last long. Rakesh caught his son red handed and he got furious with his father. He scolded his father, for not only spoiling his health but also teaching children to lie. Since then there was heavy restriction on the old man's food besides heavy supervision of the same.

Mr. Varma felt insulted by all these activities. He felt it was unbecoming of his son to behave in such a manner. Though from Rakesh’s point of view, he was only doing his duty to his father. And that he does all this for his fathers benefit and not out of discourtesy. But his father was dissatisfied with everything. He shared his grief with his neighbor Bhatia who was also old and adamant. As if adding insult to injury, his daughter-in-law who carried out the instructions of Rakesh regarding the old man's diet, seemed to relish the act of denying something that he liked most. As is bound to happen he fell ill. On one occasions during his second grandchild’s birth day he lied down like a corpse, stretching on ends and became the main focus of attention. The celebrations had to be abandoned. Soon he got up and spat a mouthful of betel juice, dispelling all the anxiety. Since then his stretching like a corpse became a regular feature but not the attention he demanded.

The number of pills and medicines increased. Though Rakesh did them all with affection and care for his old father, Varma was not ready to believe it. His loneliness intensified. A stage came when he had to react sharply to his son's advice. He began to woo death. He made it clear to his son that he had no intention to live. He refused his tonic and said that he did not want to survive on medicines. Despite the fact that Rakesh was indeed a devoted son, Varma refused to recognize it. And he died refusing to recognize it

1 comment: