ANITA DESAI IN CUSTODY PDF
Anita Desai In CustodyFirst published in To Alicia Yerburgh With affection and gratitudeThey should take, who. Anita Desai -In ecogenenergy.info - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online. Booker Nominated novel in later made as motion picture by Ismail. Anita Desai's In Custody – A War Anjali Sharma 'In Custody' by Anita Desai is a war between the languages – Urdu and Hindi, innocence and corruption, good.
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ABSTRACT. This article aims to trace the articulation of resistance in terms of gender and the postcolonial condition in Anita Desai's In Custody. PDF | On Jan 1, , Hager Ben Driss and others published Politics of Language, Gender, and Art in Anita Desai's In Custody. Politics of Language, Gender and Art in Anita Desai's In Custody Hager Ben Driss The slow death of my mother tongue, Urdu, is much further advanced than it .
Their lives were lived almost entirely within the bazaars that joinedand separated - the different religious shrines. Naturally the area around the mosque was considered the Muslim area, and the rest Hindu. This was not stricdy so and there were certainly no boundaries or demarcations, yet there were differences between them that were not apparent to the eye but known and observed by everyone, so that pigs were generally kept out ofthe vicinity of the mosque and cows never slaughtered near a temple.
Once a year, during the Mohurram procession of tazias through the city, police sprang up everywhere with batons, sweating with a sense ofrespon-sibility and heightened tension, intent on keeping the processions away from the temples and from hordes of homeless cows or from groups of gaily coloured citizens who unfortunately often celebrated Holi with packets of powdered colours and buckets of coloured water on the same day as that of the ritual mourning.
If these clashed, as happened from time to time, knives flashed, batons flailed and blood ran. For a while tension was high, the newspapersboth in Hindi and Urduwere tilled with guarded reports and fulsome editorials on Indias secularity while overnight news-sheets appeared with less guarded reports laced with threats and accusations.
Then the dust of Mirpore rose and swirled and buried everything in sight again; the citizens of Mirpore returned to their daily struggle to breathe.
The Hindus slaughtered pigs in their own quarter, the Muslims took to slaughtering buffaloes in place of cows, realizing that the latter would have been tantamount to suicide. The few Christians of the town ate the meat of both and attended the one small whitewashed brick church set in a cemetery shaded by dusty neetn trees. But where was the centre of this formless, shapeless town on the plain that had not even a river or a hill to give it any reason for its existence?
Was it the main bazaar, skirted by mosque, temples, stores, shops and cinema houses, or was it the shabby municipal park where concrete benches stood in a circle around an empty fountain painted blue - again, Mirpore s addiction to total dehydrationand broken bricks edged flowerbeds that contained empty tins and paper bags but no flowers?
Here, through parched hedges of oleander and the yellowed foliage of neetn trees, the bungalows of some of the town functionaries, such as the sub-divisional officer and the superintendent of police could be seen, as well as the Public Works Departments rest house, the college where Deven taught, and some of the schools.
Except for the latter, none had ever visited Mirpore but their fame and the power of their images had not left the town unimpressed, for Mirpore was isolated but not cut off from the world, as Deven had come to believe. It had its railway station, after all, at one end of the bazaar, and the bus depot at the other, and the constant comings and goings of trains and buses gave it an air ofbeing a halting place in a long journey, a caravanserai of a kind. People went up to Delhi to consult doctors in the big hospitals there, present petitions to various government departments, appear in the courts, sell goods or else take delivery of them.
Others merely passed through, peering out of smeared train windows and wondering how much longer it would take to Delhi, or reaching out to buy oranges, lengths of sugar cane, dry grant or the particular sweet for which.
Mirpore was known. This latter consisted of a shiny yellow stuff that was shaped into balls on which flies crawled as if in animated illustration of the laws of gravity. Then they would move on, unreluctantly.
