A Devoted Son: MBOSE Class 11 English Supplementary notes

A Devoted Son
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Get summaries, questions, answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF of Class 11 Voices (English Supplementary reader textbook) chapter A Devoted Son by Anita DesaiJB Priestley which is part of the syllabus of students studying under MBOSE (Meghalaya Board). These solutions, however, should only be treated as references and can be modified/changed.

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Rakesh, the son of a vegetable vendor, brings immense pride to his family by topping the country in medical exams. His success triggers a festive celebration in his modest yellow house at the end of a road. Rakesh’s father, Varma, takes great pride in his son’s achievement, emphasizing Rakesh’s respectfulness and humility.

Rakesh continues to excel, earning a scholarship to the USA where he gains further accolades in prestigious hospitals. Despite concerns from his mother and neighbours, he returns home without an American wife, marrying a traditional girl chosen by his mother. This girl, though uneducated, integrates well into the family and does not attempt to make Rakesh live separately. She is described as plump and pretty, fitting comfortably into the household.

Rakesh rises to prominence in his city hospital and eventually opens his own successful clinic, becoming both the best and wealthiest doctor in town. As Varma ages, he retires and soon after, his wife passes away. Rakesh becomes a devoted son, attending to his father’s needs with great care. However, as Varma’s health deteriorates, Rakesh, with his medical expertise, imposes a strict diet and regimen on his father. Varma, accustomed to rich and fried foods, resents this new diet and feels deprived and humiliated. Rakesh’s insistence on controlling his father’s intake, though well-intentioned, is perceived as tyranny by the old man.

Despite Rakesh’s continuous care, Varma feels increasingly embittered. He confides in his old neighbour Bhatia, expressing his distress over being denied his favourite foods. As Varma’s health continues to decline, he becomes despondent, preferring death over the restrictive life imposed by his son.

The story ends with Varma’s outburst against Rakesh’s new tonic, symbolizing his ultimate rejection of his son’s care. Varma’s plea to be left to die underscores the tragic irony of Rakesh’s devotion, which, while exemplary in society’s eyes, becomes a source of suffering for his father. The tale explores themes of filial duty, aging, and the complex dynamics of parental relationships.

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Textual questions and answers

Answer these questions briefly

1. a. Why did all the neighbours and relatives come to visit Rakesh’s family?

Answer: All the neighbours and relatives came to visit Rakesh’s family because he had topped the medical exam in the country.

b. Mention some of the varied reactions of the visitors.

Answer: Some visitors congratulated the parents and praised Rakesh’s filial behaviour, some were envious and made snide comments about the quality of sweets and the father’s airs, while others acknowledged the family’s achievement and sacrifice with a mix of envy and approval.

2. Tradition was maintained in Rakesh’s family. Give three reasons to prove this.

Answer: First, Rakesh bowed down and touched his father’s feet upon seeing the results. Second, he returned from the USA and married a girl chosen by his mother from their village. Third, he set up his own clinic and took his parents to see it, showing his continued respect and care for them.

3. Describe the daughter-in-law. What was her relationship with her father-in-law like?

Answer: The daughter-in-law was plump, uneducated, placid, complacent, and pretty. She was too good-natured and too lazy to even try and make Rakesh leave home and set up independently. Her relationship with her father-in-law was strained. She smirked at him, refused to give him his favorite food, and made him eat only what Rakesh instructed her to.

4. Old age has its own problems.

a. What was the only pleasure left for the old man?

Answer: Visits from elderly neighbours.

b. How did his friends respond to him?

Answer: They expressed disbelief and sympathy, particularly when he complained about his son not giving him enough to eat.

c. Did he need his friends? Why?

Answer: Yes, because they provided him with emotional support and someone to share his grievances with, which his family no longer did.

d. What complaints did he make to them about his family?

Answer: He complained that Rakesh did not give him enough to eat, that his daughter-in-law taunted him, and that Rakesh forced him to take medicine despite his wishes.

Answer these questions in detail

1. ‘The son’s sterling personality and character now underwent a curious sea change.’ Explain why the son’s behaviour towards his father changed. Why did the father’s attitude towards his son alter so dramatically? Do you think his father’s actions were justified?

Answer: Initially, Rakesh was devoted and selfless, caring for his father, his family, and his patients. However, as he grew in success, his approach to his father became more controlling and rigid. He became preoccupied with his medical expertise and felt obligated to regulate every aspect of his father’s life, including his diet. This stemmed from a misguided sense of responsibility, where he perceived his father’s health as a project he had to manage rather than a relationship he had to nurture.

