The Guide: by R. K. Narayan - Chapter 8 Summary

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      Raju’s troubles knew no end. Further complications soon arose.

      Raju’s creditor was a seth, a wholesale cloth merchant in Market Road, Raju owed him eight thousand rupees. Soon he visited Raju, told him that the due interest has not been paid for months and months, and demanded his money. When Raju wanted some time, he said that he would grant him one week. At this Raju laughed despite himself, and the Seth was highly offended. Some Devil seemed to have possessed him and he knew no self-control. The Seth went away in great wrath, and soon instituted legal proceedings against him. He filed a criminal case alleging that he had been beaten up when he went to Raju to recover the loan. Raju was thus involved in litigation. He consulted Gaffur and engaged a lawyer who was reputed to be an ‘adjournment expert’. The idea was that the case should go on and on for years, and in the meanwhile Raju will be none the worse for it. But it all meant heavy expenditure and much trouble for Raju.

      Gaffur was a sincere friend. He advised Raju to control his temper, and to begin doing something to earn his living. Raju requested him for a loan of five hundred rupees so that he may make a fresh start. “I outlined to him a plan to utilise Rosie’s services and make money. The thought of her warmed me up. ‘She is a gold-mine,’ I cried. ‘If I had money to start her with—Oh, my visions soared. I said to him, “You know, Bharat Natyam is really the greatest art-business today. There is such a craze for it that people will pay anything, to see the best. I cannot do anything about it because I have no money. Can’t you help me, Gaffur?” He was amused at my request. It was now my turn to feel upset at laughter. I said, ‘I have done so much for your business.’ Gaffur politely expressed his inability to give him the required amount and advised him to send Rosie away, and return to ordinary, real life. At this Raju was upset, and said things which offended Gaffur. He went away telling him to call him if ever he needed a taxi, and Raju knew that another friend had passed out of his life.

      There were more troubles in store for Raju. Rosie was devoted to her art, and she wanted him to function as an art critic when she danced. But it were her curves which fascinated him, and he frequently wanted to have her in his arms. But Rosie’s passion for physical love seemed to have died out. For her nothing else mattered except her art.

      Raju’s mother had realised that her son would not listen to her, and that his infatuation with the ‘snake-girl’ would turn her out of the home. Outwardly, she remained calm and said nothing, but made her own plans for tackling her son. She wrote to her brother in the village and one fine morning he was there. Raju was taken by surprise. He was an important man among their relatives and was the general advisor and director of all their family matters. His mother had called him to set her son right. The man was six feet, darkened by the sun from wording in the fields, and had a small knotted tuft on his skull; he wore a shirt with an upper cloth, his dhoti was brown, not white like a townsman’s.

      It was a surprise to me to know that my mother had written to him to come. She had not told me. ‘You never told me, you wrote to Uncle’, I said.

      ‘Why should she tell you?’ snapped my uncle. As if you were her master? I knew he was trying to pick a quarrel with me. He lowered his voice to a whisper, pulled me down by the collar of my shirt, and asked, ‘what is all this one hears about you? Very creditable development you are showing, my boy. Anybody would be proud of you’. I wriggled myself free and frowned. He said, ‘What has come over you? You think yourself a big man? I can’t be frightened of scapegraces like you. Do you know what we do when we get an intractable buff calf? We castrate it. We will do that to you, if you don’t behave.’

      Raju was afraid of him, though he tried to put on a brave face. He was coarse and brutal within the hearing of Rosie. He used abusive and insulting language, and Raju had to put up with it. He advised Rosie brutally, “You should not walk into a house like this and stay on. Did anyone invite you? No. Even if you are invited you should go on staying where you belong and not too long here. You cannot stay like this in our house. It is very inconvenient. You should not be seducing young fools, deserting your husband. Do you follow?” She sank down at this onslaught, covering her face with her hands. My uncle was evidently gratified at the success of his efforts, and proceeded to drive home his point. ‘You see, you should not pretend to cry at these things. You must understand why we say such things. You must clear out by the next train. You must promise to go. We will give you money for your railway ticket’.

      At this Raju lost all self-control, attacked his uncle and ordered him to get out of his house. His mother came in running and blamed Rosie for all the trouble. Rosie sobbed and wept bitterly. Raju consoled her saying, “Shut your ears to all that they say. Let them say what they like. Let them exhaust themselves. But you are not leaving. I’m going to be here, and you are going to be here. Others who don’t like the arrangement are welcome to leave.”

      They insisted that Rosie should go away, and return to her home and her husband. When Raju did not permit this to happen, the mother decided that she would leave them and go and live with her brother in the village. Raju must choose between his mother and Rosie. It was all very painful, but Raju could not give up Rosie. So that his mother left for the village with her brother. At the time of departure, she said to Raju, “Don’t fail to light the lamps in the god’s niche, said my mother, going down the steps. Be careful with your health.” Uncle carried the trunks and she carried the basket. Soon they were at the end of the street and turned the corner. I stood on the step watching. At the threshold stood Rosie. I was afraid to turn round and face her, because I was crying.

      After her departure, Rosie and Raju lived as a married couple for all practical purposes. She danced and sang, he made love to her constantly, and forgetful of everything else. But the hard realities of life had to be faced sooner or later. And very soon, it was Rosie who awakened him to the reality. She had acquired sufficient practice, she must have the accompaniments, and they must go out and do something for their livelihood. Raju agreed with her and began to make plans for their future. First, the name Rosie must be changed. It was so foreign. So they thought and thought, and at last decided that Nalini would be her name in future. Then an opportunity presented itself. The Albert Mission boys were about to have their annual function, for which they had organised a variety programme. Raju knew the clerk of the students’ union, who introduced him to the organisers. He pleaded with them strongly and eloquently that they should include a Bharat Natyam in their programme. He had picked up a bit of art terminology from Rosie and now he made good use of it, and could impress them with it.

      The result was that they agreed to come to his home to see Nalini perform. They were fascinated as much with her physical charms, as with her dancing. They were astonished. When they recovered from the enchantment, one of them said, ‘I must admit I have never cared for Bharat Natyam, but watching this lady is an education. I now know why people are in raptures over it.’

      The other said, ‘My only fear is that she may be too good for our function. But it doesn’t matter, I’ll reduce the other items to give her all the time she wants?

      ‘We must make it our mission to educate the public taste,’ I said. ‘We must not estimate the public taste and play down to it. We must try to raise it by giving only the best.’

      ‘I think up to the interval we shall have the variety and all such tomfoolery. After the interval this lady can take up the entire show.’

      I looked up at her for a second as if waiting for her approval, and said, ‘She’ll, of course, be pleased to help you. But you must provide the drummer and the accompanists’, and thus acquired at last the accompanists, Rosie had been clamouring for all along.

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