Anita Desai is widely recognized as one of India's leading English-language fiction writers. Her short story "Studies in the Park" was first published in 1978, in her collection Games at Twilight.
The story is told from the point of view of Suno, a young man whose family is continually pressuring him to study for a major exam which will determine his future educational track. But all of the members of his family—his mother, father, and uncle, as well as his brothers and sisters—make so much noise and interrupt him so frequently that he is unable to concentrate on his studies. In exasperation, Suno leaves his house to study at a cafe; but even the cafe is not without noise and interruptions. Finally, Suno discovers that many young men like himself study in the park near his house, and he too begins to study there every day. One day, shortly before his exam, Suno sees what he interprets as a "vision" in the park: a beautiful, but sickly, young woman lying on a park bench with her head in the lap of another man. Suno is so struck by this "vision" that he experiences a transformation, as a result of which he chooses not to take the exam after all, but to pursue life as an adventure, rather than as a race.
"Studies in the Park" explores several themes which are central to the stories of Anita Desai. The narration is concerned with the internal consciousness of the central character, who struggles for a sense of individuality against the pressures from his family to conform to societal expectations. The internal monologue of the narrative is characteristic of Desai's "stream-of-consciousness" style of writing, and the strongly descriptive language has earned Desai recognition as a leading "imagist" writer.
This story is told from the point of view of Suno, a young man whose family is constantly pressuring him to study for a major exam which will determine his future educational track: ‘‘Oh study, study, study, they all breathed at me.’’ But Suno is constantly interrupted and distracted by each and every member of his family. Most of all, ‘‘they don't know the meaning of the word Quiet.’’ His father listens to the radio news in six different languages. From the kitchen he hears his mother frying foods and sloshing water around. When his brothers and sisters come home from school, they taunt him and then run away. In addition, his mother frequently interrupts him to insist that he drink milk with sugar in it, ‘‘like a baby.’’ In exasperation, Suno leaves his house to try studying at a cafe. But the cafe proprietor, and then the waiter, insist on talking to him. Leaving the cafe, he comes upon a gram vendor, who suggests he go to study in the local park. In the park, Suno finds that there are many young men studying, or attempting to study, for the same or similar exams. At first feeling out of place there, Suno begins to go to the park every day to study. Although "it took me time to get accustomed to the ways of the park,’’ he finds that, ‘‘soon I got to know it as well as my own room at home and found I could study there, or sleep, or daydream, as I chose.’’ Yet Suno hates everyone else who comes to the park, except the other...
(The entire section is 544 words.)