The Guide: by R. K. Narayan - Chapter 7 Summary

Also Read

      Raju made himself indispensable to Marco, and he was accepted by him almost as a family member. He was not a practical man: he could not do even ordinary things by himself. Neither did he take an interest in Rosie nor in his career. All the time he was pouring over his papers or studying the carvings in the caves. In this way he stayed for over a month at Peak House, and Raju became the incharge of all his affairs. They still kept their room in the hotel, and while he stayed on at the Peak House, Rosie kept going to and fro between the hotel and the Peak House. Raju was supposed to go about his own routine when he was not needed by Marco, but, in reality, all his time was taken up by keeping Rosie in company, and amusing her. Gaffur would often cast sly glances at him, and when alone would even warn him against these modern educated girls. It was clear that he suspected that their relationship was not of the right sort.

      Since Raju and Rosie intimate, Rosie had suddenly grown very solicitous about her husband. During her visits to the Peak House, she would fuss about him, put his room in order, and inquire if the food he was getting was of the right sort. Obviously, she suffered from guilt-complex and compensated her husband in this way for the loss of wifely devotion and fidelity. Raju too was not his usual self. He was obsessed with the thoughts of Rosie. Analysing his own psychological state during those hectic days he says, “I was losing a great deal of my mental relaxation. I was obsessed with thoughts of Rosie. I was obsessed with thoughts of Rosie. I revelled in memories of the hours I had spent with her last or in anticipation of what I’d be doing next. I had several problems to contend with. Her husband was the least of them. He was a good man, completely preoccupied, probably a man with an abnormal capacity for trust. But I was becoming nervous and sensitive and full of anxieties in various ways. Suppose, suppose—What? I myself could not specify. I was becoming fear-ridden. I couldn’t even sort out my worries properly. I was in a jumble. I was suddenly seized with fears, sometimes with a feeling that I didn’t look well enough for my sweet-heart. I was obsessed with the thought that I hadn’t perhaps shaved my chin smoothly enough, and that she would run her fingers over my upper lip and throw me out. Sometimes I felt I was in rage. The silk jibba and the lace-edged dhoti were being overdone or were old-fashioned. She was about to shut the door on me because I was not modern enough for her. This made me run to the tailor to have him make a few dashing bush-shirts and corduroys, and invest in hair and face-lotions and perfumes of all kinds. My expenses were mounting. The shop was my main source of income, together with what Marco gave me as my daily wages. I knew that I ought to look into the accounts of the shop a little more closely. I was leaving it too much to the boy to manage.”

      Marco's mother often advised him to have an eye on the boy, and to have a close look at the accounts, but he did not heed her advice. Instead of looking into the accounts in the real sense he tried to create an impression that he was, “a Devil for accounts”, and thus prevent any irregularity on the part of the boy. It was this boy who told him that tourists came and inquired about him. They wanted him to guide them during their tour of Malgudi. Since Raju had lost all interest in the job, the boy suggested that he would act as their guide, and in his absence a cousin of his would look after the shop. Raju was annoyed at the suggestion, did not like the idea, but could not give any satisfactory reply.

      Raju’s problems were multiplying, as he continued to neglect his personal affairs. He says, “My old life, in which I was not in the least interested, was dogging my steps; my mother facing me with numerous problems: municipal tax, the kitchen tiles needing attention, the shop, accounts, letters from the village, my health, and so on and so forth; to me she was a figure out of a dream, mumbling vague sounds; and this boy had his own way of cornering and attacking me. Then Gaffur with his sly remarks and looks, ever on the brink of gossip—Oh, I was tired of it all. I was in no mood for anything. My mind was on other matters. Even my finances were unreal to me, although if I cared to look at my savings-book, I could know at a glance how the level of the reservoir was going down. The only reality in my life and consciousness was Rosie. All my mental powers were now turned to keep her within my reach, and keep her smiling all the time, neither of which was at all easy. I would willingly have kept at her side all the time, as a sort of parasite; but in that hotel it was not easy. I was always racked with the thought that the man at the desk and the boy at the hotel were keeping an eye on me and were commenting behind my back. “He wanted to change the hotel, but neither Rosie nor her husband agreed to this.”

