A Devoted Son by Anita Desai

A Devoted Son by Anita Desai

Anita Desai, born Anita Mazumdar is an Indian novelist and the Emerita John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a writer she has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. She received a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978 for her novel Fire on the Mountain, from the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters. She won the British Guardian Prize for The Village by the Sea.

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A Devoted Son by Anita Desai

When parents work hard to give their children a good education and the best start in life, it is right that their children are grateful. And when parents grow old and sick, it is right that their children take care of them, and make their last years comfortable and peaceful.

Rakesh is a son to please any parent. He knows his duty, he knows what is right…

When the results appeared in the morning papers, Rakesh read them, in his pyjamas, at the garden gate. Then he went up the steps to the veranda where his father sat drinking his morning tea, and bowed down to touch his feet.

A Devoted Son by Anita Desai

‘You did well, son?’ his father asked, smiling and reaching for the papers.

‘At the top of the list, Papa,’ Rakesh said quietly. ‘First in the country.’

The whole house went wild with excitement. The family sang and danced. All day long, visitors came to the small yellow house at the end of the road, to congratulate the parents, clap Rakesh on the back, and fill the house and garden with the sounds and colours of a festival. There were flowers and sweets, party clothes and gifts, anxiety and temper and happiness, all in a colourful rush of proud feelings and shining views of a bright new future. Rakesh was the first son in the family to receive an education, and his parents had gone through such hard times in order to afford the fees for school and medical college. Now at last all their suffering seemed to be worth it.

To everyone who said to him, ‘Varma, congratulations on your wonderful son,’ the father replied, ‘Yes, and do you know the first thing he did when he saw the results this morning? He bowed down and touched my feet.’

This moved many of the women so much that they raised the ends of their saris and wiped away their tears. Meanwhile the men reached out for the betel leaves and sweets, and shook their heads in wonder at such excellent behaviour.

‘One does not often see such behaviour in sons any more,’ they all agreed, a little enviously perhaps.

Leaving the house, some of the women said, ‘At a time like this you would think they’d serve the very best sweets.’ And some of the men said, ‘That old Varma is too proud! He needn’t think we’ve forgotten that he comes from the vegetable market himself, his father used to sell vegetables, and he’s never seen the inside of a school!’ But there was more envy than dislike in their voices and this was not surprising – not every son in that poor suburb at the edge of the city was going to shine as Rakesh shone, and who knew that better than the parents themselves…

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