Rural India Depict in The Novel The Guide

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      The Guide is a true social picture of India, especially villages of south India. The rural India has been painted in the life of the people of Mangala village on the Sarayu river. Raju goes there and stays in a shrine on the river bank and is mistaken by the villagers as a holy man. To them a convict becomes a saint because of their ignorance, superstition and poverty. This episode shows their superstition, gullibility, poverty, simplicity, ignorance and lack of education, low economy, dependence on the monsoon etc. These problems are faced not only by the villagers of Mangala but also by the inhabitants of India’s thousands of villages.

      The rural India is full of Velans who are a gullible lot. Even the casual and commonplace remark of Raju ripples their mind to wonder at his profound wisdom. The rural folk of India are a herd of simpletons and can be exploited by the self-styled saints easily. Women come and worship the self styled holy man. He receives gifts and food from the villagers.

      India’s agriculture mainly depends on the monsoon. This has been shown by the novelist by Raju’s fast. The poor villagers think that rains can come by fasting of the holy men like Raju. How ironical it is! The village feuds and passions of the villagers too have been depicted. During the drought the village shopkeeper raises the prices believing in profiteering. The villagers take direct action against him. They do not see any reason. They fight out their case like mad people.

      The west-oriented populace of India has been pictured through Marco. He is different from an Indian businessman, middle-class person and the rural folk. He dresses after the western style and uses the gadgets which are unknown to the villagers. In the words of the novelist he wears like a spaceman. He and Rosie represent new culture. “She wore sarees of bright hues and gold lace, had curly hair which she braided and beflowered, wore diamond earrings and a heavy gold necklace.” She is partly exotic and partly Indian.

      The life of the poor shopkeepers is painted through Raju’s father. He has a small shop of planks and gunny sacks. He is seen selling peppermint, fruit, tobacco, betel-leaf, parched gram. He remains surrounded by the peasants and drivers of bullock carts. With the coming of the railways in Malgudi the lot of such low businessmen improves. The typical businessman of this class in India is uneducated and cannot afford to provide education to his children.

      The educational scene is touched twice. First we are shown the cruel village-teacher teaching Raju and other children. The scene of the village teacher who runs a pylon school is presented in the following way:

“He lived in Kabir Lane, in a narrow old house with a cement pylon in front, with the street drain running right below it. He gathered a score of young boys of my age every morning on the pylon, reclined on a cushion in a corner, and shouted at the little fellows, flourishing a rattan cane all the time....He was a very abusive man.”

      When Raju, performing the role of a Swami, says: “I like to see young boys become literate and intelligent,” this theme of education is treated second time in the novel, and we come to know that Indian villagers are without schools and teachers. Raju starts a school at his shrine, but he cannot get a good teacher. The snake charmer and the sight of a cobra also provide the novel a distinct Indian touch. The temple and the worshippers, the ovation given to Raju as Swami by the villagers and other people is also typically Indian. “By the time he (Raju) arrived at the stage of stroking his beard thoughtfully, his prestige had grown beyond his wildest dreams. His life has lost its personal limitations; his gatherings had become so large that they overflowed into the outer corridors and people sat right up to the river’s edge. This could happen only in India, the home of wizards and Swamis. Lastly, Malgudi is a mini India, it represents the pulse and motion of the country.

University Questions

How far is The Guide a true picture of India?
Rural India has been interpreted through the life of the people of Mangala village of Velan. Discuss.

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