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A Devoted Son Summary

Summary of A Devoted Son by Anita Desai Class 12 English

A Devoted Son: Characters

Rakesh: He is the son of Varma who is a well behaved and duteous son. He is a brilliant student who becomes a doctor and has an opportunity to continue his practice and education in the USA. He is the son of a kerosene vendor Varma. In his father's old age, he supervises every bit of food his father eats and medicates him for every little complaint.

Veena: She is a simple and fat Indian girl married to Rakesh by the wish of his mother who is very loyal and dutiful by nature. She follows Rakesh's orders regarding his father's diet.

Varma: He works as an oil seller at Depoand he is the father of Rakesh who hardly educates his son and has pride over his son’s achievement. But later he finds his son as a tyrant as he cuts his foodstuffs.

Bhatia: He is an old neighbour of Rakesh and a friend of Varma who participates in Rakesh's family conversation and activities. He lives next door and often joins Varma to sit outside and complain about the hardships that the two of them are facing.

Varma's wife: She is an unnamed lady who dies later, which leads to his unhappiness, and made him sick.

Rakesh's children: They are unnamed children who pass time and play with grandfather as well. Varma is briefly able to convince one of them to sneak him extra food.


Short Summary:

Anita Desai is a well-known Indian author. She has written several English-language novels. Almost every story she writes is about everyday Indian life and individuals. A Devoted Son is a short story about a father and son's bond.

The story revolves around Dr Rakesh. He's from a poor Indian village. Varma, his father, was a vegetable vendor. His father wished for a well-educated son. Rakesh is the first member of his family to attend college. Rakesh completed his medical exams with the highest marks in the country, which is a cause for celebration. Varma informs everyone who would listen about Rakesh's grades and how he can now go to medical school in America. Some people are frightened that Rakesh would forget his roots. Varma is unconcerned about this and is pleased that everyone knows his son's name.

Rakesh spends a significant amount of time in America to complete his degree; he successfully completes the degree and has job offers from major US hospitals. The awards he receives are returned to his family for them to admire and preserve. This allows him to stay in touch with his family. He adores America, but he adores his family more, and he has always intended to come home. He'll return as soon as he's gained enough experience and money. He intended to work in his hometown. His parents disagree with some of his life choices, such as why he wants to return home and why he marries a local girl with little schooling. Varma believes he should have higher ambitions.

Later, he begins working in a city hospital, which differs from the American hospitals he had previously worked in. He wants to work there because he wants to make a difference in his community. He rises quickly through the ranks and eventually becomes director. When his mother dies, his father, Varma, is heartbroken. Rakesh no longer has as much time to devote to Varma now that he has his own family. He does not want to lose his father any time soon, so he applies his medical expertise. 

He forbids Varma from eating sweets to help him with his stomach. Varma tries to get sweets from his grandson, which frustrates Rakesh. Rakesh wants his son to have a positive relationship with Varma, just like Rakesh does.  Varma tells Rakesh and his wife that he dislikes them, but he still keeps an eye out for Varma. Rakesh finally lets Varma leave, knowing that he has done everything he can for Varma.


Main Summary:

Anita Desai’s “A Devoted Son” is a story of complicated familial bonds which highlights the change of dynamics in the relationship between the father, Varma and his son, Dr Rakesh. It is all about the duty and devotion that the son, Rakesh has for his parents. The son is brought up by his father, starts earning his livelihood and then, dutifully looks after his father. However, a crisis develops as his father, whimsical due to age, starts misinterpreting his son’s treatment.


Rakesh was a son born to illiterate parents. His father, Varma, worked as a kerosene vendor and spent many years dreaming of having an educated son. Rakesh was the first to receive education in his generation and he managed it very well. Villagers felt proud as Rakesh scored the highest rank (flying colours) in the country for his Medical Examination. His father had a party where presents flowed into Varmaji's house as garlands, halwa, party clothes and fountain pens, even a watch or two. Having won a scholarship, Rakesh went to the USA (Varmaji didn't know the difference between the USA and America), where he worked in some most prestigious hospitals in the USA. Although Rakesh loved America, he loves his family more and therefore, he returned to his village with much money, touched his father’s feet which was a matter of pride for the kerosene vendor. He married an Indian girl and removed all the doubts of the villagers to marry a foreigner. But he married an uneducated girl of their choice. The girl too was good-natured and they were soon blessed with a son.


Rakesh’s rise continued and he soon went to the top of the administrative organization, the position of the Director of the city hospital, bought a car and then, he opened a private clinic as well. It was the beginning of his fortune. However, he took good care of his parents. Though he was in top position with his name and fame, he obeyed his parents, humoured his wife, hosted his friends, and in addition, was an excellent doctor.


However, Rakesh's joyride was short-lived as his mother passed away which led his father physically and mentally weak and sick. The birthday party of his son was broken when he knew his father was on the verge of death. Then, he changes his schedule and he brought his father’s morning tea, read the newspapers and visited his father after returning from the clinic. Al these couldn't make the father happy and even the situation worsened as Rakesh started to supervise his father diet or food by cutting down on oily fried food and sweets which made his father worried as he took these all treatment of his son as disrespect, strictness, and mal-treatment. His father complained to his neighbours that Rakesh was strict regarding his health. The old man even bribed his grandson and took sweets of him.


The father-son relationship went haywire. The old man began to hate his son and his daughter-in-law. The wife of Rakesh stayed out of trouble tactfully and Rakesh also took everything incorrect way. His several attempts to improve his father's mental and physical health went into vain. Determined, Varmaji announced that he didn't need his son's medicines. All that he wished was death.


Above all, old age is cyclic and all of us would step into its shoes one day. It is also called the second childhood. Because of this, Rakesh’s father behaved in such a way. The remembrance of this fact can wake us up to the reality of this life. Rakesh, despite everything else, understood this, which made him stand apart and above the rest.


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