Last Updated on October 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525
Murad had been the spoilt rich boy with money in his pocket and Deven the poor widow’s son who could be bribed and bought to do anything for him, and although this had been the basis of their friendship, it has grown and altered and stood the test of time.
The uneven friendship between the lower-middle-class teacher Deven and the much wealthier magazine editor Murad began when they were young. Murad had the skill to manipulate and the money to bribe Deven into helping him with whatever scheme—of sometimes dubious ethics or legality—he proposed. Deven proved a born follower as well. Years later, he believes that Murad no longer sees him that way and that their friendship has some real substance.
[M]ost of the fields looked withered and desolate, and tin smokestacks exhaling enormous quantities of very black and foul-smelling smoke, sugarcane crushing works, cement factories, brick kilns, motor repair workshops and the attendant tea shops and bus stops were strung along the highway . . . overtaking what might once have been a pleasant agricultural aspect and obliterating it with all the litter and paraphernalia and effluent of modern society . . .
Deven has accepted a teaching post in a small village, Mirpur, but he feels drawn to the urban life of Delhi, the capital. On a bus ride to the capitol, he tries not to be too distressed by the changes he sees in the rural landscape. Once he thought of the vast agricultural fields as bucolic, although he understood the harsh life of the farm laborers; now, he condemns the industrial blight that has obliterated the past he remembers. Even on a short stretch of highway, he can see the changes from the bus windows.
The poetry he had read and memorized lay beneath all these visible tips of his submerged existence, and he had thought of it more as a source of comfort and consolation than as a promise of salvation. He had never conceived of a summons expressed in a voice . . . that could . . . haul him up from the level on which he existed—mean, disordered and hopeless—into another, higher sphere. Another realm it would surely be if his god dwelt there, the domain of beauty, poetry, and illumination.
Murad, who comes up to his village, convinces Deven to travel to Delhi to interview the legendary poet Nur for an article in his Urdu-language literary magazine. Deven’s love of poetry motivated him to teach literature, even though he suspects he is ill-suited to teaching (and would have preferred to teach Urdu poetry). He experiences misgivings at numerous points during the short trip—for example, when the bus strikes and probably kills a dog—and cannot shake his long-standing suspicions of his friend’s motives. After he arrives, seeing that Murad’s office is tiny but very real, Deven arrives at the great man’s home. He is transported into a rapturous assessment of his poetic passion just by hearing his “leonine, splendid, and commanding” voice. He feels as if he has received the answer to a summons, the source of which he had never before been able to figure out.