This had the effect of making Mirpore seem in a state of perpetual motion. There was really more of busde than doldrums and it was often deafening. Yet the busde was strangely unproductivethe yellow sweets were amongst the very few things that were actually manufactured here; there was no construction to speak of, except the daily one of repairing; no growth except in numbers, no making permanent what had remained through the centuries so stubbornly temporary - and it was other cities, other places that saw the fruits of all the busde, leaving the debris and the litter behind for Mirpore.
Its solidity, its stubbornness had formed a trap, Deven felt, and yet it was so easy to leave it behind.
No sooner had he got into the bus that waited at the depot between the grain and vegetable markets, than it started off with a snarl and jerked its way over the railway crossing, edging out of the way a herd of sluggish buffaloes, a bullock cart loaded with sugar cane and several bicycles, every one of which seemed to carry not only a bicyclist and a milk can but also an aged mother on the carrier seat, and then rumbled past the graffiti-scarred yellow walls of the Lala Ram Lai College, its dust field and barbed wire fencing, past the red brick walls of the Swami Dayanand Veterinary and Agricultural College which seemed to have no human population but was set in surprisingly lush grounds of green, waving grain and bougainvillaeas that ran rampant along the boundary fence, several outhouses full of mud and dung and domestic beasts, and then it was out in the countryside.
Of course the stretch of land between Mirpore and the capital was so short that there was no really rural scenerymost of the fields looked withered and desolate, and tin smokestacks exhaling enormous quantities of very black and foul-smelling smoke, sugar-cane crushing works, cement factories, brick kilns, motor repair workshops and the attendant teashops and bus-stops were strung along the highway on both sides, overtaking what might once have been a pleasant agricultural aspect and obliterating it with all the litter and paraphernalia and effluent of industry: concrete, zinc, smoke, pollutants, decay and destruction from which emerged, reportedly, progress and prosperity.
There were many huge signboards proclaiming this hard-to-believe message, with pictures of small, smiling families and big tractors and tyres.
Deven was determined, however, to enjoy it purely for its novelty. As a student he had known the countryside only as a background for an occasional picnic with his friends: they had gone out into it on their bicycles, bought sugar cane from some surly farmer and sat in the shade of a ruined monument to chew it and sing songs from the latest cinema show and talk lewdly of cinema actresses.
That countryside had had no more connection with the landscape celebrated in the poetry he read than the present one. Then, after he graduated and married and came to Mirpore to teach, it became for him the impassable desert that lay between him and the capital with its lost treasures offriendships, entertainment, attractions and opportunities. It turned into that strip of no-mans land that lies around a prison, threatening in its desolation.
Now he peered at it through a glass pane Aimed with dust and gave an apprehensive shiver, just as a released prisoner might. This made his pale green nylon shirt crackle with latent electricity, reminding him how it had arrived, with his wife, after her last visit to her parents home in Haldwani, an ingratiating present to their sullen son-in-law who had to be placated and kept contented if their daughter was not to suffer from ill treatment.
He had tossed it on to the floor in an obligatory fit oftemper - the meek are not always mildsaying the colour was one he detested, that the buttons did not match, that the size was too largehow could they have chosen such a cheap garment for their son-in-law? Did they think him worth no more than this? Sarla had picked it up, folded it silently and put it away in a shoe-boxfor malice is often mute. This morning he had ordered her to take it out for him to wear on his trip to Delhi.
He had tried to ignore her smirk as she shook it out and laid it across his bed. Now he fingered the buttons he had said did not match and stared through the streaked and stained windowpane at a grove of neetn trees outside, an occasional Persian wheel and slow, dragging buffaloes, and tried to convince himself that he was actually on his way to Delhi to see a poet, his hero, and talk to him.
Nothing in his life had prepared him for an occasion of this scale. Neither the bus drive nor the nylon shirt helped. His large, turbanned neighbour, noticing his occasional tremors of apprehension, offered him some peanuts in a paper bag, asking at the same time, Going to Delhi?
