The Guide: by R. K. Narayan - Chapter 2 Summary

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      Raju noticed much activity in front of his house. A railway track and a railway train were to be built, and material needed for the construction was being piled up. There was great excitement and the question was frequently asked and discussed as to how long it would take for the railway to arrive at Malgudi. Of course, none could give a definite answer.

      Red earth was brought by a number of trucks, and soon a small mountain was raised in front of Raju’s house. He would often climb on the top of the mound, from where he could see the world around. He could even see the hazy outlines of Memphi Hills. Raju would spend most of his time playing, listening to the talk of the labourers working on the track, laughing at their jokes, and picking up their coarse, vulgar abuses which they freely hurled at each other. More and more trucks arrived and a large variety of goods was piled on every side. Raju’s excitement knew no bounds.

      One day as Raju was playing on the mound of earth, a boy, who was grazing his cows nearby, also came there to play. He asked him to go away and shouted at him vulgar abuses which he had picked up from the labourers. The boy complained to his father and repeated the exact words Raju had used. His father was angry, and decided that he must go to school from the very next day. He will, no loiter be allowed to wander about and pick up bad language. This was a harsh sentence. ‘To be removed from a place he loved to place he loathed.’ But there was no help to it.

      So Raju began to go school. He was sent not to the Albert Mission School, for his father believed that there the boys were converted to Christianity, but to another school called the Pyol School. It was kept by an old man who lived in Kabil Lane, in a narrow old house with a cement pylon in front, with the street drain running right below it. Raju tells Velan, “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. All the classes were held there at the same time, and he bestowed attention on each group in turn. I belonged to the youngest and most elementary set, just learning the alphabet and numbers. He made us read aloud from our books and copy down the letters on our slates, and looked through each and gave corrections and flicks from the cane for those who repeated their follies. He was a very abusive man. My father, who wanted to save me from the language of the railway trackmen, had certainly not made a safer choice in sending me to this old man, who habitually addressed his pupils as donkeys and traced their genealogies on either side with thoroughness.”

      The boys made a lot of noise, and as soon as the master’s back was turned and he had gone into the house for a moment, they rolled over each other, fought, scratched, bleated and yelled. Once they even invaded his privacy, entered in, passed through several rooms, and found him cooking in the kitchen. They all giggled and the old master was furious. Henceforth, they were forbidden to enter the house. How they confined their attention to the drain that flowed beneath the pyol, and floated paper-boats on it. The old man warned them to be careful, for if they fell into the drain they would be carried to the river Sarayu, and their fathers will have to look for them there.

      The old teacher was paid one rupee per month for each boy. However, the boys brought to him presents of eatables frequently and in this way he was able to make both ends meet. Whenever he was short of some article, he would ask some boy or the other to bring it to him from his home. Their parents were always glad to oblige him for he kept them in his charge for nearly the whole day, and thus, relieved them of the trouble. Raju was intelligent. He did well at school and within a year he was found fit to be admitted to the first standard in the Board High School. The old master himself took them there, and blessed them before leaving them. It was a pleasant surprise for them to find out that he could be so kind.

      From the past, the narration now returns to the present, and the narration is conducted by the novelist through the question and answer method. Velan comes to Raju and tells him that, thanks to him, everything was now well in his home, for the ‘difficult sister’ had agreed to marry the groom of his choice. All in the family were happy; it was almost a miracle he had performed. He would not delay even a second, and the marriage would be performed at the earliest. For fear that she may change her mind once again, Raju asked. He knew why Velan was rushing it through at this pace. It was easy to guess why. But the remark threw the other into a fit of admiration, and he asked, “How did you know what I had in mind, sir?”

      Raju remained silent. He could not open his lips without provoking admiration. This was a dangerous state of affairs. He was in a mood to debunk himself little. He told Velan sharply, “There is nothing extraordinary in my guess”, and promptly came the reply, “Not for you to say that, sir. Things may look easy enough for a giant, but ordinary poor mortals like us can never know what goes on in the people’s minds”. The irony was that, despite himself, Raju was acquiring the reputation of being a saint with extraordinary powers.

      Velan pressed him to come to the wedding but Raju refused to do so. The result was that the wedding came to him in the form of the bride, the bride-groom and a large number of the guests. The bride herself had spoken of him as a saint. She had told them, “He does’t speak to any one, but if he looks at you, you are changed.” Fruits on huge trays covered with silk were brought to him, and he accepted them gratefully, as it befitted a saint to accept the offerings of his devotees.

      The circle of Raju’s admirers gradually increased. After finishing his day’s work Velan would come to him, and soon more and more people began coming to him. They brought fruits, and packets of food as gifts, and Raju accepted their gifts with thanks. After all jail was the only other place, where he could get his food for nothing. If he talked, they listened to him gratefully; if not, they sat in perfect silence and then went away as it began to grow dark.

      Raju felt uncomfortable at thus being treated as a saint. He wanted to leave the place and go somewhere else. He wanted to do something to earn his living. He thought and thought, but could find no way out. He could not return to his village, for he would be mocked and jeered at by the people. Moroever, he had already mortgaged his house, and had no place to live in.

      One evening before his devotees arrived, he hid himself behind a gigantic bush full of red flowers. They were much surprised when they did not find him on his usual seat, and went round the temple in search of him. He could easily overhear their remarks.

‘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. What a pity he is not here today’.

‘Just sitting there for a few minutes with him—ah, what a change it has brought about in our household. Do you know, that cousin of mine came round last night and gave me back the promissory note. As long as he held it, I felt as if I had put knife in his hand for stabbing us.’

‘We won’t have to fear anything more; it is our good fortune that this great soul should have come to life in our midst.’

‘But he has disappeared today. Wonder if he has left us for good?

‘It would be our misfortune if he went away.’

‘His clothes are still all there in the hall.’ ‘He has no fears.’

‘The food I brought yesterday has been eaten.’

‘Leave there what you have brought now; he is sure to come back from his outing and feel hungry.’ Raju felt grateful to this man for his sentiment.

‘Do you know sometimes these Yogis can travel to the Himalayas just by a thought ?’

‘I dont think he is that kind of Yogi’, said another.

      ‘Who can say? Appearances are sometimes misleading’, said someone. They then moved off to their usual seat and sat there. For a long time Raju could hear them talking among themselves. After a while they left. Raju could hear them splashing the water with their feet. ‘Let us go before it gets too dark. They say that there is an old crocodile in this part of the river.’

A boy known to me was held up by his ankle once, at this very spot.’ ‘What happened, then?’

‘He was dragged down, next day.....’

      Raju could hear their voices far off. He cautiously peeped out of his hiding. He could see their shadowy figures on the other bank. He waited till they vanished altogether from sight. Then he went in and lit a lamp. He was hungry. They had left his food wrapped in a banana leaf on the pedestal of the old stone image. Raju was filled with gratitude and prayed that Velan might never come to the stage of thinking that he was too good for food and that he subsisted on atoms from the air.

      It is clear from these remarks 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.

      That evening he waited and waited for Velan and his friends to arrive, but none came. Will they never come again? He felt hungry, and soon grew panicky. Then he saw a boy grazing his sheep in a field on the opposite bank. He called him, and questioned him. He told him that he was grazing his sheep there, because his uncle had asked him to watch for a man in the temple. Raju asked him to tell his uncle that the man had returned, and wanted him to visit him that very evening. He gave the boy a banana to win him over.

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