Phatik, his younger brother Makhan and their mother, that was his family. His father had died long ago and it was their mother who brought them up. Somewhere in the go, mother began to favor Makhan and poor Phatik was eventually ignored or feared. Phatik had to seek love and consideration outside his divided home. It was during this breaking away time that Phatik’s uncle paid an unexpected visit. Having heard from his sister, this uncle agreed to take Phatik home to Calcutta.
This story can be fully understood by those who have a younger brother or a younger sister. Besides, this story can be better understood by anyone who is Tagor’s countryman. In India, even in the 21st century, parents express different kinds of love for their children in different intensity. The first child is their dearest for a while but when the second is born, the first becomes ‘elder’ and goes forgotten. Parents are expecting an adult’s maturity from a three year old child because he is ‘elder.’ This story could not have been such a tragedy if Phatik’s mother hadn’t been prejudiced.
- Phatik Chakravorti was the leader of the boys in his village.
- Once he (and his gang of boys) decided to carry a log that a boat-maker had left to build his boat.
- When all the boys came to lift the huge log (secretly), Phitik’s younger brother Makhan sat on the log.
- Though the boys advised (and threatened) Makhan didn’t move.
- Now all turned to their leader, Phatik and Phatik had to do something to save his reputation.
- Phatik gave a terrible order to his friends to roll the log with Makhan on it (or under it)
- Phatik’s order was carried out and there went Makhan off the log.
- Brought to physical and mental injury, Makhan rose from the mud and attacked Phatik, savagely and went home, crying.
- Phatik didn’t dare to go home. He knew what his mother would do.
- While Phatik thus sat on the bank of a river, chewing a blade of grass, a middle aged man (it was Phatik’s uncle whom the boy had never seen) got ashore in a boat.
- The man asked direction to the house of the Chakravorties (Phatik’s own house) but Phatik was not interested in helping the man.
- A servant from Phatik’s house came to take the boy home. Though Phatik refused, the servant carried him all the way home.
- At home Phatik was shouted at by his mother. Makhan had complained that Phatik had hit him (but we know who hit whom! You know, the younger brothers are like that!).
- Mother was furious. She was biased with Phatik. Since Makhan was the younger child, she tended to disbelieve Phatik. (I pity Phatik, my counterpart, my brother in distress!)
- Mother took Makhan’s side as usual and sent her hands on Phatik in a violent outburst. Hurt, Phatik pushed the mother aside.
- At this point the stranger (Phatik’s uncle) arrived. Mother recognized her long lost brother (Bishamber) and touched his feet.
- After a few days of enjoyment, Bishamber decided to take Phatik home to Kolkatta. He hoped Phatik’s character would change away from the village.
- Before going away, Phatik bequeathed (all his toys and fishing-rode). For the first time the two brothers loved each other. Finally Phatik left home, without any pain of separation.
- At his uncle’s house Phatik was an unwelcome guest. His aunt had already been fed up with her three sons!
- Phatik grew up but he was the worst in his school, hated by his aunt, avoided by his cousins, sympathised by his uncle, forgotten by his mother, brother…
- He felt like being in a prison, choking with people who hated him. He longed to go back to his village. Did he long to see his mother, we don’t know!
- One evening Phatik ran away from his uncle’s home but two police constables brought him back to Bishamber’s home.
- Wet and tired, Phatik developed fever. His condition grew alarmingly critical.
- Bishamber sent for Phatik’s mother. When the mother came like a wind, Phatik’s condition was still critical.
- Phatik tells her, “Mother, the holidays have come!” What does this mean? Was he referring to his eternal holiday from this earthly life? Were they Phatik’s last words?
Questions & Answers
- What was Bhishamber’s kind offer?
Bishamber kindly offered to take Phatik off his sister’s hands, and educate him with his own children in Calcutta. The widowed mother readily agreed. When his uncle asked Phatik If he would like to go to Calcutta with him, his joy knew no bounds.
- What makes you think that Phatik’s mother was prejudiced and partial in loving the two children?
Phatik’s mother always overlooked facts. She believed whatever the smaller of the two children said. Makhan had an effective tactic of convincing her. Instead of interrogating the other side of the truth from Phatik, she termed him a liar. She never understood it was mostly Makhan who lied, it was he who initiated quarrels and it was he whose lies and plots that always won over Phatik’s innocence and the fury that developed out of his helplessness and loneliness at home. Like most illiterate parents, she kept on saying that Phatik was a perpetual nuisance, lazy, disobedient and wild. She was proud to say that Makhan was as good as gold, as quiet as a lamb, and very fond of reading, etc.
- Why did Phatik hesitate to go home after his ruffle with Makhan?
Makhan had an ingenious talent in portraying him as evil, especially in front of his mother therefore Phatik knew that his mother had been always prejudiced about him. He knew that his mother would be awaiting his arrival to punish him for what he had done with Makhan.
- Why did Phatik have to carry out his plan of rolling the log with Makhan sitting on it?
Phatik had always been the undisputed leader of the village boys. With Makhan sitting on the log and the boys undecided about Phatik’s next action, he had to roll the log away to save his name and the respect his friends used to have for him. Besides, what Makhan did was an act of thoughtless, sheer stubbornness and it was an elder brother’s duty to punish such a younger brother.