Deven refused the peanuts but had to admit to the latter since the bus went nowhere but to Delhi where it turned around and brought back another load of passengers to Mirpore. I am also going, his neighbour confided with some pride, spreading out his thighs in an expansive gesture.
My nephews first birthday. His mother said come, you must come, it is the first birthday. So I closed down my shop for the day, gave up a days earnings to go. You know what sort of people we are, he put his hand on his shirt pocket, pressing it with spread fingers. When it is a choice between head and heart, we always choose heart, na? Not much head after all, he guffawed and crunched down upon a peanut shell, cracking it open. He was about to give a full account of his business when the bus swerved suddenly and wildly to avoid a stray dog slouching across the road, struck it on its hindquarters, sent it rolling and howling into the roadside ditch and plunged on through a bank of yellow dust, leaving the occupants choking, coughing and crying out in protest, anger, warning and commiseration.
It made Deven give another, more violent shiver. Again the nylon shirt responded with an electric crackle, as if it were an embodiment of Sarlas malice and mockery.
His fear and loathing of acts of violence and pain were overcome by irritation. It was sadly disappointing to him that he was not travelling up to Delhi on this important occasion in a style more suited to a literary man, a literary event. He had never found a way to reconcile the meanness of his physical existence with the purity and immensity of his literary yearnings. The latter were constantly assaulted and wrecked by the former as now in the form ofthe agonized dog, thejolting bus, the peanut-crunching neighbour, the little tin box in which Sarla had packed his lunch and which he kept wrapped in a newspaper, the smallness ofthe sum of money he carried in his pocket: all these indignities and impediments.
How, out of such base material, was he to wrest a meeting with a great poet, some kind of dialogue with him, some means of ensuring that this rare opportunity would not also turn to dust, spilt blood and lament? He turned and peered out ofthe window to see if the dog lay on the road, broken, bleeding, or dead. He saw a flock of crows alight on the yellow grass that grew beside the ditch, their wings flickering across the view like agitated eyelashes.
Was it an omen?
Fortunate for the dog if it is, said his neighbour philosophically, and drew a deep breath that made the mucus gurgle in his large nostrils. It might have been done in sorrow, or in satisfaction; it was hard to tell from his impassive expression. Birth and death, and only suffering in between, he added, quite cheerfully.
This seemed to have no relation to what he had told Deven previously of his life. When God calls us away, he went on, it is a blessing. The lack of connection between the mans thought and speech made a break in Deven S own line of thought.
He surprised himself by suddenly quoting aloud some lines of Nurs that rose in his mind, the ones about the first white hair on a mans head appearing like a white flower out of a grave. Having recalled these lines, he went on: Life is no more than a funeral procession winding towards the grave, Its small joys the flowers of funeral wreaths Sdence followed this quotation while the bus bumped loudly and ground and overtook a bullock cart and a lorry while the two men, sitting uneasily side by side, tried to adjust themselves to the exacting presence of poetry between them.
Ha, that is wonderful, said the turbanned man, slowly shaking his head as if it had received a blow. You are a poet, he added respectfully, turning to look at Deven with open curiosity. He had a cast in one eye that made him look as if he knew something that Deven didnt, and that put Deven on the defensive. No, no, he muttered, only aa teacher. Hunching his shoulders, he relapsed into his usual anxious and sullen persona. This information appeared to make his neighbour dis-tincdy uneasy.
His large, heavy buttocks shifted away from Devens meagre shanks. He neither spoke to Deven again nor offered him any more peanuts. Instead, he turned his garrulous attention to the man across the aisle from him who had a milk can wedged between his feet, a dusty turban wound round his head, a green eye-patch covering one eye, and with whom he fell to discussing the rising prices, the increase in lawlessness and the last harvest. Excluded, Deven stared out at the white dust and the yellow weeds, the leafless thorn trees, the broken fences, isolated tin and brick shacks and the scattered carcasses of cattle that Uttered the landscape and yet rendered it more bleak and more bare under the empty sky.
His chin sank low as he wondered what had made him set out this morning with such confidence and excitement.
