The Guide: by R. K. Narayan - Chapter 10 Summary

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      Raju had to pass three days in the lock-up. Rosie came to see him in the lock-up and wept. They had so much money but all of it was gone. It was with the difficulty that the ten thousand rupees required for the bail were arranged for and the bail obtained.

      The old life was now impossible. Very few people visited them, they received few letters and telegrams, and Raju’s old friends gradually deserted him. There was a stigma on his name, and nobody likes to associate with an alleged criminal. The earnings had been enormous, but most of their income was spent foolishly in lavish living, and the rest of it, including the advance taken for future engagements was tied up in securities on which no bank was prepared to give any advance. Therefore, it was necessary that Rosie should go through the engagements they had already entered into, and also accept further offers. He, therefore, decided to talk to her about the matter.

      It was a difficult task. The fact was that ever since his arrest he had become a sort of hanger-on in the home. Rosie had taken full charge of her affairs, and was acting with great courage and determination. He realised that there was strength in her, and she was quite capable of managing her affairs. She told Raju that on the first of the next month, she was to dismiss some of the servants and thus curtail their expenses. Raju realised that now it was she who was the master of the situation. She had done everything she could to help him, and had arranged for the bail with courage and determination. But suddenly Raju felt angry with her. He thought, she was not on the threshold of a prison. She had not been the one who had run hither and thither creating glamour and a public for a dancer; it was not she who had been fiendishly trapped by a half forgotten man like Marco—an apparent gazer at cave-paintings but actually venomous and vindictive, like the cobra lying in wait for its victim. I can now see that it was very wrong line of thought to adopt. But how could I help it? It was only such perverse lines of thought and my excessive self-pity that enabled me to survive those moments; one needed all that amount of devilry to keep oneself afloat, I could give no time for others. I could not bother to think of her own troubles, of the mess she had been led into, of the financial emptiness after all those months of dancing and working, of the surprise sprung upon her by my lack of — what should we call it judgment? No, it was something much lower than that. Lack of ordinary character, I see it all now clearly, but at that time I still clung to my own grievances, and could watch without much perturbation her emotional antrums.

      When she asked him, “where is all the money?” she cruelly retorted, “you should know. The account is all in your name, and you may see the bank book if you like.” It was a cruel thing to say, but some Devil seemed to have possessed him. She said that she would not dance any more, but she would return all the money that had been accepted as advance. To his question as to what she intended to do in future, she replied that perhaps she would return to her husband. At this Raju asked, “Do you think he will take you back?”

‘Yes, if I stop dancing?

I laughed in a sinister manner. ‘Why do you laugh?’ She asked.

‘If it were only the question of dancing, he might.’

      Why did I talk like this? It hurt her very much. ‘Yes, you are in a position to say such a thing now. He may not admit me over the threshold, in which event it is far better to end one’s life on his doorstep.’ She remained moody for a while. Then she added, ‘I think the best solution for all concerned would be to be done with this business of living. I mean both of us. A dozen sleeping pills in a glass of milk, or two glasses of milk. One often hears of suicide pacts. It seems to me a wonderful solution, like going on a long holiday. We could sit and talk one night perhaps, and sip our glasses of milk, and may be we should wake up in a trouble-free world. I’d propose it this very minute if I were sure you would keep the pact, but I fear that I may go ahead and you may change your mind at the last second.’

      And have the responsibility of disposing of your body?’ I said, which was the worst thing I could have said. Why was I speaking like this again and again, I think I was piqued that she would not continue her dancing, was a free creature, while I was a jailbird. Such were Raju’s feelings at the time; in this way the novelist has given us a peep into the complexities of the human psyche.

      Very soon Raju regained self-control, and tried to persuade her to begin dancing once again. He tried to console her with the idea that it was a false charge and that the case would break down at the very first hearing. But she was not convinced. She no longer wanted to continue her “Circus existence”. She told him frankly. “It does not mean I’m not going to help. If I have to pawn my last possession, I’ll do it to save you from jail. But once it’s over, leave me once and for all; that’s all I ask. Forget me. Leave me to live or die as I choose; that’s all.”

