20 October, 2020

Soap Duds

Successful soaps locate us within the script. A novel must do much more. It must transcend location, and free us to wonder. Custody does neither.

Soap Duds

If unhappy marriage is the dal-chawal of fiction, then the adulterous wife is its feisty poster girl. Shagun Kaushik, the heroine of Manju Kapur’s cynical new novel, Custody, refuses the bait. On page one, walking back from a tryst, she is briefly allowed guilt: “As she made her way towards the main road, she kept looking around but recognised no one, and decided it was her conscience that made her so uneasy.”

Lest we enter into Shagun’s unease, the author warns acidly: “Every day she practised thinking badly of her spouse. Her lover encouraged this by providing a basis for comparison. The dissatisfaction that accrues in most marriages was not allowed dissipation; instead, she clung to reasons to justify her unfaithfulness.”

Shagun’s husband Raman works for a multinational at Rs 10 lakh a year, and climbing. They have two children, Arjun, ten, and Roohi, two. Enter Ashok Khanna, Raman’s boss. We are told Shagun and Ashok are lovers, sweaty sheets are cited, but their...



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