The Guide: by R. K. Narayan - Chapter 5 Summary

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      The action moves down vertically into the past, and Raju again takes up the story of his past at the point he had left it. He soon became famous as a guide and came to be known as ‘Railway Raju’. Perfect strangers, as soon as they would get down the train, would ask for him, and would ask questions regarding the various places in Malgudi which were worth seeing. He was intelligent and shrewd and soon learned to handle these tourists, eager for sight-seeing. He never said, ‘I don’t know’, but when a tourist asked if such and such a place was worth seeing, he would at once say, it was certainly worth seeing. Soon he made friends with a taxi driver, Ghaffar, and when any one asked him as to how he should go to some particular place, he at once directed him to Ghaffar who was to be found in the Market Square. His taxi was old and decayed, but Raju would praise it highly, saying that only such a taxi could be driven on the road which led to the place he wanted to see. As a result of his constant contact with the tourists, his own knowledge of the region increased. He realised that Malgudi had countless beauty spots and historical curiosities, and he made good use of his knowledge. He could talk very well and delighted the tourists with his smooth talk, as well as with the information and guidance he provided. Moreover, he learned to assess the financial resources of his customers and would plan out their sight-seeing programmes accordingly.

      He pleased the tourists, and was well paid for his services. More and more the shop was left to the son of a coolie, and Raju himself acted as a guide to the ever-increasing tourist traffic that poured into Malgudi. His fame had spread and people who came from even far off places, inquired about him and were eager to have his services. One day there came a man who wanted him to show the way to the Market Square and the taxi. He took him to Ghaffar and told him to take the gentleman, a very good friend of his, to the places he wanted to see, and to bring him back safely by the evening. The man went to the sources of the river Sarayu on the top of the Memphi Hills, and on return late in the evening rested under the awning of his shop on the platform. He talked incessantly about the beauty of the place and thus added considerably to his knowledge. He added much to it from his own imagination, and henceforth talked of it in glowing terms. He would talk of the Bungalow on the Hills, and the wild animals which could be seen at night through its glass walls. If a tourist was scholarly, he would be more cautious, but with the ordinary run of tourists he would give free play to his imagination, and would talk wildly of the beauty of this spot and that. He learned to recognise a tourist and a prospective customer as soon as he alighted from the train. He was intelligent and observant and in a few months he became a seasoned guide. As he himself tells us, “I had viewed myself as an amateur guide and a professional shopman, but now gradually I began to think of myself as a part-time shopkeeper and a full-time tourist guide. Even when I had no tourists to guide I did not go back to my shop, but to Ghaffar on the fountain parapet, and listened to his talk about derelict automobiles?’

      “I had classified all my patrons. They were very varied, I can tell you. Some were passionate photographers; these men could never look at any object except through their view-finders. The moment they got down the train, even before lifting their baggage, they asked, ‘Is there a place where they develop films?’

‘Of course, Malgudi Photo Bureau. One of the biggest...

And if I want roll-films? I have, of course, enough stock with me, but if I run-out.... Do you think superpanchro three-colour something-or-other is available there?’

‘Of course, That’s his special line.’

‘Will he develop and show me a print while I wait?’

‘Of course, before you count twenty. He is a wizard.’ ‘That is nice. Now, where are you going to take me first?’

      “These were routine questions from a routine type. I had all the satisfactory answers ready. I generally took time to answer the later question as to where I was going to take him first. It depended on the receipt of certain data. I waited before venturing to answer. The data were how much time and money he was going to spend. Malgudi and its surroundings were my special show. I could let a man have a peep at it or whole panorama. It was adjustable. I could give them a glimpse of a few hours or soak them in mountain and river scenery or archaeology for a whole week. I could not really decide how much to give or withhold until I knew how much cash the man carried or, if he carried a cheque-book, how good it was. This was another delicate point. Sometimes a traveller offered to write a cheque for this man or that, and, of course, our Gaffur or the photographer or the keeper of the forest bungalow on top of the Mempi Hills would not trust a stranger enough to accept his cheque. I had to put off such an offer with the utmost delicacy by saying. ‘Oh the banking system in our town is probably the worst you can think of. Sometimes, they take twenty days to realise a cheque, but these poor fellows, how can they wait?’ — rather a startling thing to say, but I did’t care, if the banking reputation of our town suffered.