      She kept her words. A sudden activity seized her. She ran about with Mani’s help. She sold her diamonds. She gathered all cash she could, selling under par all the shares. She sent him to Madras to pick up a big lawyer for me. When the stress for cash became acute and she found we would have a lot to make up, she became somewhat more practical-minded. She swallowed her own words and went through her engagements, shepherding she musicians herself, with Mani’s help, making all the railway arrangements, and so forth. I taimted her as I saw her moving around. ‘You see, this is what I wanted you to do.’

      There was no dearth of engagements. In fact, my present plight, after a temporary lull, seemed to create an extra interest. It hurt me to see her go through her work, practise her engagements unconcernedly. Mani was very helpful to her, and those that invited her gave her all assistance. Everything went to prove that she could get on excellently without me. I felt like telling Mani, ‘Be careful. She’ll lead you on before you know where you are, and then you will find yourself in my shoes all
of a sudden. Beware the snake woman.’ I knew, my mind was not working either normally or fairly. I knew, I was growing jealous of her self-reliance. But I forgot for the moment that she was doing it all for my sake. I feared that, in spite of the protestations to the contrary, she would never stop dancing. She would not be able to stop. She would go from strength to strength I knew, looking at the way she was going about her business, that she would manage — whether I was inside the bars or outside, whether her husband approved of it or not. Neither Marco nor I had any place in her life, which had its own sustaining vitality and which she herself had under-estimated all along.”

      One of the most famous lawyers was engaged and an exorbitant fee had to be paid to him. In his own way, he was an “adjournment lawyer”. He could split a case into minute bits and demanded as many days for microscopic examination. He would keep the court fidgeting without being able to rise for lunch, because he could talk without completing a sentence; he had a knack of telescoping into sentence without pausing for breath.

      He arrived by the morning train and left by the evening one, and until that time he neither moved off the court floor nor let the case progress even an inch for the day— so that a judge had to wonder how the day had spent itself. Thus he prolonged the lease of freedom for a criminal within the available time, whatever might be the final outcome. But this meant also for the poor case-stricken man more expenses, as his charges per day were seven hundred and fifty rupees, and he had to be paid railway and other expenses as well, and he never came without juniors to assist him.

      He tried to prove that the chief villain in the whole drama was Marco. He opened the case very cleverly. He told the court that Marco, the villain, wanted to drive his wife mad. But the poor, wronged wife survived his attacks, and on the point of privation and death was saved by a humble humanitarian called Raju who sacrificed his time and profession for the protection of the lady and enabled her to rise so high in the world of the arts. Her life was a contribution to the prestige of our nation and our cultural traditions. When the whole world was thirsting for Bharat Natyam, here was this man slighting it, and when she made a big name for herself, someone was jealous. Someone wanted to devise a way of blowing up this whole edifice of a helpless lady’s single-handed upward career. And then the schemer brought out the document — a document which had been forgotten and laid in concealment for so many years. There was some other motive in involving the lady by getting her to sign the document—he would go into it at a later part of the argument. It was his favourite device to make something look sinister; he never found the opportunity to return to why it had been kept back for all those years? Why did he leave it alone so long? Our lawyer would leave the point for the present without a comment. He looked about like a hound scenting a fox. The document was returned without signature. The idea was not to get involved, and the lady was not the type to get caught by jewellery; she cared little for it. And so the document was unsigned and returned, the good man Raju himself carrying it to the post-office in order to make sure of its dispatch, as the postmaster would testify. So it was a big disappointment for the Schemer when the document went back unsigned. So they thought of another trick; someone copied the lady’s signature on it and took it to the police. It was not his business to indicate who could have done it; he was not interested in the question. He was only interested to the extent of saying categorically that it was not his client who had done it; and unhesitatingly he would recommend that he should be immediately discharged and exonerated.

