I clearly remember the day when I was first introduced to the wonderful world of Narayan. To the wonderland, Malgudi.
That was my friend, who told me about Swami. He described to me some anecdotes from the book and I loved them so much that the very same evening I was buying a copy of ‘Swami and Friends’ and the next day wandering in the streets of Malgudi with Swami and his friends.
And that was just the beginning of the journey. By the time going, Malgudi took more and more place in my heart. Albert Mission School, Sarayu river, Trunk road, Lawley extension, Nallapa’s grove and the other landscapes of Malgudi were becoming more familiar to me. So were its people. From B.A. student Chandran to English teacher Krishna, from guide Raju to the painter of signs Raman, all faces were well-know.
You may ask that what so special about Narayan?
What’s so different about Malgudi?
What makes RK Narayan one of the best Indian novelists?
Let’s try to find the answers. Shall we?
‘Swami and Friends’ certainly wasn’t first ever Indian English novel. And neither was RK Narayan first writer. But he defined this thing called ‘Indian English Literature.’ The trio of RKN, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao planted this, further nurtured by many brilliant authors such as Khushwant Singh, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri and the list goes on.
But what makes him stand out of this crowd? Well, the same things which make Premchand different from other Hindi writers. The portrayal of real India. In a simplistic way.
In Graham Greene’s words :
“Narayan wakes in me a spring of gratitude, for he has offered me a second home. Without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian.”
Where Premchand’s stories take place in rural India, RK Narayan creates a fictional town called Malgudi where almost all of his stories take place. Malgudi is alike any other Indian town. Things are not different here. Events taking place in Malgudi could have happened in your neighborhood and gone unnoticed.
One of the best things about Narayan’s Books are the realistic character he creates. His characters are not larger than life. You could easily find them around you. And that makes it easy to connect and relate with them. If Swami and his misadventures reflect the childhood of my life, then I can see myself now in Chandran. The strong and determined character of Daisy, the idle young man Sriram, the ‘philosopher’ Raman, the devoted wife Susila are some of the examples of RK Narayan’s skill of character developer.
The problems of Malgudians (cheesy, isn’t it?) are universal. Whether they are of young Swami concerning his cricket career or the dilemma’s of newly graduated Chandran or the marital issues of Rosie.
I could go on and on and on, but let’s summarize it.
In Pico Iyer’s words-
“There’s really only one guidebook you need for India if you go there this afternoon, and that’s a novel (any Narayan novel) with a picture of a little shop on its cover, and an account of nothing more momentous than what happens on a sleepy morning when the circus comes to town. ”
In short, one can never have enough of Malgudi. 🙂
The characters mentioned above :
Swami and his friends – Swami and Friends
Chandran and Malti – The Bachelor of Arts
Krishna and Susila – The English Teacher
Raman and Daisy – The Painter of Signs
Raju and Rosie – The Guide
Sriram and Bharati – Waiting for the Mahatma
Arpit Jain hails from Gwalior, India. In his twenties, he is currently pursuing his engineering degree. Being an introvert, he spends a lot of time in observing different social and political conditions and writes about them. Spare time directly goes to books. Usually interested in Literary Fiction and classic, Arpit appreciates food-for-the-thought books. To know more about him, visit his blog.