      Rosie was a difficult girl to understand and handle. She would allow Raju to make love to her, but in the midst of their love-making she would suddenly think of her husband, and would at once like to go to the hills and see him. Then she would suddenly become thoughtful and absent-minded and would remark, “After all, he is my husband. I have to respect him. I cannot leave him there?’ At another time, her conscience would trouble her and she would cry out, After all After all...Is this right what I am doing ? After all, he has been so good to me, given me comfort and freedom. What husband in the world let his wife go and live in a hotel room by herself, a hundred miles away?”

      ‘It is not a hundred miles, but fifty-eight only,’ I corrected. ‘Shall I order you coffee or anything to eat?’

      No, she would say point-blank, but continue the train of her own thoughts. As a good man he may not mind, but is it not a wife’s duty to guard and help her husband, whatever the way in which he deals with her? Raju was confused and bewildered, and did not know how to deal with her. He did not have enough knowledge of the female mind and heart. He could not tackle such situations properly, and only made matters worse by suggesting once that if she cared so much for him, she should go and stay with him.

      Her moods and whims were baffling, but a way out of the difficulty was soon suggested by herself. One day she asked him if he was interested in dancing or if he, too, like her husband did not care for it. Raju promptly replied that he loved the art, and would do anything to see her dance. At this Rosie brightened up at once, and her eyes lit up with pleasure. Now Raju knew the clue to her heart. He realised that, “Her art and her husband could not find a place in her thoughts at the same time; one drove the other out”

      She was full of plans. At five in the morning she’d start her practice and continue for three hours. She would have a separate hall, long enough and wide enough for her to move in. It must have a heavy carpet, which would be neither too smooth under the feet nor too rough, and which would not fold while she practised her steps on it. At one corner of the room she’d have a bronze figure of Nataraja, the god of dancers, the god whose primal dance created the vibrations that set the worlds in motion. She would have incense sticks burning. After her morning practice, she would call up the chauffeur.

Are you going to have a car?’ I asked.

‘Naturally, otherwise how can I move about? When I have so many engagements, it will be necessary for me to have a car. It’ll be indispensable, don’t you think?’

‘Surely, I’ll remember it.’

      She would then spend an hour or two in the forenoon studying the ancient works of the art, Nritya Shastra of Bharat Muni, a thousand years old, and various other books, because without a proper study of the ancient methods it would be impossible to keep the purity of the classical forms. All the books were in her uncle’s house, and she would write to him to send them on to her by and by. She would also want a pundit to come to her to help her to understand the texts, as they were all written in an old, terse style. ‘Can you get me a Sanskrit pundit?’ she asked. ‘Of course, I can. There are dozens of them.’

‘I shall also want him to read for me episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, because they are a treasure-house, and we can pick up so many ideas for new compositions from them.’

      A little rest after lunch; and at three o’clock she would go out and do shopping, and a drive and return home in the evening or see a picture, unless, of course, there was a performance in the evening. If there was a performance, she would like to rest till three in the afternoon and reach the hall only half an hour before the show. ‘That would be enough, because I shall do all the make-up and dressing before I leave the house.’

      “She thought of every detail, and dreamed of it night and day. Her immediate need would be partly of drummers and musicians to assist her morning practice. When she was ready to appear before the public, she would tell me and then I could fix her public engagements. I felt rather baffled by her fervour. I wished I could Keep pace at least with her idiom. I felt that I ought immediately to pick up and cultivate the necessary jargon. I felt silly to be watching her and listening to her, absolutely tongue-tied.” At present it was mere day-dreaming, but most of it is realised in actual life by the end of the novel. She does become a reputed dancer, has a crowded programme every day, and Raju acts as her guide and stage-manager.

