The Novel In Custody Analysis

Categories: Anita DesaiNovels

The novel ‘ In Custody ‘ seems to be focused on male characters like Devan and Nur and the world of Urdu poetry and the perilous condition of the language Urdu. The women in the novel are showcased from Devan’s point of view and are not allowed to speak their mind out. The image of women in the society is that of an obedient ,self-sacrificing women. The Indian writers have gradually shifted from showcasing casing women as a paragon of virtue to a women who is sensible, fights for her rights etc.

Women in the book seems vicious.

‘In custody’ written by Anita Desai tells us the story of Devan a Hindi lecturer at Lala Ram College, Mirapore. He loves Urdu but is forced to teach Hindi as a subject due to it’s market value. The novel unfolds with Murad’s arrival, Devan’s childhood friend and an editor of Urdu magazine . He asks Devan to interview the noted Nur poet for his magazine .

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Devan who wants to leave a mark in the field of Urdu literature accepts the offer. His unending devotion to Urdu poetry makes him develop some hostility towards his married life.

Sarla Devan’s wife is defined by her silence .She can be seen as a dull ,spiritless woman. Struck in an unhappy marriage with no love for each other .Her dreams of, magazine marriage , is something which cannot be fulfilled by Devan’s medicore income as a lecturer. As a young girl she had her own aspirations “Fan ,”phone, frigidarie! they would shout whenever anyone mentioned a wedding, a bridegroom, a betrothal, and dissolve in hectic laughter ” Sarla’s daily toil and pitiable condition is visible in the following lines “twisted posture, the shabbiness of her limps , worn clothes “.

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Anita Desais’s successfully describes ger pitiable condition:

“The thwarting of her aspirations had cut two dark furrows from the corners of her nostrils to the corners of her mouth, as deep and permanent as surgical scars. The droop of her thin straight hair on either side of her head repeated these twin lines of disappointment.”

Sarla sufferer of callous circumstances like her husband Devan. They have nothing in common nor in their marriage life nor their love life The writer carefully studies the unfriendliness of Devan and Sarla :

“Sarla abruptly detached herself from the door – post and turned to go in, holding the fold of her sari firmly over her head as if she were in mourning or at a religious ceremony, sighing Deven followed. He knew this manner would be his punishment for many days to come.”

Sarla lacks intellectual depth compared to other women in the story. She is a suspicious of Devan and always creates a scene of regret and all she does according to Devan is to annoy others :

“Then Sarla twitched a fold of her sari cover her head. She didn’t normally cover her head when he appeared; it was evident that she was preparing for a scene.”

She tries to do her duties as a housewife but there is nothing charming about her behaviour or either devan,s Trapped in a confining society she has never raised her voice and this unresisting nature is explained by Anita Desai:

“Sarla never lifted her voice in Deven’s presence countless generations of Hindu womanhood behind her stood in her way, preventing her from displaying open rebellion. Deven knew she would scream and abuse only when she was safely out of the way, preferably in the kitchen, her own domain. Her other method of defence was to go into the bedroom and snivel, refusing to speak at all, inciting their child to wail in sympathy.”

Sarla lives a pitiable and miserable life but does not complain to anyone .She represents meek and submissive women who are ready to accept harsh realities of life.

Safiya Begum the first wife of Nur .She can be seen as humble ,meek and simple . Because of not being educated she cannot be an intellectual partner to Nur .She takes care of Nur’s household work . She grabs hold of Deavn and gives him an opportunity to meet Nur without Imitaz knowing .It is only after he has agreed to his plan that she asks for money to which Devan is shocked .Despite Nur’s second marriage and her hatred for Imitaz she revers Nur out of genuine admiration. We do not see any direct communication taking place between Imitaz and Safiya.

Imitaz Begum Nur’s second wife in stark contrast to Sarla is savage and intense . She plays the role of “female mafia”. The role she is playing is pushed upon her .She is labelled as trophy prize because of the age difference between Nur and her and because of her background as the “dancing girl”. The way in which she is projected by Devan makes the reader believe that she does not deserve any sympathy “khol rimmed eyes”. Through Imitaz Begum Anita Desai portrays the pangs of being neglected. Without being educated she is able too woo Nur and marry him and be his intellectual partner which Safiya could not be. Imitaz prepares a mehfil on her birthday to showcase her talent as poet .Nur with sadness leaves the gathering and tells how she had beguiled him. Inspite of being a intellectual partner to him she is considered to be Nur’s rival and she hates his admirer because that makes her feel inferior:

“She was just happy to sit in a corner· She told me she wrote a verse-but she would not even show it to me. She said she only wanted to listen -and learn from me .She sent my secretary away· She said she wanted to work for me · the others came ·and wanted to hear my poetry . They paid her no attention .And she was not used to that -so that is how it began ·She raided my house ,stole my jewel and that is what she wears and sits before the audience ·They are not her own, they are mine!”