      As soon as a tourist arrived, I observed, how he dealt with his baggage, whether he engaged a porter at all or preferred to carry his luggage himself. I had to note all this within a split second, and then, outside, whether he walked to the hotel or called a taxi or haggled with the one-horse jutka. Of course, I undertook all this on his behalf, but always with detachment. I did all this for him simply for the reason that he asked for “Railway Raju,” the moment he stepped down on the platform and I knew he came with good references, whether he came from north or south or far or near. And at the hotel it was my business to provide him with the best room or the worst room, just as he might prefer. Those who took the cheapest dormitory said, After all, it’s only for sleeping, I am going to be out the whole day. Why waste money on a room which is any way going to be locked up all day? Don’t you agree?’

      ‘Surely, yes, yes.’ I nodded, still without giving any answer to ‘Where are you going to take me first?’ I might still be said to be keeping the man under probation, under careful scrutiny. I never made any suggestion yet. No use expecting a man to be clear-headed when he is fresh from a train journey. He must wash, change his clothes, refresh himself with idli and coffee, and only then can we expect anyone in South India to think clearly on all matters of this world and the next. If he offered me any refreshment, I understood that he was a comparatively liberal sort.”
In this career as a tourist guide, he soon learned that no two tourists were interested in the same things. Some were interested in historical relics, others in the beauty of nature, others in sitting in the quietly and secluded bungalow on the Memphi Peaks, watching the wild animals prowling about at night. Some would like to enjoy sex there, and brought women with them. There were others who acted as his examiners and put all sorts of awkward questions to him, but he could hold his own against all. Says Raju, “I learned while I taught and earned while I learned, and the whole thing was most enjoyable”. On special occasions like the trapping of an elephant or bear, tourists would come in large numbers and Raju would arrange for them a ringside seat in the spacious bamboo jungles. He thus acquired a reputation of having considerable influence with the forest department. This influence was acquired very tactfully by doing small services for the officials and employees of the department, and they in turn obliged him by providing seats to his clients. His knowledge grew. If someone wanted to see a tiger or shoot one, I knew where to arrange it: I arranged for the lamb to bait the tiger, and had high platforms built so that the brave hunters might pop off the poor beast when it came to eat the lamb, although I never liked to see either the lamb or the tiger die. If someone wanted to see a king cobra spread out its immense hood, I knew the man who could provide the show.

      It was in this way that he came across Rosie and her husband whom he called ‘Marco’, because he was dressed as if he were an eternal tourist. This man was the first to arrive. Raju took him to the Anand Bhavan Hotel, and made arrangements for his stay there. Then after a day of sight-seeing, in the afternoon, he suddenly announced that another person was coming by the Madras train. This ‘other person’ was none else but his wife, Rosie. He went to the station with Marco to receive her in his usual dress, a khaki bush coat and dhoti. Says Raju, “the moment she got down from the train I wished I had hidden myself somewhere. She was not very glamorous, if that is what you expect, but she did have a figure, a slight and slender one, beautifully fashioned eyes that sparkled, a complexion not white, but dusky, which made her only half visible as if you saw her through a film offender coconut juice. Forgive me if you find me waxing poetic. I gave some excuse and sent them off to the hotel, and stayed back to run home and tidy up my appearance.”

      As soon as she had set foot in Malgudi she had asked, “Can you show me a cobra—a king kobra it must be—which can dance to the music of a flute?” Raju had replied that he could show such a cobra. But first he took them to the Iswar temple in North Extension on the walls of which are carved hundreds of verses from the Ramayana, and leaving them there went at once to find out where a king cobria was to be seen. He collected the necessary information within a short time and fetufned to find Rosie bored and tired, and her husband still busy with the verses carved on the temple walls.

      Rosie at once came with him, and together they went to a group of huts on the other bank of the river, where the snake-charmer lived. The cobra was fairly large, and hissed and spread its hood as it came out of the basket. Rosie suggested, “You must play on the flute, make it rear its head and dance”. The man pulled out his gourd flute and played on it shrilly, and the cobra raised itself and darted hither and thither and then swayed. The whole thing repelled me, but seemed to fascinate the girl. She watched it swaying with the raptest attention. She stretched out her arm slightly and swayed it in imitation of the movement; she swayed her whole body to the rhythm — for just a second, but that was sufficient to tell me what she was, the greatest dancer of the century.