The father’s attitude towards his son changed dramatically because his love and admiration for him were replaced with resentment. Rakesh’s constant interference and control over his father’s life, particularly his diet, stripped him of his autonomy and dignity. His once-loving son transformed into a controlling figure who denied him basic pleasures and made him feel like a patient rather than a father.

Whether the father’s actions were justified is a complex question. While his anger and resentment were understandable given the limitations Rakesh imposed on his life, his bitterness and the way he chose to express his anger were not entirely justifiable. He could have communicated his feelings more directly to his son. However, it is crucial to remember that the father’s frustration stemmed from the son’s excessive control and disregard for his father’s desires. It was a conflict of love and control.

2. ‘It was as though he was straining at a rope, trying to break it, and it would not break, it was still strong. He only hurt himself, trying.’ Explain these lines. What action followed?

Answer: These lines describe the old man’s desperate attempt to break free from the suffocating grip of his son’s control. He wanted to die, but his son’s constant interventions and over-medication kept him alive. He felt trapped in a state of prolonged suffering, unable to escape the suffocating care of his son.

The action that followed was the old man’s defiant rejection of his son’s tonic. He refused to take any more of his son’s medicine, symbolically rejecting his control and embracing his impending death.

3. ‘Then he spat out some words, as sharp and bitter as poison, into his son’s face.” What were the words spoken to his devoted son? Why is there a shift from being a proud father to a father who seemed to hate his son?

Answer: The words the father spat out were: “Keep your tonic – I want none – I want none – I won’t take any more of your medicines. None. Never.” This was his final act of rebellion, rejecting his son’s control and clinging to his desire to die with dignity.

The shift from a proud father to a father who seemed to hate his son was a culmination of resentment and frustration. The father’s initial pride and admiration for his son were eroded by the constant interference and control Rakesh exerted over his life. He felt deprived of his autonomy and dignity, and his love turned into anger and resentment.

4. Though the story suggests a tragic end, do you notice the touches of gentle humour that run through it? Pick words and phrases in the text that make you smile. Why do you think that the author has introduced these touches?

Answer: The story, though tragic, is punctuated by moments of gentle humor, offering a glimpse into the human condition amidst the somber narrative. Phrases like “the old man sat up and the distraught daughter-in-law received a gob of red spittle right on the hem of her new organza sari” and “that smiling, hypocritical pudding in a rustling sari,” evoke humor through subtle irony.

These touches of humor serve to balance the somber tone and prevent the story from becoming too heavy. They highlight the absurdity of the situation, while also revealing the character’s complexities, making them more human and relatable. Furthermore, the author uses humor to create a sense of distance between the reader and the characters, enabling a more objective perspective on the tragic events unfolding.

5. Did Rakesh prove to be a devoted son till the very last days of his father’s life? Discuss.

Answer: Rakesh did prove to be a devoted son till the very last days of his father’s life in terms of his actions. He took care of his father’s health with strictness and dedication, although his methods and the old man’s perception of them caused tension. Rakesh’s devotion, though well-intentioned, led to his father’s misery, highlighting the complexities of familial love and duty.

The irony lies in the title, “A Devoted Son,” because it contrasts with the actions of the protagonist. Rakesh’s devotion is portrayed as a form of control that ultimately leads to a strained and tragic relationship with his father. The title’s irony highlights the complexities of love, duty, and filial responsibility, and the potential for well-intentioned actions to have devastating consequences.


Discuss the irony in the title of the story.

Answer: The irony in the title “A Devoted Son” lies in the contrast between Rakesh’s dutiful actions and his father’s feelings of being controlled and deprived. Rakesh’s devotion, though well-intentioned, led to his father’s misery, highlighting the complexities of familial love and duty. While Rakesh believed he was acting in his father’s best interests by strictly managing his diet and health, his father felt stripped of his autonomy and dignity. This juxtaposition between Rakesh’s perception of devotion and his father’s experience of control and deprivation underscores the ironic nature of the title.


1. Imagine you are Rakesh. Write a report stating all the precautions you are taking for the welfare of your father.

Answer: As a devoted son and a qualified medical professional, I am committed to ensuring the well-being of my father. Considering his advanced age and the fragility of his health, I have implemented a comprehensive care plan that prioritizes his physical, mental and emotional needs.

Firstly, I have introduced a strict dietary regimen tailored to his age and health condition. This involves a balanced diet low in saturated fats, sugars and fried foods. I have ensured that all his meals are carefully prepared and monitored to minimize the risk of complications.

Secondly, I have implemented a regular medication schedule to manage his existing conditions. This includes administering prescribed medications for hypertension, arthritis and other ailments. I closely monitor his responses to these medications and adjust them as necessary, based on his individual needs.