      Raju pretended that he, too, had a passion for the art, and this common interest brought them closer together. She began practising at one end of the hall and sang her favourite songs. Raju felt thrilled by her movements, rhythm and the song she sang, even though he did not fully understand its meaning. Says Raju, “The floor resounded with the stamping of her feet. I felt nervous that those on the floor below might ask us to stop, but she never cared, never bothered about anything. I could see, through her effort, the magnificence of the composition, its symbolism, the boyhood of a very young god, and his fulfilment in marriage, the passage of years from youth to decay, but the heart remaining ever fresh like a lotus in a pond. When she indicated the lotus with her fingers, you could almost hear the ripple of water round it. She held the performance for nearly an hour; it filled me with the greatest pleasure on earth. I could honestly declare that, while I watched her perform, my mind was free, for once, from all carnal thoughts; I viewed her as a pure abstraction. She could make me forget my surroundings. I sat with open-mouthed wonder watching her. Suddenly she stopped and flung her whole weight on me with, ‘What a darling. You are giving me a new lease of life.’

      When they next went to the hills, Raju returned leaving her there alone with her husband, so that she might talk with him and get his consent for making public appearance as a dancer. She was quite optimistic that her husband would agree to the proposal and was in high spirits when Raju took her there. Marco also was in a cheerful mood for he had found a third cave full of musical notations of the fifth century. He praised Joseph highly for his services. He was unusually loquacious and warm. His nature flourished on solitude, and cave-frescoes. “How happy he’d have been, I thought, to have had Joseph for a wife. My mind was busy with these thoughts as he was talking. Rosie went on like a good wife, saying, ‘I hope there is food to eat, and everything is okay. If there is milk may I give you all coffee?’ She ran in and returned to say, “Yes, there is milk. I’ll make coffee for all of you. I won’t take more than five minutes.” During the interval, he talked freely to Raju that when his work is published, it would change the present ideas about the history of civilisation, and that he would mention in it his debt to him (Raju) for discovering the place to him.

      When Raju returned there after two days, things were different. The two had gone to the caves, and Joseph explained that Marco was a good man, and he would be better still if his wife left him alone, for she seemed, “to be a horrible nagger.” Raju at once started for the cave, and soon found them returning. Marco led the way, and Rosie followed him a few yards behind. They walked in complete silence and neither responded to his greetings. Obviously, something was wrong. They must have quarrelled. Raju followed them at a respectful distance in perfect silence. This seemed to be the best thing to do under the circumstances.

      On reaching the Bungalow, both of them went into their room, without speaking a single word to him. Raju did not know how to respond to this situation. After some time Gaffur came from the taxi outside, obviously to witness the drama. He seemed to be in the know of the affair, probably for his gossiping with Joseph, and advised Raju, “Raju, this is not at all good. Let us get away. Leave them alone. After all, they are husband and wife; they’ll know how to make it up. Come on. Go back to your normal work. You were so interested and carefree and happy then.” This was a very sensible advice, and if Raju had followed it, he would certainly have saved himself from many a trouble. But as it was, he ordered Gaffur to go to his taxi and wait for them there. It is to be noted that from time to time Gaffur comments on character and action and suggests what would be best to do under the circumstances. He is thus a ‘Chorus’ character; very much like Enobarbus in Shakespeare's ‘Antony and Cleopatra’.

      Soon afterwards, perhaps inadvertently, Gaffur sounded his horn. The result was that Marco, with a bundle in hand, came out of the room and asked him to drive straight to the hotel. Rosie did not come and when Raju asked him why he was going to the hotel he answered angrily, “I do not have to explain. I took the room and I am closing the account; that is all. Driver, you may present me your bill directly. Have a receipt ready when you want payment.” It was obvious that he intended to desert his wife and go away. At this Raju lost his head. He opened the door of the car and pulled him out, and pleaded with him to come into the bungalow, to have his food, and talk things over with him. But Marco was angry, said that he wanted no interference in his affairs, and that he no longer needed his services and so he should go away and send his bill to him. To this Raju responded by hiring the other room, which was vacant, and from which he could not be turned out. Marco went angrily into his room, and Raju into the room which was now opened for him.

      Raju waited for half-an-hour for something to happen, but nothing happened. There was no conversation, no quarrelling and neither of the two came out. Then Raju went to the kitchen, found that the food was there, and that it had not been touched by anybody. They must be starving. It was specially hard for poor Rosie, who was in the habit of having something or the other every two hours. So he served some food on plates and tip-toed into their room with the tray. Rosie was lying on her bed with her eyes shut, as if she were in a faint. He had never seen her in such a miserable condition. He was sitting in his chair, elbow on the table, his chin on his fist. He asked them to have their food. He did not speak, but Rosie opened her eyes. They were swollen. She had large, vivacious eyes, but they looked as if they had grown one round larger now, and were bulging and fearsome, dull and red. She was a sorry sight in every way. She sat up and told me, ‘Don’t waste any more of your time with us. You go back. That’s all I have to say’, in a thick, gruff, crackling voice. Her voice shook a little as she spoke. ‘I mean it. Leave us now.’

