In Custody Characters
by Anita Desai

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In Custody Characters

Deven Sharma

In Custody (1984) by Anita Desai follows the cultural struggle of a college professor, Deven Sharma. Deven teaches Hindi (the primary language of India) literature at a university but is unable to manage his students successfully and resents his job. He prefers reading poetry in the Urdu language (a language primarily of Muslims), but was never able to follow his dreams of teaching or writing Urdu poetry. He is the son of a widow with little in the way of family means, and he teaches as a university lecturer in Mirpore (in the north of India, near Delhi). He is primarily a self-made man but feels like a failure—particularly with regards to his marriage and his profession. Deven is overjoyed by the opportunity to interview his hero, the poet Nur, but this experience doesn't change him in the way he expects it to.


Deven's colleague, Murad, is a wealthy college friend of Deven's. He comes from Delhi, which is comparatively sophisticated. It is at Murad's behest that Deven is compelled to interview the poet Nur. Murad is a publisher and offers to finance Deven's travel and interview.


Nur Sahjahanabadi is an Urdu poet whose verses are idolized by Deven. Though once an accomplished poet, Nur is a glutton who has significantly given in to the pleasures of food, alcohol, and unsavory company of hangers-on who are interested in Nur's money. Nur's household is in shambles, and his wife refuses his occasional recitations of the poetry from his youth. These conditions are enough to dissuade Deven, who was initially enamored of the aging poet), from continuing, but he eventually decides to record his interview with Nur.

Sarla and...

(The entire section is 430 words.)