In Custody Questions and Answers
by Anita Desai

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What is a summary of chapter 7 of In Custody?

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In chapter 7 of In Custody, by Anita Desai, Deven goes to see Nur, a famous Urdu poet. He is surprised to find lots of people in Nur's courtyard, but he ignores this and continues on to the top of the house to meet with Nur. Nur tells Deven that his wife, Imtiaz Begum, is unwell, which pleases Deven, as he wants to be alone in the house with Nur. He tries to talk to Nur about Urdu poetry, but Nur is very worried about Imtiaz and does not seem to be in the right mood for the conversation.

Deven proposes to interview Nur and record their conversation, thus giving Nur the opportunity to talk about his life and recite some of his work. Nur, however, is not impressed by this idea and refuses “because [Imtiaz] does not like [him] to recite anymore.” Their conversation comes to an abrupt end when they go to see Imtiaz, who is lying in bed. She accuses Deven of taking advantage of Nur by trying to persuade him to speak about himself in public. Nur insists that he wouldn’t do that, but in the end, Imtiaz gives Nur permission to do so.

When leaving the house, Deven hears a voice calling him back. He walks through a door and encounters a woman who wants to speak to him. The woman warns Deven about Imtiaz, saying that all of Nur’s followers “are hated by her.” She encourages Deven to persevere with his project but agrees that the interview needs to be conducted away from the house. She suggests that Nur come and see her and then leave through a “small door in the wall behind the goats” in order to meet with Deven. The woman even offers to arrange a room for Deven and Nur.

Deven is taken aback by this helpfulness but soon realizes that there is a price to pay: the woman asks him to not “forget about payment.” It turns out that this woman is Nur’s first wife. She says that she will not help Deven any further if Deven does not offer Nur sufficient payment for the time it takes to do the interview, which worries Deven considerably.

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