All I could say in reply was, ‘First, you must have your food. For what reason are you fasting?’

She merely repeated, ‘I want you to go.’

Aren’t you coming down?’ I persisted to Marco. The man behaved as if he were a deaf-mute. He never showed any sign of hearing us.

She merely repeated, “I am asking you to leave us. Do you hear?”

I grew weak and cowardly at her tone. I muttered, ‘I mean you—or he may want to go down, if it is so—’

She clicked her tongue in disgust. ‘Do you not understand? We want you to leave.’

      Raju realised that it would be dangerous to stay there any longer. So he came out, and ordered Gaffur to drive off at once. Both Marco and Rosie remained shut up in their room. As they started, Gaffur told Raju, “It’s time your elders found a bride for you”. I said nothing in reply, and he said, through the gathering darkness, ‘Raju, I’m your senior in years. I think this is the best thing you have done. You will be more happy thereafter.’ However, Gaffur’s prophesy was not to be fulfilled. Only, the first round of the drama was over.

      The period which followed was a miserable one for Raju. He had no peace of mind, no sleep, and no taste for food. He had even lost his usual sweetness of speech. In all seriousness, he returned to his normal vocation, but he could no longer take interest in it. He would take the tourists round the region as usual, but was often absent-minded and his replies were mechanical and incoherent. All the time, he would be thinking of Rosie, and what was happening to her. Probably that brute of a husband was starving her to death. His mother did not fail to notice that something was wrong with him, that he was not well. He went about his work as usual, but his soul was tormented with a thousand doubts and questionings. What tormented him most of all, was the fact that Rosie had sided with her husband and turned against him so fiercely. He could think of no explanation for her strange conduct, except that she must be a woman of extreme duplicity, and cunning.

      A month passed in this way, though to Raju it seemed that not thirty days, but thirty years had passed. Then suddenly one afternoon, soon after the Madras train left at four-thirty, he found Rosie standing at his door with her bag in her hand. He at once called her in, told his mother that she was going to be their guest for sometime, and that she was to be made comfortable in every way. His mother, too, welcomed her and was kind and sympathetic. Of course, she did ask some awkward questions, but Raju put her off and saved the situation to the best of his ability.

      Raju’s amazement knew no bounds to see Rosie come to him in this way. Raju first made himself presentable by shaving, bathing and dressing properly, then took Rosie out in Gaffur’s taxi. Then sitting by him in a lonely place on the bank of the river, Rosie narrated to him the chain of events which led to her arrival at his doors. The whole trouble started when Rosie requested Marco to permit him to dance. She told him, “I think I’d be very happy, if I could do that. I have so many ideas. I’d like to try. Just as you are trying to—”

“Oh, you want to rival me, is that it? This is a branch of learning, not street-acrobatics.”

“You think dancing is street-acrobatics?”

      “I’m not prepared to discuss all that with you. An acrobat on a trapeze goes on doing the same thing all his life; well, your dance is like that. What is there intelligence or creative in it? You repeat your tricks all your life. We watch a monkey perform, not because it is artistic but because it is a monkey that is doing it.” I swallowed all the insults; I still had hopes of converting him. I lapsed into silence and let him do his work.

      As I sat there, he came behind me, and putting his hand on my shoulder, said, “I thought we had come to a final understanding about that subject. Did you or did you not promise that vou’d never mention it again?”

      ‘His tone was now so kind that I felt I need not bother even if I had to abandon my own plans once and for all; if he was going to be so nice, I wanted nothing more — I’d almost made up my mind that I would ask nothing of him.

      Yet, as a last resort I said, encouraged by his tone, “I want you to see just one small bit, which I generally do as a memento of my mother. It was her piece, you know.” I got up and pulled him by his hand to our room. He sat watching me coldly. I had not completed the fifth line when he said, “Stop, I have seen enough.”

