A Devoted Son Questions and Answers
by Anita Desai

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

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Rakesh tries very hard to be a devoted son to his father, actually prolonging his life by improving his diet and bringing him vitamins and medicines, but he is not, the text suggests, doing the best he could for Varma—which would be to let him die on his own terms.

It is clear that Rakesh is not following his father's wishes by prolonging his life. He is devoted to the idea of keeping his father alive rather than to his father himself. As the narrator states:

The quantities of vitamins and tonics he [Varma] was made to take were not altogether useless. They kept him alive and even gave him a kind of strength that made him hang on long after he ceased to wish to hang on. It was as though he were straining at a rope, trying to break it, and it would not break, it was still strong. He only hurt himself, trying.

What makes the story interesting and complex is the question it raises of what devotion is. Does it mean complying completely with a loved one's wishes, even if those wishes are self-destructive; or does it mean doing what is best for the parent, even if it isn't what he wants?

Rakesh takes the road of doing what he believes is best for his father even though his father would prefer to eat rich, unhealthy food and die earlier. The text, however, implies that this is not the best path and that the son is insensitive to the father's real needs:

"'Lying all day on his pillows, fed every few hours by his daughter-in-law’s own hand, visited by every member of his family daily—and then he says he does not want to live 'like this,'" Rakesh was heard to say, laughing, to someone outside the door.

The laughter shows Rakesh's insensitivity to his father's real needs. Rakesh is not as devoted as could be. It is humiliating to Varma to have his life prolonged and to be unheard. He begs to be let to die, but his words are not attended to. The story ends him with saying that God is calling him and demanding to be released from life, but we don't know what will happen—we can guess, however, that Rakesh will again try to save him against his will.

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