      The whole of the defence is a clever piece of satire on lawyers and their ways. Justice is thus perverted and white is proved to be black, and truth is turned into falsehood by the legal hair-splitting of the members of the profession. Instead of justice there is injustice and the very ends of justice are thwarted.

      The lawyers are greedy, money counts for much, and one who is ready to pay the necessary price can, at least, delay endlessly the course of justice.

      But the prosecution case was strong, and could not be so easily demolished. Mani was subjected to minute cross-examination, till he blurted out that Raju had been waiting eagerly for the arrival of an insured parcel, and was making inquiries about it practically every day. He looked excited and unusual. Then finally, the hand-writing experts testified against him. They said that it could easily be taken to be his hand-writing. The case dragged on for many months and Rosie worked even harder than before to keep their household going, as well as arrange payments to the lawyer and his juniors. Ultimately, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. His mother was present in the court hall at the time. She said to Raju, “What a shame you have brought on yourself and all known to you. I used to think that the worst that could happen to you might be death, as when you had that pneumonia for weeks, but I now wish that rather than survive and go through this.” She could not complete her sentence; she broke down and went along the corridor and out before we assembled again to hear the judgment. It was the snake-woman who had ruined him and Raju came to know later, she frankly told Rosie her opinion.

      In jail Raju’s conduct was ideal, and he soon came to be regarded as a model prisoner. Raju himself tells us as to how he conducted himself in jail, I visited all departments of the prison as a sort of benevolent supervisor. I got on well with all the warders: I relieved them in their jobs when other prisoners had to be watched. I watched the weaving section and the carpentry sheds. Whether they were murderers or cut-throats or highway men, they all listened to me, and I could talk them out of their blackest moods. When there was a respite, I told them stories and philosophies and what not. They came to refer to me as Vadhyar—that is, teacher. There were five hundred prisoners in that building and I could claim to have established a fairly widespread intimacy with most of them. I got on well with the officials too. When the jail superintendent went about his inspections. I was one of those privileged to walk behind and listen to his remarks; and I ran little errands for him, which endeared me to him. He had only to look ever so slightly to his left, and I knew what he wanted. I dashed up and called the warder he was thinking of calling; he had only to hesitate for a second, and I knew he wanted that pebble on the road to be picked up and thrown away. It pleased him tremendously. In addition, I was in a position to run ahead and warn warders and other subordinates of his arrival; and that gave them time to rouse themselves from brief naps and straighten their turbans.

      I worked incessantly on a vegetable patch in the backyard of the superintendent’s home. I dug the earth and drew water from the well and tended it carefully. I put fences round, with brambles and thorns so that cattle did not destroy the plants. I grew huge brinjals and beans, and cabbages. When they appeared on their stalks as tiny buds, I was filled with excitement. I watched them develop, acquire shape, change colour, shed the early parts. When the harvest was ready, I plucked them off their stalks tenderly, washed them, wiped them clean to a polish with the end of my jail jacket, arranged them artistically on a tray of woven bamboo and carried them in ceremoniously. When he saw the highly polished brinjals, greens, and cabbage, the superintendent nearly hugged me for joy. He was a lover of good food, wherever it came from. I loved every piece of this work, the blue sky and sunshine.

      The superintendent was so much pleased that he transferred him to his office. This was a position of privilege, and Raju was even more comfortable than before. From the papers he could know that Rosie was still performing and was much in demand. Mani came to visit him and informed him that Rosie had left Malgudi and had settled in Madras. The only thing she had carried with her was the book of her husband. She was able to look after her affairs well, and continued to enjoy wide popularity. Raju was much pleased to learn that she had not gone back to her husband, but was living independently.

      Raju felt so comfortable in jail, that he began to feel that no place could be more pleasant, and laughed at those fools who considered jail to be a horrible place. When after two years, the time came for his release he felt choked with tears. He would have been most happy to have continued to live in jail permanently.

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