Now he was convinced that Murad had not meant any of what he had said, that he would let him down as so often before and that he would not meet the illustrious poet after all. How could he, insignificant and gullible nobody that he was?
And if he did, if somehow such a miracle did come about merely to prove him wrong once again, then what could he possibly say to him? Why had he not been content to recite his verse, draw solace from it and impress others with the source of his solace?
What madness had drawn him out to undertake this journey into what could only be disaster? He hung around the Inter-State Bus Terminal on Ring Road for a long time, not daring to enter the city walls and search out Murads office in Kashmere Gate and so set in motion the events of the day to which he knew he would not measure up.
Anita Desai, 'In Custody'
What vainglory to have accepted Murads challenge, to have agreed to a task for which he was not qualified, for which he had neither the experience nor the confidence.
He realized that he and Murad were no more than a pair of undeveloped, clownish students who could not hope to pass the examination of life.
Clowns: that was how Nur would see them when they impudently burst upon him, uninvited, self-invited, and put to him their presumptuous questions and requests. This reminded him - he clutched at his pocket - was the questionnaire still there? The questionnaire he had been working on night after night ever since Murads visit? Yes, he could feel the wad of papers under his fingers, consoling in their number and solidity. He was a scholar after all, and a lover of poetry.
There was that. Sighing, he drew out a cigarette from between its folds and went towards a teashop to light it at the smouldering length of rope that hung from one of the doorposts precisely for this purpose. Seeing him there, the teashop owner called, Come in, come in.
Dont stand outside. You need a cup of tea after your long journey, my son, and although Deven had resolved to spend nothing Oil extras, to keep to only the most essential expenditure, he was led by the teashop owners suggestion just as helplessly as he had been led by Murads, and he shambled in to sit down on a wooden bench along the wall and accept a glass of sweet, milky tea: he did, after all, need something to see him through the most momentous day of his adult life.
Certainly he had never felt more inadequate and the measure of his inadequacy must be in proportion to the importance of the task that had been set him. By whom? By Murad of the betel-stained teeth, the toothbrush moustache, the fiddling, shifty, untrustworthy ways? He saw the hand of God as clearly as if it were the shaft of dust-laden light filtering through a hole in the corrugated iron roof of the teashop and striking the handle of a ladle with which the owner was stirring a great pan of steaming milk upon a small charcoal fire.
When he had drunk to the bottom of the glass, he saw a dead fly floating in the dregs of his tea. The gasp he gave was only pardy of horror at the teashop owners filthiness and the wretched standards of hygiene in his shop. Or even from a fear of typhoid and cholera. It was the revelation that all the omens of the day had come together and met at the bottom of the glass he held between his fingers.
In it lay the struck dog, the triumphant crows, the dead fly - death itself, nothing less. Coming together in the separate prisms of the flys eye, drowned but glittering in the tea, it stared back at him without blinking. Putting down the glass, he got up and crept out of its way quiedy while the teashop owner shouted jovially at the passengers who were tumbling out of the next bus: Come this way, friends, come this way.
Here you will find pakoras fried in purest oil, sweets made of purest milk, and the tea with most sugar. This way, friends, this way!
Murad came charging down the steep wooden staircase to meet him on the pavement outside the drycleaners shop where Deven was still studying the clutter of signboards above the door, saying, Snowflake Dyers and Cleaners, K. Murad arrived at his side, gasping for breath: it seemed he had either been watching for Deven from an upstairs window or had posted someone else to do so.
But who else would have recognized him in this city? He had not returned to it since he left after his graduation when, one might have said, the dew was still fresh on him, while now he was, or at any rate felt, withered and grey.
Murad stood breathing hard, holding on to the doorpost on either side of him. Did he not want Deven to see his office, evaluate the degree of the success or failure of the journal and ascertain if Murad really was in a position to commission poets and scholars to write for him?
Deven had to have verification. He said testily, What is all this hurry? Ofcourse theres a hurry, Murad gasped.
