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A Devoted Son – Anita Desai

The Devoted Son by Anita Desai is the story of Dr. Rakesh, who was born in a poor village in India, studied medicine in America and later grew up as the city’s richest and most known man back in India. The story portrays Rakesh’s double standards – a devoted son in appearance but a coldblooded, hardhearted traditionalist on the other. Varmaji, Rakesh’s father, favored his doctor-son more than others but had a painful old-age under Rakesh’s ‘professional’ care for the old, widowed man.

The Title

The title suggests satire. Rakesh was a traditionalist who thought that touching his father’s feet and respecting was of prime importance. Even Varmaji, his father, thought likewise but later realizes how hollow it is to be treated like a patient by his own son.

Rakesh the Rank Holder

  • Rakesh scored the highest rank in the country for his Medical Examination.
  • Instead of getting lost in the most envied success, Rakesh bent down and touched his father’s feet.
  • This cooled the father for it was another reason for the vegetable vender to be proud of being Rakesh’s father.
  • For an uneducated family like Rakesh’s, this success brought cheers. Getting Rakesh educated was Varmaji’s greatest dream.
  • Neighbors came to congratulate the winner, his father Varmaji and his mother.
  • Presents flowed into Varmaji’s house as garlands, halwa, party clothes and fountain pens to last years, even a watch or two.
  • To his neighbors Varmaji told about his son’s touching his feet even after becoming a doctor with a first rank.
  • Some of the good neighbors appreciated this son and this father while others, envious as neighbors are, felt that Varmaji was giving himself airs.
Questions & Answers
  1. What was the cause of great celebration in Rakesh’s family?
    When the results appeared in the morning papers, Rakesh scanned them barefoot and in his pajamas, at the garden gate, then went up the steps to the verandah where his father sat sipping his morning tea and bowed down to touch his feet. “A first division, son?” his father asked, beaming, reaching for the papers. “At the top of the list, papa,” Rakesh murmured, as if awed. “First in the country.” Bedlam broke loose then. The family whooped and danced.
  2. How did neighbors respond to Rakesh’s achievement?
    The whole day long visitors streamed into the small yellow house at the end of the road to congratulate the parents of this Wunderkind, to slap Rakesh on the back and fill the house and garden with the sounds and colors of a festival. There were garlands and halwa, party clothes and gifts (enough fountain pens to last years, even a watch or two), nerves and temper and joy, all in a multicolored whirl of pride and great shining vistas newly opened: Rakesh was the first son in the family to receive an education, so much had been sacrificed in order to send him to school and then medical college, and at last the fruits of their sacrifice had arrived, golden and glorious.

Rakesh the Doctor

  • Soon Rakesh cleared his MD course with flying colors.
  • Having won a scholarship, Rakesh went to the USA. (Varmaji didn’t know the difference between USA and America)
  • Rakesh worked in some most prestigious hospitals in the USA and won awards from his American colleagues which were sent to his admiring and glowing family.
  • Finally Rakesh returned to his native village. His brothers and sisters came to embrace him but the great son of all times (you will see why) bent down and touched his father’s feet.
  • Rakesh married a girl that his mother wanted him to marry and set up his own clinic. She was a girl of double standards. Will she suit Rakesh? Let’s see.
  • For some years Rakesh worked in the city hospital, quickly rising to the top of the administrative organization, and was made a director before he left to set up his own clinic.
  • Rakesh bought a new car and unfailingly drove his parents in it to his clinic. Varmaji and his wife were the happiest in the world.
  • For a while, Rakesh’s fame seemed to grow just a little dimmer but soon he became the richest doctor in town.
  • Varmaji grows very old and number of ailments leave him bed ridden. He retires from his job in the kerosene shope where he had worked for forty years.

Next – Rakesh Gets Married

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