Thirdly, I have ensured that he receives regular medical check-ups and consultations to monitor his overall health and address any emerging concerns promptly. These check-ups are conducted by qualified medical professionals and include a range of tests to identify any potential issues.

Fourthly, I have created a comfortable and supportive environment for my father. This includes providing him with a clean, spacious and well-ventilated room. I have also ensured that he has access to entertainment options and social interaction to prevent social isolation.

Finally, I have dedicated a significant portion of my time to provide him with companionship and emotional support. This includes engaging in conversations with him, providing him with updates on family matters and ensuring that he feels loved and cared for.

I am fully committed to ensuring that my father receives the best possible care, utilizing my medical expertise and personal dedication to meet his unique needs. I believe that my efforts will contribute to his well-being and ensure that he enjoys the best possible quality of life in his later years.

2. Imagine you are Rakesh’s father. Describe your feelings as you are now old, and are denied all that you once enjoyed. Describe your changed relationship between your son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Answer: My life has taken a turn I could never have imagined. Once I was a man of my own, with a family I built and a life I lived on my own terms. Now, I am a prisoner in my own home, denied the simple pleasures that once filled my days.

My son, the pride of my life, the one I poured my heart and soul into educating, has become my tormentor. He treats me like a fragile porcelain doll, afraid to let me enjoy a single morsel of food that brings me joy. The halwa, the sweets, the fried fish, all forbidden. I am reduced to a diet of boiled vegetables and tasteless lentil soup.

My daughter-in-law, a woman I never truly knew, has become a symbol of my helplessness. Her smile is a mask, hiding a cruel heart. She follows my son’s orders, denying me even the crumbs that fall from the table. My grandchildren, the little ones I once spoiled with sweets, are now forbidden to bring me any treats. I watch them play, a longing in my heart, as if a vast gulf separates us.

The joy of my life, the warmth of a family, has turned into a cold, calculated regime. My son, the one I dedicated my life to, has become my jailer, his love turned into an iron grip that suffocates my very being. He is a good doctor, they say, but a good son? I doubt it.


Question: ‘It is a strange fact that talent and skill, if displayed for too long, cease to dazzle.’

Answer: Talent and skill, when displayed consistently over a prolonged period, often lose their initial impact. This phenomenon occurs because people become accustomed to a high level of performance and begin to take it for granted. The initial awe and admiration fade as exceptional becomes the new normal. This can lead to a lack of appreciation for the ongoing efforts and achievements of the talented individual. Additionally, the constant display of skill may raise expectations to unrealistic levels, making it difficult for the individual to continue to impress. Therefore, while talent and skill are valuable, their ability to dazzle diminishes over time due to human nature and changing perceptions.

Extra fill in the blanks

1. When the results appeared in the morning papers, Rakesh scanned them, barefoot and in his _______, at the garden gate. (Pyjamas/Clothes)

Answer: Pyjamas

2. ‘A first division, son?’ his father asked, _______, reaching for the papers. (Beaming/Sad)

Answer: Beaming

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20. Old Varma tucked his feet under him, out of the _______, and continued to gaze stubbornly into the yellow air of the summer evening. (Way/Sight)

Answer: Way

Extra true or False

1. Rakesh scanned the results barefoot and in his pyjamas at the garden gate.

Answer: True

2. Rakesh’s father did not smile when he asked about the exam results.

Answer: False

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20. The story ends with the old man feeling grateful for his son’s care.

Answer: False

Extra questions and answers

1. Where did Rakesh go after winning a scholarship?

Answer: Rakesh went to the USA after winning a scholarship. He pursued his career in the most prestigious hospitals and earned high praise from his American colleagues, which his admiring family relayed with pride.

2. How did the neighbourhood react to Rakesh’s success?

Answer: The neighbourhood reacted with a mix of envy and admiration to Rakesh’s success. Some whispered critical comments about his father’s humble origins, but overall, there was more envy than rancour, acknowledging the remarkable achievement.

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20. Discuss the irony in the title of the story “A Devoted Son” and how it reflects the relationship between Rakesh and his father.

Answer: The irony in the title “A Devoted Son” reflects the complex relationship between Rakesh and his father. While Rakesh is undeniably devoted, providing meticulous care and ensuring his father’s health and well-being, this devotion takes on a controlling and restrictive form. His father, who once took pride in Rakesh’s achievements and respectful behavior, grows to resent the very care that defines Rakesh’s devotion. The title highlights the tension between dutiful care and perceived overreach, illustrating how devotion can be both a source of pride and a point of contention within familial relationships.

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