R. K. Narayan: Contribution to Indian English literature

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      For some critics, Narayan, the parochial, detached and closed world that he created in the face of the changing conditions in India at the times in which the stories are set. Others, such as Graham Greene, however, feel that through Malgudi they could vividly understand the Indian experience. Narayan's evocation of small town life and its experiences through the eyes of the endearing child protagonist Swaminathan in Swami and Friends is a good sample of his writing style. Simultaneous with Narayan's pastoral idylls, a very different writer, Mulk Raj Anand, was similarly gaining recognition for his writing set in rural India; but his stories were harsher, and engaged, sometimes brutally, with divisions of caste, class and religion. If Anand's art is committed to expose social injustice, economic exploitation and the plight of suppressed castes and classes in India while Raja Rao's interest lies in exploring the spirit essence of India, an ideological movement of Narayan's work is much less discernible.

      William Walsh admires: If Anand is the novelist as reformer, Raja Rao the novelist as Metaphysical poet, Narayan is simply the novelist as novelist. R.K. Narayan is the son of a school master. He was also school master, working as a newspaper correspondent; he has devoted himself exclusive to writing a rare observable fact in the modern Indian literature. His little dreams of middle class life are enacted in Malgudi, an imaginary small town in south India which comes to be felt as a living ambience in his fiction.

      After some works in journalism for a few years, Narayan has published his first novel Swami and Friends in 1935. This novel created for the first time the now famous "Malgudi". It is a delightful account of a school boy Swaminathan whose abridged name 'Swami' gives a flavour of Narayan's writing. Swami is always at the center of the story or watching through the classroom window the toddlers of the infant standard falling over one another. His story is that of the average school boy with its usual rounds of pranks and punishments but Narayan tells it with such a good humored mockery and understanding. In his novel The Bachelor of Arts (1937), Narayan has depicted the character of Chandran, who is sensitive young man caught in confect between the western ideas of love and marriage instilled into him by his educated and the traditional social setup in which he lives. He carries his frustration to the point of renouncing the world and becoming a wondering Sannyasi. He returns home and finds that the girl chosen by his parents is really very charming. Narayan makes us smile gently at Chandran's adolescent groupings.

      Here, researcher would like to quote the sum total of Narayans writing in this novel in the words of Iyengar; The story of their wedded life is a prose lyric on which Narayan has lavished his best fights as a writer. Spring is no hard material substance: it is a presence, it is a unfolding, it is ineffable becoming that strain after being thousand little occurrences, leaps ot light, bubbles of sound thousand smiles revealing their rainbow magnificence through the film of tearful happiness or fulfillment, a thousand murmurs of ecstasy, meaningless worries, tremendous trifles a thousand stabs of pain that are somehow transcended, a thousand shared anxieties, excitements and adorations: it is out of these that the texture of wedded happiness is wrought, and Narayan is an adept at giving form and meaning to this glory of holy wedded love. Quotation is difficult because the perfume is nowhere concentrated but fills the entire atmosphere.

      The Dark Room (1938) is Narayan's only attempt to write in a fictional art. The victim is Sabitri who, finding her husband infatuated with a working woman leaves him and the children only to realize that a traditional middle class Hindu wife is all but helpless. The upshot is not a powerful drama of emotional crisis but a little storm in a small domestic tea-cup, more than slightly cracked.

      The Guide (1958) is finest novel by Narayan. Here, Railway Raju, a tourist guide, has an affair with Rosie, the unhappy wife of an unworldly scholar and makes her a successful professional dancer, but is jailed for forgery, trying to prevent a possible reconciliation between Rosie and Marco. Here Raju's transformation from a railway 'guide' into a half-disinclined and half determined guru is worked out through a neatly woven pattern of ironic complications, but the end raises many disturbing questions about human motives and actions, compelling us to ponder problems such as appearance and reality, the man and the mask R.K. Narayan, Iyengar express that; Narayan's is the art resolved limitation and conscientious exploration: he is content like Jane Austen, with his little bit of ivory, just so marny inches wide: he would like to be a detached observer, to concentrate on a narrow scene, to sense the atmosphere of the place, to snap a small group of characters in the atmosphere of the place, to snap a small group of characters in their oddities and angularities: he would, if he could, explore the inner countries of the mind, heart and soul, catch the uniqueness in the ordinary, the tragic in the prosaic. 'Malgudi' is Narayan's 'Casterbridge' but the inhabitants of Malgudi-although they may have their recognizable local trappings-are essentially human, and hence, have their kinship with all humanity. In this sense, 'Malgudi' is everywhere.

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