This shows us how much despair is Nur in for being robbed by his wife. This shows us how ambitious Imitaz is unable to bear the fact that Nur left her show mid way and smashes him:

“So this where you have come to hide·A tortoise sticks its head in the mud at the bottom of the pond·You could not accept the evidence to my success . You could not bear the sight of someone else regaling a large audience with poetry -the same poetry you used to mouth-”

Imitaz is able to break free of her societal bounds and expectations and is able to assert her authority .In her letter to Devan we are able to revaluate the portrayals of all women characters she is not ready to bear any kind of check or confinement she demands for respect irrespective of being a characterless woman:

“· unlike Nur sahib and unlike your respected self, I am a woman and have had no education but what I have found and seized for myself. Unlike poets and scholars who have won distinctions, I have had no patron apart from my honored husband, no encouragement and no sympathy· It is therefore necessary that I prove my gifts· to you· I am enclosing my latest poems for you to read· Let me see if you are strong enough to face them and admit to their merit. Or if they fill you with fear and insecurity because they threaten you with danger that your superiority to women may become questionable.” She holds up a mirror to Deven, and to society, reproaching it for all the right reasons. “: “Are you not guilty of assuming that because you are a male, you have a right to brains, talent, reputation and achievement, while I, because I was born female, am condemned to find what satisfaction I can in being maligned, mocked, ignored and neglected? Is it not you who has made me play the role of the loose woman in gaudy garments by refusing to take my work seriously and giving me just that much regard that you would extend to even a failure in the arts as long as the artist was male?” The letter shows us her frustration of being pushed into a corner. People want to see her for her promiscuous woman in loud clothes , not as an artist .

In Custody as a story of Nur /Deavn

The novel ‘ In Custody ‘ seems to be focused on male characters like Devan and Nur and the world of Urdu poetry and the perilous condition of the language Urdu. ‘In custody’ written by Anita Desai tells us the story of Devan a Hindi lecturer at Lala Ram College, Mirapore. He loves Urdu but is forced to teach Hindi as a subject due to it’s market value. The novel unfolds with Murad’s arrival, Devan’s childhood friend and an editor of Urdu magazine . He asks Devan to interview the noted Nur poet for his magazine . Devan who wants to leave a mark in the field of Urdu literature accepts the offer. At Murad’s request Devan visits Nur’s residency in Old Delhi and what he found was shocking to him :

“All he could hear were the pigeons complaining to and consoling each other up on the dusty ledges of the high skylights ·snarled in his throat with some elderly phlegm.”

Nur suspects Devan as someone who is their to capture him and turn him into “theirs”. To which Devan explains that he took Hindi as a profession because he is the breadwinner of the family and due to it’s market value. He explains to Nur how is father was great lover of Urdu poetry and how he had taught Devan Urdu poetry and language . And how after his father’s death how he was sent Delhi to live with his relatives and was sent to study in a Hindi medium school. He has missed his motherly love and Desai has explained in a few words how close was to his father. After the first failed attempt for interviewing Nur, Devan returns home and finds Sarla standing in the doorway. Her being silent as increased Devan’s mental trauma. He got a perspective after his first failure and wishes to look after his son and his wife.

There are mainly two reasons for Devan being unhappy first he dose not tell his wife about his dreams ,hopes and aspirations, secondly gender hierarchy is what is preventing him from doing so. Devan describes Sarla as someone who is “too prosaic to be poet’s wife”. They both are disappointed in their married life but they do not share it . She tries to do her duties as a housewife but there is nothing charming about her behaviour or either devan,s .Trapped in a confining society she has never raised her voice and this unresisting nature is explained by Anita Desai:

“Sarla never lifted her voice in Deven’s presence countless generations of Hindu womanhood behind her stood in her way, preventing her from displaying open rebellion. Deven knew she would scream and abuse only when she was safely out of the way, preferably in the kitchen, her own domain. Her other method of defence was to go into the bedroom and snivel, refusing to speak at all, inciting their child to wail in sympathy.”

Devan understands that Murad wants him to interview Nur not because of the perilious condition of the Urdu language ,but because of his magazine ‘Awaaz’ .Devan calls Murad a ‘chameleon’. Devan refuses to read the shaayris and deprives her of the opportunity to be judged as an artist .

“· unlike Nur sahib and unlike your respected self, I am a woman and have had no education but what I have found and seized for myself. Unlike poets and scholars who have won distinctions, I have had no patron apart from my honored husband, no encouragement and no sympathy· It is therefore necessary that I prove my gifts· to you· I am enclosing my latest poems for you to read· Let me see if you are strong enough to face them and admit to their merit. Or if they fill you with fear and insecurity because they threaten you with danger that your superiority to women may become questionable.” She holds up a mirror to Deven, and to society, reproaching it for all the right reasons. “: “Are you not guilty of assuming that because you are a male, you have a right to brains, talent, reputation and achievement, while I, because I was born female, am condemned to find what satisfaction I can in being maligned, mocked, ignored and neglected? Is it not you who has made me play the role of the loose woman in gaudy garments by refusing to take my work seriously and giving me just that much regard that you would extend to even a failure in the arts as long as the artist was male?”

It is in the ending that Devan realizes that they both have taken something away from each other, and because of that they can’t abandon each other. Nur has made Devan his custodian by giving him his work and even after Nur’s death Devan will have to fulfill the demands of Nur’s widows and sons. It’s in the end that Devan discovers his worth and commitment .

Cite this page

The Novel In Custody Analysis. (2019, Dec 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-novel-in-custody-analysis-essay

The Novel In Custody Analysis

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