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“The Last Visit” by Taufiq Rafat is a poem written in free verse that dwells upon the idea of emotions and sentiments that are rooted within one’s culture. The poem talks about the importance of family and isolation. The speaker observes his father throughout the poem on his journey to bidding farewell to his old life in the ancestral home.
About the Poet
Taufiq Rafat is a Pakistani poet and author who is considered one of the pioneers of Pakistani literature. He introduced the term “Pakistani Idiom”. His poems usually carry themes of culture, society, life etc.
The poem does not have a specific or identifiable structure. It also does not have any metrical structure and unidentifiable metre.
Summary and Analysis
We were having tea. I remember, my father and I, that morning and talking of nothing in particular, when he said ”We will go now.”
The speaker was having tea with his father and he remembers that morning, while they were enjoying their early tea and were not engaged in any particular discussion. He remembers his father proclaiming, “we will go now”.
The speaker opens the poem with a simple statement, “We were having tea.” The speaker was enjoying a cup of tea with his father. They were not talking or discussing anything in particular that morning. He remembers that morning when his father stated “ We will go now”.
It was not revealed where or why they will go but the speaker was aware that he will have to follow what his father had wished and prepare accordingly to leave after finishing the blissful cup of tea that they shared.
It did not occur to me to ask where.
The speaker simply accepted that he had to now go with his father. This was so natural that he did not question it, rather it did not occur to him to question the whereabouts of what his father had said.
This line gives the readers an insight into Asian Families. The children are instinctively obedient towards their parents. They obey their orders and do not talk back out of respect.
Therefore in this line, the speaker did not question his father as to where they had to go and the reason for their departure. He just simply accepted that he had to leave now because that’s what his father desired.
He put on his best sherwani and turban and new pumps.
The speaker’s father is getting dressed to leave and the speaker sees his father putting on his best sherwani and turban along with new shoes. This tells that they are going to attend an important event where they need to be dressed elegantly.
The speaker observes his father wearing one of his best sherwanis and turbans. In Asian culture, sherwanis are long traditional attire that men wear on special occasions. A turban is also suited with the outfit that is usually worn by men over their head. This is again suited with new shoes completing his outfit.
New sherwani and turbans show the importance of the place they will be visiting. Watching his father dress so elegantly suggests to the speaker that he should also wear a traditional attire that is equally elegant to his father’s.
We left the warmth of the room for the rawness.
The speaker and his father left the comfortable room that they lived in, leaving its warmth behind, going towards the rawness, which can mean some rural setting.
The speaker in this line vaguely reveals the place they were heading towards. It is raw and not as comfortable or warm as their home.
This suggests the place they are visiting must be situated in some rural area where they might not get all the luxuries that they have in their rooms. And wearing one of their new outfits into the rawness, they will have to leave the warmth of their room.
I and bluster of the porch, where his ninety years swayed in the wind.
He and his father were leaving the windy porch on which his father spent ninety years of his life. They were going away from their home where his father spent most of his time.
The speaker and his father were going somewhere away from home where they cannot experience the wind that roams around on the porch of their house.
This wind was experienced by his father for around ninety years as he spent most of his life on that porch. Ninety years that swayed on that porch along with the wind.
Halfway there. I realized we were off to the ancestral place.
Halfway when they left their house, the speaker realised that they were off to their ancestral place. The speaker recalls the streets that lead to their home in their village.
After leaving their comfort and their home, halfway down the road, the speaker recognises the old street they took to reach their ancestral home. This street is familiar to the speaker as he probably used to visit this place often when he was younger.
He realises that they are going to their ancestral place which they migrated from due to certain reasons. After all these years, they are finally visiting the place again.
The relatives who still live in the house in which he was born were surprised, and peeved.
When they arrived, the house where his father was born was now occupied with a bunch of relatives. These relatives were surprised to see them, they were surprised and peeved.
The speaker noticed that the house where his father was born and brought up, was now shared with his relatives. These people still stay in the same house and they were surprised by their arrival.
The poet uses the word “peeved” that says the relatives were not that happy when they saw the speaker and his father, they were rather annoyed or irritated by their arrival which was very much visible.
We had tea and fifteen minutes of apologies.
