Remembering R.K. Narayan, revisiting some of his remarkable works


RK Narayan stamp. PHOTO: By India Post, Government of India – [1] [2], GODL-India,
RK Narayan is an Indian literary giant whose works have captivated readers worldwide. He is known mainly for his skill in bringing to life the rhythms of small-town life in India. Born  October 10, 1906, in Madras (now Chennai, Tamil Nadu), Narayan’s books are famous for the setting of a fictional town called Malgudi. He won many awards, among them, his first major one in 1960, the Sahitya Akademi Award for ‘The Guide’.

‘Swami and Friends’, the first book in the Malgudi series, ‘The Bachelor of Arts’, a coming-of-age novel, and ‘The Dark Room’, a moving exploration of family dynamics, are some of the books that showcase his unique writing style and storytelling ability. On his recent death anniversary (May 13), here are five of his works that resonate with readers, inspiring and influencing generations of writers.

Malgudi Days

‘Malgudi Days’ is a collection of short stories written by R. K. Narayan. It consists of 32 stories. Each story depicts a different aspect of life in the fictional town of Malgudi.
The chapters that are part of the book include ‘An Astrologer’s Day’, ‘The Missing Mail’, ‘The Doctor’s Word’, ‘Gateman’s Gift’, ‘The Blind Dog’, ‘Fellow Feeling’, ‘The Tiger’s Claw’, and others.
A couple of the stories in the book were adapted for the television series Malgudi Days, helmed by actor and filmmaker Shankar Nag, in 1986.

The English Teacher

R. K. Narayan wrote the novel The English Teacher in 1945. It is one of a series of novels and short story collections set in Malgudi. ‘Swami and Friends’, ‘The Bachelor of Arts’, and ‘Malgudi Days’ came before ‘The English Teacher’.
This work, dedicated to Narayan’s wife Rajam, is personal as well as emotional in its depth of passion. The plot follows Krishna, an English teacher, on his journey for inner peace and self-development following the traumatising loss of his wife.

The Dark Room

RK Narayan’s novel captures the story of a submissive wife Savitri, who is constantly abused by her husband. Kamala, Babu, and Sumati are Savitri’s three children. When she couldn’t stand the aches of prejudice and cruelty meted out to her unfairly, Savitri would run to her gloomy chamber. Unfortunately, she finds that her husband is having an affair with another lady.
Her painful life forces her to attempts suicide but she is saved and works as a temple custodian.

The Guide

It is one of the popular creations of the author which was also adapted into a movie, ‘Guide’, which was released in 1965. It starred Dev Anand as Raju, and Waheeda Rehman as Rosie.
The book is all about a tourist guide, falling in love with a married woman and a trained dancer. The story moves ahead to how he makes her come out of a painful relationship and follow her passion of dancing.

The Vendor of Sweets

R. K. Narayan’s ‘The Vendor of Sweets’ is the biography of a fictional figure named K. V. Jagan, who works as a sweet vendor in Malgudi (a fictional Indian town). The narrative depicts his fight with his estranged son and his eventual departure for renunciation, overcome by the overwhelming burden and boredom of his existence.
Basically, the story is a reflection of the generation gap between Jagan, who is the protagonist and his son Mali.



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