Manju Kapur’s widely acclaimed prebious works such as Difficult Daughters (1998) and The Immigrant (2009) are set in the upper-middle-class colonies of Delhi in the mid-90s. “Custody” revolves around the story of Raman,a successful marketing executive at a global drinks company and Shagun, Raman’s beautiful better half.
Raman and Shagun have two children. The couple has an eight year old son, Arjun, who looks like Shagun, and two year old daughter, Roohi who looks like Raman. By the virtue of Raman working in a reputed company, his family enjoys the monetary benefits and lifestyle. The company he works for largely invests in the manufacture of soft drinks.
Raman’s boss’ entry catalyzes the climax. The couple enjoys all the bliss of marriage, but one day when Shagun meets Ashok, Raman’s boss at the brand and everything changes. Dynamic Ashok and beautiful Shagun, begin a passionate love affair. The affair grows larger to an extent that Shagun starts feeling uncomfortable and disturbed to playing the role as a wife, lover and mother. The battle between the happy couple begins. The lovebirds once upon a time, become enemies. Then, the ugly war takes over to the phase where she demand for a divorce, further moving onto the issues of custody of the children. Raman is shattered with all this as his happy married life becomes scattered. He feels angry on all this and pities himself.
Caught in this concentrated fight is the childless Ishita, who is possessed by the idea of motherhood. Ishita is a young divorcee who leads an independent life in the other part of the city. She feels satisfied in the social work that she is doing. Eventually, she gets attracted towards Raman, who is also a divorcee by then. She tempted about making a family and having a sense of completeness that she is yet to explore, and the idea of motherhood already appeals her.
Among this story of broken hearts, relations and divorce, children become the silent observer. Entire second half of the novel is engrossed in seeing the devastating side-effects of the fight for the custody and its consequent resultants and trauma. Manju Kapur’s novel reveals and explores the uncertain side of the married life, family and individual sense of satisfaction.