Raju Never Did Anything: Things Always Happened to Him

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      Raju’s career from a Railway Guide to a Mahatma brings out the truth of the statement that “Raju never did anything: things always happened to him. His entire career illustrates the drift of a passive character from one role to another.”

      Raju becomes a tourist guide not as a result of his choice planning, or intention, but almost casually, almost by chance and accident. When tourists happened to ask him about the spots worth visiting around Malgudi, Raju, who was then only the owner of a petty railway stall, exaggerated the beauty and importance of these spots even when he knew nothing about them, I never said, “I don’t know. Not in my nature. I suppose...! am sorry I said it, an utter piece of falsehood. It was not because I wanted to utter a falsehood, but only because I wanted to be pleasant.” Soon he found himself escorting the tourists to these beauty spots, giving them historical and geographic information, and before he knew it he had become a full-fledged guide, and consequently and stall on the railway station was passed over to another boy.

      Even he did not plan to become and act as Rosie’s lover. He had sympathies for her. But Rosie’s ill-treatment by Marco compelled her to seek shelter in Raju’s house, and it was from then that he became her confirmed lover. Perhaps it was fated so.

      Raju’s second role as the manager of a dancer also came upon him quite by accident. After his earlier affair with Rosie, he had settled down again to his old way of life. He would have got over his disappointment, if Rosie herself had not come again into his life. He found himself acting as Rosie’s business manager and publicity agent without making any conscious plans about it. Rosie more or less willed him into accepting this role. Once cast in a particular part, it was Raju’s nature to perform it with relish and perfection, and he excelled as an impresario and manager.

      In the third stage of his career he becomes a convict, and even this role he performs with enthusiasm, becoming an ideal prisoner. “Raju did not drift into jail of course; he was taken there for a deliberate act of forgery. This was the one act that Raju did voluntarily and deliberately, it did not happen to him. But Raju was bewildered that such a trivial action should bring down such frightful consequences on his head.”

      Once out of jail Raju finds himself drifting into the role of a sadhu. “Not once does he deliberately try to pass himself off for a holy man, but when he finds that people want to believe in his spiritual power, he cannot disappoint them.” He wants to tell the villagers of his shady past, of his stay in the jail, but he cannot. It looked as though he would be hurting the villagers sentiment by revealing his past to them. Hence once he is accepted as a sadhu, Raju, with characteristic thoroughness pays attention to details like his appearance, his beard, his fluency in uttering mystifying statements. In the past too, he had learnt the trade while practising his role as a guide. He could know what kind of sentiments went down well with the tourists and could modify historical statistics to suit the temperament of the tourists he was accompanying.

      The act that confirms Raju’s career as a sadhu is his establishment of a night school in the temple. This school becomes the centre around which the village people gather every evening to listen to Raju’s discourses and story tellings. These evening sessions grow in popularity until Raju becomes a public figure. But opening of this school is also accidental. Finding that the children of the village do not go to school, he is taken aback a little. And to cover his embarrassment he utters some pompous exhortations on the need for education. And out of that casually uttered idea develop the evening classes that bring him prestige and popularity.

      Even the final episode of fasting is born passively to prove that things happen to Raju. A minor quarrel flares up into a riot in the village; Raju is afraid that if the newspaper reporters and policemen come to the village, his identity might be disclosed. It is purely selfish reason that makes him announce that if people go on doing such foolish acts, he would not eat. But the young man to whom this message is given is not very bright and he gives a completely different version of the message to the villagers: “The Swami will not eat until it rains.” The others believe him because only a few days ago Raju had told them of a saint who brought the rains down by his fast.

      In an excess of zeal his disciples stop bringing him all food. This has an ironic side. Raju had accepted the role of a saint because it gave him unconditional and free supply of food after his release from the jail. The people gathered round him for his darshan and brought him their reverence but no food. Raju had no alternative to fasting now. And in their own way, the disciples kept a twenty-four hour vigil with their famished Guru. Raju senses the destructive risk of the situation. During the early days of the fast Raju wants to escape by running. What keeps him back is not practical consideration or fear of being caught: but very surprisingly the faith of the people. “He was moved by the recollection of the big crowd of women and children touching his feet.” At last the collective faith of the people transforms Raju from what he really is into a worthy object of their devotion. Towards the end, Raju loses the feeling of an act; the act becomes the reality, the mask becomes the man, and Raju the guide turns into a Guru. For the first time in the life he was making an earnest effort, for the first time he was learning the thrill of full application, outside money and love; for the first time he was doing something in which he was not personally interested.”

University Questions

Discuss Raju as a passive character.
“Raju never did anything: things always happened to him.” Discuss.

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