      I stopped, abashed. I’d been certain that he was going to be captivated by it and tell me to go ahead and dance all my life. But he said, “Rosie, you must understand, this is not art. You have not sufficient training. Leave the thing alone.”

‘But here I committed a blunder’ I said haughtily, “Everyone except you likes it.”
“For instance ?”

“Well, Raju saw me do it, and he was transported. Do you know what he said?”

“Raju, where did you do it for him?”

      “At the hotel.” And then he said, “Come and sit here,” pointing at the chair, like an examining doctor. He subjected me to a close questioning. I think it went on all night. He asked details of our various movements ever since we came here, what time you came to the hotel each day, when you left, where you kept yourself in the room, and how long, and so on, all of which I had to answer. I broke down and cried. He got from my answers enough indication of what we had been doing. Finally he said, “I didn't know that hotel catered to such fervid art-lovers. I was a fool to have taken too much decency for granted.” It was in this way that he came to know of thier intimacy, that they had been sleeping together. It was a betrayal of trust on the part of Raju; and Rosie had been unfaithful to her marriage vow. Marco was, therefore, fully justified in throwing her out.

      Rosie realised that she had committed the greatest blunder of her life. She realised that she had been indiscreet throughout. She had sent away Raju so very angrily, because she hoped that, if left alone, they would be able to make up and live together in peace. In this hope she followed him like a dog, looking to his comforts, but he systematically and cruelly ignored her. This continued for full three weeks, and she could stand it no longer. Then she broke silence and asked him, “Have you not punished me enough?” To this he replied, “This is my last word to you. Don’t talk to me. You can go where you please or do what you please.”

      “I want to be with you. I want you to forget everything. I want you to forgive me—” I said. Somehow I began to like him very much. It seemed enough that he forgave me and took me back.

      But he said, “Yes, I’m trying to forget—even the earlier fact that I ever took a wife. I want to get out of here too—but I have to complete my work; and I’m here for that. You are free to get out and do what you please.”

“I’m your wife and I’m with you.”

      “You are here because I’m not a ruffian. But you are not my wife. You are a woman who will go to bed with anyone that flatters your antics. That’s all. I don’t want you here, but if you are going to be here, don’t talk. That is all.”

      ‘I felt too hurt. I thought that Othello was kindlier to Desdemona. But I bore everything. I had a wild hope that in the end he’d relent, that when we left this place he might change. Once we were back in our home, everything would be all right.’

      Then came the day, when he started packing. He cleared his account at the hotel, and started for the station in Gaffur’s taxi. She also went with him, though he did not ask her to come. But when she tried to enter the compartment he told her, “I have not bought tickets for you”, and closed the door. So she was compelled to come away, and in this way she came to him. She started sobbing, but Raju comforted her and told her that he would make the world recognise her as one of the greatest of dancers.

      Rosie continued to live in their home. Soon she started practising. While dancing, she would forget everything, her cares and worries, her face would brighten up, and the house would echo with her singing and dancing. His mother was kind and sympathetic to the girl, but from time to time she would remind Raju that this could not go on forever. People were beginning to talk. Even if her husband was angry, she must bring him round through persistent service and devotion. Sometimes she would tell Raju, “She is a real snake-woman. I never liked her from the first day you mentioned her.”

      Raju’s financial worries were also increasing. The sales were going down, his income was decreasing, the wholesale dealer refused to give him any more credit, and soon the shop was almost empty. The travellers did not get what they wanted, and there were complaints. His contract was terminated and the shop was given to another contractor. Frustrated and angry he beat the boy for he felt that he had been dishonest, must have pocketed the money and eaten up the stuff. His father, the porter, came up and told Raju that not his son, but the devil in his home, i.e:, Rosie had deceived him. Raju was furious and tried to assault him. At this the station-master intervened and asked him not to create disturbance, otherwise he will prohibit his entry on the platform. It was an ugly scene and the situation was saved only by the arrival of his mother who dragged him back to home. It was an unedifying spectacle and to his great charging Rosie had witnessed it all from the house-door.

      This ended Raju’s association with the railways.

Previous Post Next Post