Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Malgudi Days" By R.K. Narayan

Nearly everyone of us (from my generation) would never forget the "Malgudi Days" we used to watch on the television in our childhood. That title music still lingers on our lips. To hear the tune, click here. Well, the serial was based on a wonderfully written collection of short stories from one of India's greatest novelist, R.K. Narayan.

Malgudi Days R K Narayan

It is a collection of short stories written by the author (around 32 in number) which are based in a fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. The fiction town of Malgudi has been imagined and described in such a form that it could be any town of India. The vast majority of the stories are less than ten pages long; several are under five; and only one is more than 20. Narayan wrote many of these stories under deadline, within the limits of word count and column length for The Hindu, a Madras newspaper for which Narayan had a contract for a weekly submission beginning in 1939. At the same time they all seem spontaneously and effortlessly composed. Each stands on its own, but they are inherently intertwined while remaining independent from each other. The only force binding them is the town of Malgudi.

The main characters in each of the short story is a real life character - be it a school boy, a retired old man, a gardener, a maid, post man, snake charmer, cobbler, a gateman or even a dog. They all seem so familiar (especially for people like me who were born and raised up in a small city - not a metro); they are people from every walk of life. In nearly all the stories, the description of Malgudi is very real-like - you can actually imagines its market place, its school, its main roads and other things while reading the stories.

Here are some of the best stories from the lot:-

Attila is a small pup in a family who is bought with the expectation that he will grow up to fierce and protector of the house, after all he has the right pedigree. He turns out to be the friendliest dog in the world and when a thief enters the house he turns protector in most unexpected fashion.

Leela’s Friend: Sidda works as a domestic help in an affluent household. His main task is to play with the daughter of the household, Leela, who is just a small girl. Leela is very fond of Sidda. One day her gold chain goes missing and Sidda is accused and handed over to the police. The chain is found later on.

Iswaran: In India, we seem to have very little tolerance for failure and Iswaran flunks his 12th board examinations more than once. He seems not to care and develops a tough exterior. This story rings true for many Indian youngsters even today.

Lawely Road: Lawely Road pokes gentle fun on the fixation of changing names of everything British after India got independence. In this story, the municipality wants to pull down a statue of Sir. F. Lawely with hilarious consequences.

Father’s Help: Swami (a small child studying in first standard) develops an headache in the morning just before school. Father is adamant that Swami has to attend school. Swami tells tales to father that his class teacher Samuel has a fascination of skinning people alive. Father writes a strong letter to the Headmaster of the school and Swami has to deliver it. The dilemma Swami then faces makes this story the best one.

A must read classic in my opinion.

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