Sunday, March 05, 2006


Malgudi Days

You don't need a reason to be happy about Sunday morning. But, unexpectedly when you find one, your happiness is multiplied. My Sunday morning brightened up when, by chance, I saw an episode of Malgudi Days on TV. The simplicity, classicism and unalloyed truth which lies beneath R.K.Narayan's stories are unparalleled, entertaining readers young and old alike.

I have read many books and essays written by him, including Swami and his friends, Malgudi Days, The financial Expert, Next Sunday etc. There are many more stories that, I am sure, I have read but do not quite remember their titles now, although the characters like postman Thanappa, timid Meenakshi, honest Siddha, intelligent Margayya, guide Raju, young Swami and his strict dad will never be forgotten for their modesty and originality.

As is the case with many other works like Lord of the rings and Harry Potter there are many opulent things that one skips while watching the movie than while reading the book. In Malgudi Days too, the serenity of the riverside, liveliness of the town, discipline in the school are all better read than watched. While the video offers ready-made screenplay, reading allows imagination, which activates the right brain, enabling creative panorama of Malgudi and its characters in accordance with the author's description. We also tend to personalize the stories while reading, relating it to the characters we have known, making the experience a lot richer.

Comparing two works unrelated by time and genre is not just. However, when I draw a comparison with what I liked as a kid, ten years ago and what children of this day prefer, the result seems to mark the onset of a new generation. I do applaud the magical fantasy of Harry Potter and the fictitious characters like hooded Dementors, Penseive and Horcrux, but I feel they lack candour and clarity that is so essential to a child's mind.

When at times one feels trapped in the complex ways of modern life, it feels good to slow down and treat yourself with a jaunt through the narrow lanes of Malgudi walking past unassuming structures constituting bank, salon, cinema theatre, railway station and post office. At every place in the Malgudi landscapes, you will find, no more than ordinary yet interesting people, like the guide, a talkative man, a bachelor of Arts and Mr. Sampath, the printer of Malgudi along with a few extraordinary people like the reluctant guru, the finanial expert and occasionally a man-eater from Malgudi or a tiger from Malgudi. A toothsome sweet from a vendor of sweets will add taste to the grandmother's tales about Gods, demons and others, under the banyan tree along with Swami and friends.

At the end of this heart rending journey you will have made a world of discoveries about humanity, without traveling too far from Madras and Mysore. When that happens, you will be lured into believing that Malgudi is home, just like it has been to thousands of readers over six decades!

I prefer seeing MD on tv than reading. It is much more colorful than reading. This is my opinion and opinions can vary:) Nice article
I started out my blog with a post 'The Stalwart Narrator' on RKN.

It will take quite a few pages to talk about RKN, My Days, The English Teacher and Bachelor of Arts give the inside story of how the characters came to be born. Great artists make the subject seem simple and RKN's forte was his power of observation over everyday things and a wordsmithry to describe them in pithy terms. How else can one describe a work like The World of Nagaraj, whose entire story would have been covered by a lesser writer in less than a page?
That said he was a cynical almost sadistic man who took perverse pleasure in placing the helpless and powerless folks in his stories at the complete mercy of the bullies and villains(Natraj(MEOM), Margayya(TFE),Swami(SAF),Nagaraj(TWON),TVOS,Sriram(WFTM),Savitri(TDR) are examples. Orphan kids whose dads elope with village harlots, priests fighting a losing battle with lust..RKN was a rather sick perv!)

Yup, the people and places are unforgettable - a local printer, an 'adjournment' lawyer, milkman 'prospering' with a thin emaciated cow, Ellamman Temple, Kabir Lane, Market Road, Sarayu river, Nallappa's Grove, Lawley Extn, all could be out of anyone's neighborhood.
TTM, All along, I did not know I was addressing TTM as in RKN's creation:) Well, I did read your post on the author and your first experience with his book. I agree with you on the disturbing portrayal of certain stories and characters, but it is masqueraded by its indigeneousness!

If you like simple, well narrated books, you will probably be interested in a new Indian author -Vikas Swarup, whose debut novel Q&A is one book I'll remember and recall for a long time to come.
R K N's works have been a constant favorite. They are showing Malgudi Days - Swami and his friends on Pogo channel these days.

@ TTM: I did read somewhere that deep inside exceptionally brilliant people who are more of mavericks reside the darkest perverse tendencies. A touch above lunacy, these tendencies are revealed in shades of humour that becomes so much of their hallmark behaviour. RKN, I think, chose to reflect that in his novels.
RKN was definitely the pioneer of indigenousness. Besides, what Maniratnam did in Alaipayuthey or Mouna Ragam, RKN did decades back in Waiting for the Mahatma! N-1 pages were sheer delight only a genius could produce. Nth page(ending) was crap :(
Will chk out Q&A, thx!

Obscenity was rare, generally subtle and masterfully hidden by RKN and for that he towers above other writers. But sometimes its suddenness is too shocking. Describing an old man's struggle to keep aside visions of his wife's body while meditating in the puja room is perversion. Pulp fiction can be fine but the latter is not :(
[Had a tough time keeping The Dark Room out of my parents' watchful eyes in Class 9 :)]
Like Thomas Hardy's Wessex, Malgudi is simply marvellous. The best way to approach R.K.Narayan is to start with "Swami" - the back bencher who shouted with glee at his Geography teacher about Malgudi's weather - 'it is hot in summer and cold in winter'. Captain Mani's Cricket team - It reminds me of my Tennis ball Cricket days. How can we forget Lawley Road Extension and Nallappa's grove or Postman Thanappa?
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