Maharaja Agrasen College
(University of Delhi)
Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi
Anita Desai is a well-known denizen of Delhi, or rather “Old Delhi”, whose novels In Custody and Clear Light of Day based in the cultural and spatial turmoil of a nation split in the wake of Independence in 1947 and a space lost in the dislocation of communities, cultures and languages, almost always find mention in the tradition of “partition literature”. While the debate goes on regarding the status of these novels as “partition literature”, this paper posits that there is unequivocal merit in including both In Custody and Clear Light of Day in the list of Delhi Novels as both attempt to preserve lost spaces, worlds and pasts. The paper examines In Custody in particular for its political quality and sociological worth which lies not just in taking the probe beyond the self, but also in taking it beyond the impact of cultural change on people to the very issue of nature and composition of this web called “culture”. The Delhi enthusiasts’ exploration of the Delhi Novel is therefore incomplete without the “Old Delhi” tradition, and within that In Custody stands out as an abiding and enriching text of Delhi’s encounter with cataclysmic change. The paper examines the novel in the light of this upheaval that lies buried in what we simply today know as “Old Delhi”, in the memory of diaspora and in the lives of trapped individuals like Nur- the protagonist of the novel.
Keywords: Delhi, Delhi culture, Delhi Novel, Anita Desai, Old Delhi, Shahjahanabad