I enjoyed Manju Kapur's previous novel Home, and was looking forward to this one with anticipation. Custody is set in the 1990s economic boom era when multinational giants swooped down on India and ushered in various cultural and economic changes.
In such a backdrop, custody deals with the implications of divorce and the way it cuts through families, relationships and mindsets.
The book is essentially about Shagun and Raman, their disintegration of marriage and how it affects their relationship and more importantly their relationship with their children who have to bear the brunt of their parent's separation.
The story is very well told, and Kapur shows a good insight into the intricacies of the family fabric, the social implications of the extended family (in-laws) and the perception of a divorcee in the Indian society. Her sensitive handling of the shift in relationships following a divorce, how the dynamism of the relationship with "in-laws" changes following an acrimonious separation is commendable.
To me, this is what true India is about, walking the fine line between tradition and modernisation. An era where the young generation is well caught up with demanding jobs, luxurious lifestyles, courtesy the side effects of a westernised society. On the other hand, the concept of joint families is still prevalent where every decision has rippling effect on each family member, not to mention the societal pressure of justifying the decision among friends and neighbours.
For anyone interested in India, this book comes highly recommended. Instead of looking for India in its slums and villages and many writers do, this is the India that I have lived in and can identify with. It surely struck a chord with me for its great storytelling and at the same time for providing an insight into the modern Indian family.
Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie may have ushered in a new era but it is writers like Manju Kapur who have shown that Indian writing has matured with changing times and has come of age.
Plus points of the book: A good narrative and well developed characters that shows what the modern Indian family is all about.
Great read. Highly recommended.