How does Raju Become "A Full-fledged Saint?"

Also Read

      Raju, formerly a guide to tourists, has just been released from prison and has taken refuge in an old temple by the river. While sitting on the steps one evening, a peasant takes him for a priest and asks his advice on a domestic problem. By uttering a few platitudes, Raju helps him to find a solution and soon acquires a reputation as a holy man. When a drought comes to the district the peasants turn to him for help and he reluctantly undertakes a fourteen-day fast to propitiate the rain gods. It is at this point that he confesses to one of his followers that he is an impostor and tells the story of his previous life—the tragi-comedy of his love for Rosie the dancer, and the rise and fall of his fortunes as a guide, lover and impresario.

      As the novel opens we find Raju sitting cross-legged on a granite slab on the bank of the river near village Mangala. He is bored and lonely. He needs some company and so when a simple villager, Velan, comes to him, he welcomes him and asks him to sit down. Velan narrates to Raju the story of his step-sister who goes on sulking all day and does not agree to her marriage. Raju asks Velan to bring to him his sister, and he would do his best for him. Next morning Velan came to him with his sister who was a young girl of fourteen. Raju asked them to wait for him in the temple hall. Velan placed before him a basket full of fired nuts, bananas, cucumbers and a pot of milk. He was hungry and the gift was welcome to him. So he took the basket into the inner shrine, made due offering to a tall god with four hands, and kept the rest for himself. He then began narrating to him a story Devaka which showed how by giving to the god, we multiply instead of dividing our belongings. All these statements were godlike. He also told Velan in the presence of his sister: “What must happen must happen; no power on earth or in heaven can change its course, just as no one can change the course of that river.” The words had their due effect on the ‘difficult sister’, and she went from there a changed girl. Later on, she agreed to marry. To Velan it was almost miracle Raju had performed. She as a bride came to seek Raju’s blessings and herself had spoken of him as a saint: “He doesn’t speak to any one, but if he looks at you; you are changed.”

      The circle of Raju’s admirers gradually increased. More and more fruits and packets were brought to him by visitors. People began to pass remarks about him: “He is a big man, he may go anywhere; he may have a thousand things to do.” “Oh, you don’t know. He has renounced the world; he does nothing but meditate.” These remarks show that Raju had already acquired the status of a great saint, a Yogi, in the imagination of these simple rustics.

      After pondering long and deep over the problem of his future, Raju came to the conclusion that he had no alternative but to remain where he was. He could not return to his village, and he could not work for his living, for he had been trained to no work. Therefore, he must play the role of a saint which destiny had forced upon him. Henceforth, he would say the most brilliant things, and be as impressive as possible. With this end in view he transferred his seat to the inner hall of the temple. It gave him a better background for his saintly role. He commenced classes for the children of the village in that temple hall. Raju occasionally spoke to them on godliness, cleanliness, spoke on Ramayana, the characters in the epics, he addressed them all kinds of things. “It is in this way that saints are made, and Raju was fast moving on the road to sainthood”, the novelist comments.

      His influence now was unlimited. He not only chanted holy verses and discoursed on philosophy, he even came to the stage of prescribing medicine; children who would not sleep peacefully at night were brought to him by their mothers: he pressed their bellies and prescribed a herb, adding, ‘If he still gets no relief bring him again to me.’ It was believed that when he stroked the head of a child, the child improved in various ways. Of course, people also brought to him their disputes and quarrels, over the division of ancestral property. He had to set apart several hours of his afternoon for these activities.

      It was in this way that the “Railway Raju” acquired the status of a saint. His sainthood was further confirmed by his fourteen-day fast to bring rains to the famine-stricken villagers. His was an act of holy martyrdom for the villagers’ sake.

Previous Post Next Post