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Didnt I tell youthe appointment is for three oclock? Theres just time to go and have lunch. Ive had my lunch, Deven said loudly and positively: he was not going to be taken in by Murad again, so soon after the last time.
Tea then, Murad pleaded. I ve had tea, too, Deven insisted. Let us go and see Nur! Murads shoulders sloped precipitously and he seemed to be having some trouble with his right eye: he kept dabbing at it with a corner of a large and dirty green handkerchief. Stooped and sniffling and silent, he set off, pushing his way through the lunch-hour crowds of Kashmere Gate, and Deven had to hurry after him.
But when Murad stopped, it was only at an electricians shop to ask if some repair work to an electric lamp had been done. Deven stood beside the gutter, trying to avoid being pushed in by the crowds, while Murad argued heatedly with the electrician who had been interrupted while eating his lunch out of a small tin box and was not very polite either.
Once you put something into the hands of these rogues, you can just say goodbye, Murad said bitterly, turning away when the electrician shouted loudly over his shoulder for a glass of buttermilk, and starting back the way he had come.
But, Murad - where is Nurs house? Arent we late? Who says we are late? Do you think that old man has any idea of time? Let him wait, said Murad, showing yet another switch of mood as if playing with some interior kaleidoscope. Deven had been watching these shifts and switches helplessly since their schooldays in the back lanes of Darya Ganj but found himself still amazed and enraged by them. We cant let him wait, he said with some heat.
He mustnt be kept waiting. We are to be there at threeis it far? Who knows? Murad shrugged with maddening nonchalance. He lives somewhere in the bazaars ofChandni Chowkits not a quarter I know, he added loftily, with a sniff and a dab at his eye. But then - how are we to go there? I thought you must know it, Deven cried in dismay.
He often had nightmares in which he struggled towards an unspecified destination but was repeatedly waylaid and deflected, never in any stretch of sleep arriving at it any more than he did in waking. His feet seemed to be enmeshed in the sticky net of the nightmare that would not let him escape at any level of consciousness. Just then an ash-smeared sadhu wearing a python draped over his neck and shoulders and a garland of marigolds on top of his head but nothing on the lower regions, thrust his begging bowl at Devens face and stood firmly between him and Murad.
Deven looked helplessly into the bowl which made the sadhu rattle the few coins he had there loudly as if he were addressing a deaf man. Intimidated, Deven took out a coin from his pocket and dropped it in so that he would be left alone. He waited cautiously to make sure the python would not rear suddenly at him and strike - who knew what the creature had been taught to do by its savage trainer? That snake scared you, didnt it?
Mu rad grinning at him sideways, mischievously, when he caught up with him. What a fool you are to give it money - dont you know their fangs are removed and they are harmless?
Pythons are not poisonous - any child knows that, Deven replied with dignity, glad of an opportunity to recover some. I just had to get rid of the sadhu. What are you in such a hurry for now? You said Nur doesnt care about time. But I have to get back to the office, dont I?
Dyou think I earn my living by loitering in the streets? Ive work to do. Look, Murad, Deven said heatedly, you are supposed to take me to Nur. That is what you called me to Delhi for and I have spent my free day and a good deal of money on the bus fare for this purpose. Now you tell me you are not going to take me to him. I m not stopping you. Why must I take you? Are you a baby? Are you frightened of him? Dyou think he might be a python? Murad gave a jeering laugh. Go, go and see him, interview him, write an article for my paperI will see it, I will print it.
But I cant nurse my contributors as if they are babies, can I? Then give me his address, Deven said furiously, and I will go myself Dont shout, Murad said with a sudden grin, slowing down and taking his arm. Don t shout in the street. This is not your village, you know.
People dont need to shout as if they are at opposite ends of a potato field. You are in a city now. Better act like a city dweller if you want to work for my paper. Come along with me to my office and Ill write out a letter of introduction for you and send along my office boy to show you the way.