      They returned to the hotel at seven in the evening. Marco was waiting in the porch. He asked Raju to come with the taxi at ten the next day, and then went into his room with Rosie. Raju was very angry at this curt behaviour and thoroughly disliked the man. At home, when he told his mother about the visit to the snake-charmer, she advised him not to have anything to do with these dancing women. He did not heed the warning, and dressed himself in his very best, and was at the hotel exactly at ten. Gaffur was already there with the taxi. The man came out alone and told him that he would again go to the temple and study the carving for sometime more. Raju was eager to know why Rosie had not come with him, but he dared not put a direct question. Still he asked, “Is no one else coming?” He replied in the negative, and then asked were there any cave-paintings in this part of the country. Raju told him that there were very good cave-paintings, but the place was far off and they might not be able to return by nightfall. If they went there, they would have to stay for the night at the Peak House Forest Bungalow. He at once went back to his Hotel-room, and soon returned with a downcast face. He was now in a more talkative mood, and asked Raju, “You have probably no notion how to deal with women, have you?”, and added, “if a man has to have peace of mind, it is best that he forgot the fair sex.” It was for the first time during the three days of their association, that he became so friendly and so Raju made bold to ask, “shall I go and try on your behalf?” It was a rash question, but to his great relief, the man agreed, and Raju at once rushed to their room. As he knocked at the door, “Don’t trouble me, I don’t want to come with you. Leave me alone,’ came the girl’s voice from within.

I said, ‘It’s not he, but me.’

‘What?’ asked the sweet voice, puzzled and irritated.

      I repeated, ‘It is not him, but me. Don’t you know my voice? Didn’t I come with you yesterday to that cobra man ? All night I didn’t sleep’, I added, lowering my voice, and whispered through a chink in the door. ‘The way you danced, your form and figure haunted me at all night.’

      Hardly had I finished my sentence when the door half opened and she looked at me. “Oh, you’, she said, her eyes lighting up with understanding.

‘My name is Raju’, I said.

She scrutinised me thoroughly. ‘Of course, I know you,’ she said. Where is he’?

      ‘Waiting in the car for you. Won’t you get ready and come out?’ She looked dishevelled, her eyes were red with recent tears, and she wore a faded cotton sari; no paint or perfume. I told her, ‘You may come out as you are and no one will mind it.’ And I added, ‘Who would decorate a rainbow?’

      Why do you want me to go out with him? Leave me in peace, she said, opening her eyes wide, which gave me another opportunity to whisper close to her face, ‘Because life is so blank without your presence’

      She could have pushed my face back, crying, ‘How dare you talk like this’ and shut the door on me. But she didn’t. She merely said, ‘I never knew you would be such a troublesome man. Wait a minute, then.’ She withdrew into her room. I wanted to cry with all my being, ‘Let me in.’ I heard footsteps and saw that her husband had come to see the results.

‘Well, is she coming or not? I am not prepared to waste all—’

‘Hush’, I said. ‘She will be out in a moment. Please go back to the car?

‘Really’ he muttered in amazement. ‘You are a wizard’.

      He noiselessly turned and went back to his car. Presently the lady did come out like a vision, and said, ‘Let us go. But for you, I would have given you all a few surprises.’


‘I would have taken the next train home.’

‘We are going to a wonderful spot. Please be your usual sweet self, for my sake.’

      ‘All right’, she said and we went down the steps; I followed. She opened the door of the car, went straight in, and took her seat, as her husband edged away to make space for her. I came over to the other side and sat down beside him. I was not prepared to go and sit down beside Gaffur at this stage.

      The episode shows that Raju, the tourists’ guide, was also an expert lady-killer, bold in paying compliments.

      At the suggestion of Gaffur, they took a suit-case containing a change of clothing etc., in case they were obliged to stay out for the night. Raju stopped at his house, collected his necessaries, and dashed out in a moment to the great surprise of his mother. They reached the Peak House at about four in the afternoon, and decided to stay there for the night. The caretaker, Joseph, made them quite comfortable and looked to their meals. Marco gave him enough money so that he may defray the expenses, and submit the accounts later. He did not want to be bothered with petty matters. Marco, it seems was an eccentric, highly wayward in his ways. “He was unsteady—sometimes he announced aloud his indifference to money, next minute he’d suddenly show every symptom of miserliness and behave like an auditor, but ultimately he’d pay for everything if, as I discovered, he got a voucher for payments. He would not yield an anna without a vouchee whereas if you gave him a slip of paper; you could probably get him to write off his entire fortuned Raju had already learned how to handle him, and get things done without annoying him.