- Why was Phatik Chakravorti considered to be ringleader among the boys of the village?
Phatik was a little mischievous boy among the children. He was good at planning and executing new mischiefs to amuse his friends.
- Who was the stranger that came to Phatik’s house? The stranger was Bhishamber, the long lost brother of Phatik’s mother. He had gone away soon after she had married, and he had started business in Bombay. When Phatik’s father died, Bhishamber was in Bombay. When he returned to Calcutta after a long time, he at once made inquiries about his sister. He had then hastened to see her as soon as he found out where she was.
- What was Bhishamber’s kind offer? Bishamber kindly offered to take Phatik off his sister’s hands, and educate him with his own children in Calcutta. The widowed mother readily agreed. When his uncle asked Phatik If he would like to go to Calcutta with him, his joy knew no bounds.
- What was the effect of Phatik’s getting an opportunity to go to Calcutta on Phatik and on his mother? It was an immense relief to the mother to get rid of Phatik. She had a prejudice against the boy, and no love was lost between the two brothers. She was in daily fear that he would either drown Makhan some day in the river, or break his head in a fight, or run him into some danger or other. At the same time she was somewhat distressed to see Phatik’s extreme eagerness to get away. Phatik, as soon as all was settled, kept asking his uncle every minute when they were to start. He was on pins and needles all day long with excitement, and lay awake most of the night. He gave away to Makhan his fishing-rod, his big kite and his marbles. Indeed, at this time of departure his generosity towards Makhan was without measure.
- Why did Phatik feel like an unwelcome guest at his uncle’s home?
When he reached Calcutta, Phatik made the acquaintance of his aunt for the first time. She was by no means pleased with this unnecessary addition to her family. She found her own three boys quite enough to manage without taking any one else. And to bring a village lad of fourteen into their midst was terribly upsetting. She blamed Bishamber for taking such a thoughtless decision.
- In this world of human affairs there is no worse nuisance than a boy at the age of fourteen. Elaborate.
A boy in his fourteen is neither ornamental, nor useful. There is no point showering affection on him as on a little boy. He always gets in the way. If he talks with a childish lisp he is called a baby, and if he answers in a grown-up way he is called impertinent. In fact any talk at all from him is resented. Then he is at the unattractive, growing age. He grows out of his clothes with indecent haste; his voice grows hoarse and breaks and quavers; his face grows suddenly angular and unsightly. It is easy to excuse the shortcomings of early childhood, but it is hard to tolerate even unavoidable lapses in a boy of fourteen. The lad himself becomes painfully self-conscious. When he talks with elderly people he is either unduly forward, or else so unduly shy that he appears ashamed of his very existence.
- How does the author understand a boy of fourteen from his side?
At the very age of fourteen, a young boy’s heart most craves for recognition and love. He becomes the devoted slave of any one who shows him consideration. Unfortunately none dare openly love him, for that would be regarded as undue indulgence, and therefore bad for the boy. Instead of love and recognition, the boy ends up getting scolding and chiding. He becomes very much like a stray dog that has lost his master.
- How did Phatik feel when he arrived at his uncle’s house?
Phatik felt miserable at his uncle’s house because he saw that he was the unwelcome guest in his aunt’s house. He soon noticed that his aunt hated him from the way she behaved with him on every occasion.
- What circumstances led to the widening of Phatik’s relation with his aunt?
In fact, Phatik’s aunt was indifferent to him since he was brought in. It was true that Phatik had genuine love for his aunt but she never had any for him. If ever she asked him to do anything for her, he would be so overjoyed that he would overdo it; and then she would tell him not to be so stupid, but to get on with his lessons.
- Like his aunt, the city-life too was oppressive for Phatik. Discuss.
The city’s cramped atmosphere of neglect oppressed Phatik so much that he felt that he could hardly breathe. He wanted to go out into the open country and fill his lungs with fresh air but there was no open country to go to. Surrounded on all sides by Calcutta houses and walls, he would dream night after night of his village home and long to be back there.
- Almost locked up in the suffocating city life, Phatik felt nostalgic. Discuss.
Phatik was a caged bird in Calcutta. Most of the time his mind was ebbing with memories of his life in the village far away from Calcutta. He remembered the glorious meadow where he used to fly his kite all day long; the broad river-banks where he would wander about the live-long day singing and shouting for joy; the lean river where he could go and dive and swim at any time he liked. He thought of his band of boy companions over whom he was the leader. Most of all, the memory of his mother, though she had such a prejudice against him, occupied him day and night.
- What was Phatik’s relation with his mother?
It is very hard to pinpoint Phatik’s feelings for his mother. Before Makhan’s coming, Phatik was a favored child but the uneducated mother drifted away from Phatik as Makhan and he often quarreled. In spite of all, there was a kind of physical love like that of animals, a longing to be in the presence of the one who is loved, an inexpressible wistfulness during absence, a silent cry of the inmost heart for the mother, like the lowing of a calf in the twilight, — this love, which was almost an animal instinct, agitated the shy, nervous, lean, uncouth and ugly boy. No one could understand it, but it preyed upon his mind continually.