The speaker mentions how they had some tea and apologies that lasted for fifteen minutes. It is unclear and not yet revealed why the relatives were apologetic towards them.
The speaker in the next lines describes that they were offered some tea and along with the tea they were served with lots of apologies. Although it is unknown why they were apologetic towards their guests, the apologies lasted for around fifteen minutes.
It could possibly be that they were mourning someone’s loss. And they were apologising to each other for the loss they had experienced. It could also mean the matureness that comes with age and they apologise to their family as their life comes to an end. Forgiveness is important according to them.
Then further up the lane to visit his only surviving contemporary.
As they moved ahead they visited the only surviving contemporary who was his father’s age. Rest of them had already passed away and he was the last person who was the same age or shared his childhood with his father.
The speaker mentions after having tea and apologies, he and his father went further up the lane to visit one of his father’s friends who was the only person around his father’s age that was alive and surviving in the village. The rest had already passed away.
Uncle Feroz was bed-ridden. He was not really my uncle, but we had always called him that. We had tea again.
The only survivor was Uncle Feroz, who was not a blood relative but the speaker still called him Uncle. This shows the intimacy Uncle Feroz shared with their family. He was sick and bed-ridden. As they visited him on his deathbed, they were again served some tea.
The speaker and his father finally arrive at the place of the only survivor that the poet talks about in the earlier lines. He is Uncle Feroz who had a close bond with the poet’s family in the past. Though he wasn’t related by blood, they still preferred to call him uncle.
Uncle Feroz was bed-ridden. He was so sick that he could barely walk or talk. He was strictly instructed to rest on his bed that would soon turn into dethbed. The speaker and his father once again were served tea when they visited Uncle Feroz’s place. This gives us an insight into the Asian culture where tea is served to all the guests despite the circumstances.
Father talked business, politics and explained in detail the formula of a tonic. Uncle Feroz could not say a word, he simply wept and wept.
The poet’s father was excited to see his friend again, although he was sick, his father kept talking about things like business, politics and medicine advancements. Uncle Feroz could not keep up with it and rather could not talk, his only replies were his tears.
The speaker’s father visited the village after many years and therefore he was eager and excited to see his friend. He wanted to catch up on all the things they used to do or like. He kept talking about business and politics, which were supposedly the topics they discussed in the past.
Although his father discussed business, politics and the advancement of health and technology, he couldn’t notice that his friend was not in the position to reciprocate.Uncle Feroz was in agony and he naturally couldn’t keep up with all the things that the speaker’s father talked about. All he could do was to express his sadness and pain through his tears. He kept weeping while the speaker’s father kept talking.
We descended the five or six steps from his house.
After their visit, they walked down the five or six steps of Uncle Feroz’s house. They possibly were planning to head back home.
The speaker and his father decided to leave after their brief visit to Uncle Feroz. They walked down the five or six steps of his house and were ready to go back to their house of luxury and comfort.
As we were leaving, father stopped. And turned. For five long minutes he looked up the lane, not moving, not saying a word, as if he would drink in every cobble, window, and door with his difficult breath.
While they were leaving the house and the village, his father stopped midway and turned behind to take one more look up the lane. He stood there for five long minutes and stared at the lane without moving or uttering a single word. He stood as if he was drinking up the whole sight including the windows and the door. His breaths were heavy.
These lines explain what the speaker observed as they were leaving the village. He saw his father who had suddenly stopped midway as they were walking away from his ancestral home. His father turned back and gazed upon the old lane. He must have stood their stationary for around five minutes, not uttering a word.
He stood there as if he was capturing the whole sight and imprinting it into his memory. His breaths were heavy as he stood there in silence, he must have been overwhelmed. He stared at every window and door as if to save it in his memory forever. The patterns, and designs he must have noticed everything.
I knew then it was his own way of saying goodbye to this life.
The speaker is sure that it was his father’s way of saying goodbye to his old life and his old house. He said goodbye without saying a word.
The speaker closes the poem by saying that this was his father’s way to bid a farewell to his old life and his old house. Saying goodbye to his friend and his relatives and to the place. This life that his father lived in the past, he can no longer visit again after his friend’s death. This reflects the title “the last visit”.