Will that do, my lord? Deven couldnt tell whether his grin was malicious or merely mischievous. Not being able to tell made him helpless. All right, he muttered, just as he had done when, as schoolboys, Murad had come to stand outside his house and bellowed an invitation to join a cricket game in the fields below the city walls. Reluctantly, because he was no sportsman and saw both bat and ball as unnecessary and hostile, he had changed from his pyjamas into his shorts and gone down only to find Murad strolling away, whisding and pretending that now there had been such a delay he did not feel like playing after all.
Enraged because he had been made to change and give up his reading, he had turned hysterical in his insistence that they go and join the game. When he had got him thoroughly maniacal, Murad would suddenly grin and agree to go along. Deven remembered the shifting expression on the boys faces as Murad approachedhis inconsistency and contrariness threatened the precise rules and progression of their games, leading them inevitably to collapse in temper, tantrums and uproar.
He could see Murad had not changed, yet he had no alternative, having come so far, but to say all right. At least he would see Murads office and find out how much of his description of it was truth and how much fantasy.
So he followed Murad doggedly along the pavement, edging past the bicycle repair shops, the fried fritter stalls and the shoeshine boys and lottery ticket sellers, weaving through crowds of office-goers returning after their lunch and housewives with large shopping bags and bemused afternoon faces.
He was thinking that the great city was no different from his own small town and that the dissimilarity lay only in scale: this was certainly larger, noisier, more crowded and chaotic, but that was all, and it was the scale and not the unfarniliarity that made him feel so small, weak and inadequate, when they arrived at the staircase beside the drycleaners shop that bore the sign K. So he was relieved when he found, at the head of the stairs, not only the dark, clattering and clanking printing works but also a corner that seemed actually to belong to Murad.
Here were desks, shelves, even a clerk rolling up magazines in brown paper and addressing them in sticky black ink, as well as an office boy squatting on his heels and washing some cups and spoons in a bucket of water that had already seen much washing. This office appeared to spill out on to the wrought-iron balcony where files and bundles of magazines were stacked high against the railing. Bamboo screens hanging by strings from the rafters had been lowered and attached to the railing to prevent them from being blown out into the street below by the dusty gusts of March wind, but all the same there was a great deal of litter blowing around in resdess eddies.
And his technological ineptitude. Sarla is locked into a life where she has no affinity with her intellectual husband who is low in the pecking order and poorly rewarded financially.
The poet Nur is in custody in several ways; a prisoner of his earlier fame; his loss of creativity, compromised by the need for money - poetry is never very lucrative in most cultures — Nur seeks to turn every opportunity into money or food and drink.
Nur is even a more of a prisoner of his Urdu language than Deven. To whom does it refer? I think it means that all of us are constrained or limited by the circumstances we find ourselves in, or are of our own making.
The ending is open to speculation — does Deven show signs of more resolve, more backbone or do we expect him to continue as we have seen hitherto? My feeling is that he will not change. The matter of fact exchanges constitute a rare moment of happiness in a story otherwise full of dissatisfaction and friction.
I quote it at some length because it is rather beautiful. Come Manu, come and walk with me. Then they went down the steps and through the gate on to the road, the mother in the house watching in astonishment and coming as close to that mother in the glossy magazine as she was ever likely to come.
Her published works include many award-winning short story collections and novels, three of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, most recently Fasting, Feasting. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more. By signing up, I confirm that I'm over View all newsletter.
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Puffin Ladybird. Authors A-Z. Featured Authors. Articles, Games and more Penguin Shop Penguin Shop Book bundles. Penguin gifts. Writing workshops. View all.Deven stood beside the gutter, trying to avoid being pushed in by the crowds, while Murad argued heatedly with the electrician who had been interrupted while eating his lunch out of a small tin box and was not very polite either.
Now he was convinced that Murad had not meant any of what he had said. He died and my mother brought me to Delhi to live with her relations here. Interviews With Writers of the Postcolonial World. Deven looked around for help.
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