In Custody

In Custody Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of Urdu in this text?

    The language of Urdu is a key aspect of this text. Urdu is Deven's first language and is the language of Deven's favorite poetry, which he uses to escape from his mundane life. Additionally, part of the reason Deven idolizes Nur so much is that he writes in Urdu, which therefore makes him more eager to interview the great poet. The divide between the Hindi and Urdu languages is something that Desai pays close attention to, as it reflects the conflict existing in India between different cultures.

  2. 2

    How is friendship depicted in this novel?

    The friendship between Deven and Murad is depicted as being unbalanced and one-sided. From a young age, Deven had been used to doing what Murad said due to his comparative wealth, and this is something that continues into adulthood. Murad doesn't listen when Deven is talking about personal issues, and he also forgets to pay him when he contributes to Murad's magazine. Later, when Deven does not want to complete the interview anymore, Murad manipulates and pressures his friend into continuing. On the other hand, Deven is a passive creature and does not effectively advocate for himself, leading Murad to take advantage of him.

  3. 3

    How does Desai use the home as a reflection of those who inhabit it?

    There are three main homes in the novel: Deven's, Siddiqui's, and Nur's. Critic S.P. Swain discusses how important house imagery is for Desai: it is "the symbol of despair and desolation" and "throws light on the musings of the lacerated self's immured existence." Deven's house is rundown and joyless, just like the rest of his life; it reflects "Deven's failure to form congenial and harmonious conjugal ties." Siddiqui's decrepit manner is not so much a symbol of himself as it is of Urdu itself, a doomed and soon-to-be-demolished language. And Nur's house is chaotic and sordid, penetrated by the outside world. It is no haven for him, nor for art.

  4. 4

    What is the significance of Murad's character?

    Murad is unquestionably rude and obnoxious, especially as we see him through Deven's eyes. But he may be more than just the catalyst for the novel's central action. Bhasha Shukla Sharma sees him as the incarnation of modern Delhi, crafty and consumerist. He is "practical and unemotional...He is fast and thinks he knows what he wants." He is all about change, technology, and money, even as he seeks to promote a dying language. Deven sees him as a chameleon, and Nur calls him a "joker" (41), full of flattery and bribes. He is everything that Deven, and even Nur, is not.

  5. 5

    Who or what is to blame for the failure of the recording project?

    Much of the blame lies with Deven, of course: he has no authority, no strength, no control over what is happening around him. He does not inspire faith. He blames others for his mistakes. He is not trained in recording and does not know how to manage people. Yet Deven is not solely to blame for the disaster that is the project. Nur is a petulant curmudgeon and not easily corralled; his wives are formidable in their own ways; Chiku is inept; the college approved the funding but did not care to protect their investment by ensuring that Deven knew what he was doing; and Murad and Siddiqui do not give Deven help beyond the financial, even though they plan to profit from his work.