      At dinner, Raju tried to serve their food, but Rosie wanted to play the role of a good hostess, and so snatched the dish from his hand. Their hands touched, and the touch made his head reel. “The effect was electrical. Oh, that touch made my head reel for a moment. I didn’t see anything clearly. Everything disappeared into a sweet, dark haze, as under chloroform. My memory dwelt on the touch all through the dinner: I was not aware what we were eating or what they were saying. I sat with bowed head. I was nervous to see her face and meet her looks. I don’t recollect when we finished eating and when she took away the dishes. I was only conscious of her soft movements. My thoughts dwelt on her golden touch. A part of my mind went on saying, ‘No, no. It is not right. But it was impossible to put the thoughts back.”

      After dinner, Marco took one of the two lamps and was soon lost in his papers. But Rosie wanted to see the wild beasts, and so they sat on the verandah looking out of the glass wall. Rosie was afraid that the animals might break in but Raju assured her that it was not possible as there was a wide moat round the bungalow. Some animal could be seen at a distance, and the lady was excited. Raju, too, was becoming poetical, but it was lucky that he restrained himself, for at that very moment, Marco came up, and sat with them for sometime.

      Next morning, the atmosphere was again bleak and tense. They must have quarrelled during the night. He came out alone, took his coffee, and was in a hurry to go out to the caves. He did not want to waste his time fooling about with ladies. Says Raju, “I wanted to cry out, ‘Oh, monster, what do you do to her that makes her sulk like this on rising? What a treasure you have in your hand, without realising its worth — like a monkey picking up a rose garland.’ Then a thrilling thought occurred to me-probably she was feigning anger again, so that I might intercede.” But he did not get an opportunity to persuade her to come out, and had to go to the cave with Marco, whom he now thoroughly detested.

      Soon they reached the cave. Marco stood outside and surveyed its entrance. He was in raptures and said, “You see, this entrance must have been a later improvisation; the cave itself, I know, must have been carved about first century A.D. The entrance and the door are of a later date. You see, that kind of tall entrance and the carved doorway became a current fashion in the seventh or eighth century, when the South Indian rulers became fond of...” He went on talking. Dead and decaying things seemed to unloosen his tongue and fire his imagination, rather than things that lived and moved and swung their limbs. I had little to do as a guide; he knew so much more of everything.

      When he passed in, he completely forgot the world outside and its inhabitants. The roof was low, but every inch of the wall space was covered with painted figures. He flashed a torch on the walls. He took out of his pocket a mirror and placed it outside to catch the sunlight and throw a beam on the paintings. Bats were whirring about; the floor was broken and full of holes. But he minded nothing. He became busy measuring, writing down, photographing, all the time keeping up a chatter, not bothered in the least whether I listened or not.

      “I was bored with his ruins-collecting activities. The wall-painting represented episodes from the epics and mythology, and all kinds of patterns and motifs, with men, women, and kings and animals, in a curious perspective and proportion of their own, and ancient like the rocks. I had seen hundreds like them, and I saw no point in seeing more. I had no taste for them, just as he had no taste for other things.”

      Then suddenly, Raju had a flesh of inspiration. He pretended that he heard the sound of Gaffur’s car, and that he would like to go to the bungalow. Marco permitted him to do so, and asked him to keep Gaffur and not allow him to go away. In this way he returned alone to the bungalow and found Rosie sitting on a boulder under the shade of a tree. Without wasting much time he asked? her boldly, “every night you generally sit up and quarrel, do you?” Rosie told him frankly that they don’t agree on most matters, and that they do quarrel frequently, and Raju boldly said, “It is unthinkable that anyone should find it possible to quarrel or argue with you—being with you must be such bliss.” It was a bold thing to say, but Rosie was not angry. Emboldened, Raju spoke out his mind. ‘I praised her dancing. I spoke out my love, but sandwiched it conveniently between my appreciations of her art. I spoke of her as an artist in one breath, and continued in the next to praise her as a sweet-heart. Something like this, ‘What a glorious’ snake dance. Oh, I keep thinking of you all night. World’s artist number one. Don’t you see how I am pining for you every hour.’

It worked. She said, ‘You are a bother to me,’ (‘Oh, no’, I wanted to cry) ‘and I’ll tell you what happens.’ She gave me an account of their daily quarrels.

‘Why did you marry at all?’ I asked recklessly.

