This 13th May, Novacards India revisits the homely town of Malgudi in the memory of the renowned Indian writer R. K. Narayan.
The 80s were regarded as the golden era of Doordarshan in India. Everyone in the family used to gather around, all eyes glued to the television. One such serial that received tremendous love from the audiences was ‘Malgudi Days’. The first episode that aired in 1986 tells the story of a young boy, Swami. Situated in a small town in southern India, the episode perfectly captures the nuances and eccentricities of the pre-independence era. The stories of a young Swami, his friends, his mischievous activities and the consequent fear of his strict father resonates with every child. Simple yet elegant language, humour and warmth are some of the features of the tales of Malgudi. Even today, its mention is enough to make anyone nostalgic. If you were to look for Malgudi on the map of India, you won’t find it. This is simply because this town was brought to life by the vivid imagination of one India’s most prominent writers, R. K. Narayan. The popular TV serial in question was directed by Shankar Nag and is based on Narayan’s very famous works ‘Swami and friends’ and ‘Malgudi Days’.
Malgudi Days is a series of chronicles which talk about the life of people living in the beautiful town of Malgudi. Throughout his career as an author, R. K. Narayan wrote 14 novels, 12 of which are based in Malgudi. The journey of Malgudi started with the novel “Swami and friends” in 1935. However, Narayan had to endure a lot of rejections before publishing it. Finally, Graham Greene, one of the leading English novelists of the 20th century helped publish it. Narayan’s personal life has had a tremendous impact on Malgudi. During his early childhood days, Narayan used to stay with his maternal grandmother in the Madras province. The time that he spent with her reflected in his Swami and Friends. The Bachelor of Arts talks about his college experiences and The English Teacher portrays his grief after the death of his wife.
Being a compelling storyteller, R. K. Narayan personally preferred writing short stories over long novels. According to him, short stories provided the writer with a welcoming diversion from the hard labour of writing a novel. In an introduction to Malgudi Days (published by Penguin Books), Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri suggested that the readers enjoy the short stories one at a time each day to savour the essence. Due to his ability to compress a narrative, R. K. Narayan is often compared with short story legends like O. Henry, William Faulkner, Anton Chekov and Guy de Maupassant. Narayan portrayed dynamic incidents using only a few sentences for which other writers would have spent lengths of paragraphs.
R. K. Narayan is the first Indian author to win a Sahitya Akademi Award for an English novel, The Guide. He is also one of the few writers who contributed to the ‘Indianisation’ of the English language. It was his work that formally introduced Indian English Literature to the world as we know it. However, he made no attempt to portray India in an exotic light for the foreign audiences. He was a traditional teller of tales whose stories were gentle and humorous rather than hard-hitting and profound. Narayan was a light-hearted and joyous person which often reflected in his characters. Once he told N. Ram, the editor of The Hindu, “I am amused mostly by the seriousness with which each man takes himself.”
Narayan consistently poured his life and heart into his work. “You become a writer by writing. It is like Yoga” were his words. It was in his father’s library, Narayan was first introduced to authors like Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Woodhouse. Following the footsteps of his father, Narayan became a teacher for some time. However, he gave up his job later to pursue writing as a full-time profession. This decision of Narayan’s was considered as a bold one because he came from a middle-class family and did not have the comfort of inherited wealth. In his memoir My Days, Narayan explains his approach towards his craft. He also states the frustrations and disruptions in his life as a writer.
“The artists who survive, and endure are ones like Narayan—endearing, unassuming, supremely gifted”, writes Jhumpa Lahiri in his praise. R. K. Narayan passed away in 2001 in Chennai at the age of 94. In this 21st Century, the serial of Malgudi Days may remind you of the 80s Doordarshan era or the characters themselves may remind you of India before independence. The humaneness of these stories that describe the quintessential middle-class strike a chord even today and explain the workings of the world.
- Padma Vibhushan – 2000
- A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature – 1980
- Padma Bhushan – 1964
- Sahitya Akademi Award for The Guide – 1958
- The famous cartoonist R. K. Laxman is R. K. Narayan’s younger brother.
- The Guide was later adapted into a film starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.
- Along with fiction, R. K. Narayan also translated the Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata into English.
- R. K. Narayan once failed in English at the university entrance exam.
Autonomous public service broadcaster founded by Government of India. Find more here.
Sahitya Akademi of India
It is a literary honour given by Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters. Find more here.
R. K. Narayan is among the 12 legendary Indian personalities, along with Raja Ravi Varma appearing in the Nova Calendar 2020! Nova Calendar 2020 is a high-tech inspirational Calendar featuring Legends of India. You can purchase a copy on the Nova Store!
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