She remained moody and said, ‘I don’t know. It just happened.’ ‘You married him because of his wealth’, I said, ‘and you were advised by your uncle and the rest?

‘You see,’ she began, plucking my sleeve, ‘Can you guess to what class I belong?’

I looked her up and down and ventured, ‘The finest whatever it may be, and I don’t believe in class or caste. You are an honour to your caste whatever it may be?

She was pleased, and began to confide in him. She gave him an account of her past. She said, “I belong to a family traditionally dedicated to the temples as dancers; my mother, grandmother and before her, her mother. Even as a young girl I danced in our village temple. You know how our caste is viewed ?”

‘It’s the noblest caste on earth’, I said.
‘We are viewed as public women’, she said plainly, and I was thrilled to hear the words. ‘We are not considered respectable; we are not considered civilised.’

‘All that narrow notion may be true of old days, but it’s different now. Things have changed. There is no caste or class today.’

      A different life was planned for me by my mother. She put me to school early in life; I studied well. I took my master’s degree in Economics. But after college, the question was whether I should become a dancer or do something else. One day I saw in our paper an advertisement — the usual kind you may have seen: “Wanted an educated, good-looking girl to marry a rich bachelor of academic, interest. No caste restrictions; good looks and university degree essential.’ I asked myself, “Have I looks?”

‘Oh, who could doubt it?’

‘I had myself photographed clutching the scroll of the university citation in one hand, and sent it to the advertiser. Well, we met, he examined me and my certificate, we went to the registrar and got married.’ .

“He had a big house, a motor-car, he was a man of high social standing; he had a house outside Madras, he was living in it all alone, no family at all; he lived with his books and papers.’

‘So you have no mother-in-law,’ I said.

      ‘I’d have preferred any kind of mother-in-law, if it had meant one real, live husband’, she said. I looked up at her to divine her meaning, but she lowered her eyes. I could only guess. She said, ‘He is interested in painting and old art and things like that.’

‘But not one which can move its limbs, I suppose,’ I said.

I sighed deeply, overcome with the sadness of her life. I placed my hand on her shoulder and gently stroked it. ‘I am really very unhappy to think of you; such a gem lost to the world. In his place I would have made you a queen of the world’. ‘She didn’t push away my hand. I let it travel and felt the softness of her ear and pushed my fingers through the locks of her hair.’

      In this way, they became declared lovers for all practical purpose. Gaffur did not turn up with the car, but sent words through a truck-driver that his car had a break-down, and he would come the next day. They were all pleased, Marco, because it would give him more time to study the caves, and Rosie, because in the night she would be able to view, ‘her animals’. ‘So while Marco remained alone in his room pouring over his papers, Raju sat with her in the verandah holding her hand.

      When Gaffur came with his car, Marco decided to stay on for a day more to study the carvings, and sent Raju to bring his black box from the hotel in which were some papers he wanted. Rosie also came with him, as, she said, she also wanted a few things from her box. So, they came together to the town in Gaffur’s car, and they decided to stay there for the night and return to Marco the next morning.

      Raju left her at the hotel, and he himself came to his home where he had a quick bath and change of clothes. He really looked impressive. Then he returned to Rosie and took her round the town for sight-seeing. She enjoyed everything, and was thrilled and excited like a baby. They had dinner in a crowded restaurant, and Raju told her to buy anything she liked from the stores. It seemed that she had never been treated with such consideration. Then Raju dismissed Gaffur and the taxi, for he did not want Gaffur to be constantly watching his movements. They enjoyed a cinema show. Rosie was delighted, and her eyes sparkled with joy. When he took her to the hotel it was pretty late in the night. Nobody noticed their arrival. Says Raju, ‘At the door of Number 28, I hesitated. She opened the door, passed in, and hesitated, leaving the door half open. She stood looking at me for a moment, as on the first day.

‘Shall I go away?’ I asked in a whisper.

‘Yes. Good night’ she said feebly.

‘May I not come in?’ I asked, trying to look my saddest.

‘No, no, go away,’ she said. But on an impulse I gently pushed her out of the way, and stepped in and locked the door on the world.

Thus did Rosie become his mistress.

      It is to be noted that the entire chapter, a very long one, deals with Raju’s past, and Raju is the narrator throughout. He played the role of a tourist guide to perfection; and in this chapter he shows himself equally adept as a lover. In his affair with Rosie lies the germ of all his future troubles.

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