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Showing posts with label R K Narayan's The Guide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label R K Narayan's The Guide. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Indian Elements or Indianness in R.K.Narayan's The Guide

Indianness and Narayan’s writings are almost synonymous. In fact, India with its landscape, culture, conventions and customs becomes picturesque in his writings including The Guide. Again to a large extent, the country India is an ideal representative of the sub-continent India. But universality in The Guide (1958) cannot be ignored because the country India and India as a sub-continent undoubtedly symbolize many features of the world. This paper attempts at examining Narayan’s creation of characters who represent both sub-continental and universal elements.

As it happens to be a fact in other writings in R.K. Narayan, sub-continental and more particularly Indian elements are lively present in his The Guide. In spite of this commonness, the role playing of the universal elements in The Guide deserves consideration. The fake swami represented by Raju and typical Indian woman represented by Rosie, family, middle class life, beliefs, values and customs, the ancient temple, the pyol school, the betel leaf shop at the railway station, gossip loving trait of the people, hospitality, the dance of king cobra and Bharat Natyam become materials to draw a genuine picture of India or Indian sub-continent. On other hand, love and sex, jealousy, money, mysterious female characters, the theme of crime and punishment, spiritual regeneration through self-negation, simultaneous existence of happiness and sorrow, pleasure and sadness from the same source but with separate implications for different persons, complexities of mind, ups and downs in an individual’s life are truly universal. Raju’s possessing the qualities of a universal rogue is also worth-mentioning.
The protagonist of The Guide is Raju. He belongs to a lower-middle class family. Their small house is opposite to the Malgudi railway station. Beginning with the profession of a tourist guide, Raju later plays the roles of a lover criminal and a fake swami. To avoid the shameful situation of facing his own people, he prefers the role of swami to returning home after his release from imprisonment. This sainthood comes into his favour for the time being. But when a situation forces him to observe fasting for bringing rain for the draught-stricken people, he faces a plight. The novel ends with no clear indication about Raju’s death or survival.


India- the Source and Subject Matter of The Guide

In an interview Narayan was asked whether the elements in The Guide had been ‘transformed’ by his American experiences, he referred to it as being ‘totally Indian’. In his autobiography My Days, he explains how he conceived an idea for ‘a novel about someone suffering enforced sainthood’, “A recent situation in Mysore offered a setting for such a story. A severe drought had dried up all the rivers and tanks; Krishnaraja Sagar, an enormous reservoir feeding channels that irrigated thousands of acres, had also become dry and its bed, a hundred and fifty feet deep, was now exposed to the sky with fissures and cracks, revealing an ancient submerged temple, coconut stumps and dehydrated crocodiles. As a desperate measure, the municipal council organized a prayer for rains. A group of Brahmins stood knee-deep in water (procured at great cost) on the dry bed of kavery, fasted, prayed and chanted certain mantras continuously for eleven days. On the twelfth day it rained, and brought relief to the countryside” (My Days 167).

Malgudi, Narayan’s India:

Narayan’s India is symbolized by Malgudi, an imaginary locale in his novels. It is as significant as Hardy’s wessex novels. The spirit in the place has a great influence on the characters and actions like the Egdon Heath in Hardy’s The Return of the Native. Malgudi is a “a blend of oriental and pre-1914 British, like an Edwardian mixture of sweet mangoes and malt vinegar; a wedding with its horoscopes and gold-edged, elegantly printed invitation cards; tiny shops with the shopkeeper hunched on the counter selling plantains, betel leaves, snuff and English biscuits; the casuarinas and the Post Office Savings Bank; the brass pots and the volumes of Milton and Carlyle; the shaved head and ochre robes of the sanyasi and Messrs Binns’ catalogue of cricket bats” (Walsh, Indian Literature in English, 73).

Fake swami and typical Indian woman:

Let us first consider the fact of being swami. Traditionally, majority of the people of this sub-continent have a deep respect for religion no matter to what degree they apply it in their practical aspects of life. So, they place the religious persons on a high ground. They consider the religious personalities such as ‘sadhu’ or ‘swami’ as proper media for communicating with the spiritual world. That is, the people want to achieve the Almighty’s satisfaction through the satisfaction of the holy persons. As a result, many exploit this credulity of the common people. A bright example of this exploitation is Tree Without Roots (Lal Shalu) by Syed waliullah of Bangla literature. In this novel , Majeed wraps an old grave with a red cloth or ‘lal shalu’ and introduces it to villagers as the grave or `mazar’of a saint. As the caretaker or `Khadem’ of this `mazar’, Mojeed earns not only his livelihood but also power and fame.The uneducated,superstitious and blind believers who are also simple in mind become easy victim of Majeed’s falsehood.

In The Guide, Raju is not a caretaker of a holy grave but he himself pretends to be a holy person in whom the people of Mangala village find a real holy figure ready to devote his life for the interest of the common people. Like Majeed of Tree without Roots (Lal Shalu), Raju does not do all his activities according to a well-Knit plan. In fact, Velan creates a situation which makes Raju a Swami but he does not have a strong desire to disclose his fake identity as a swami. He rather finds it preferable to facing disgraceful circumstances by returning to his own village. However, unlike other fake swamis, Raju turns into a real holy person through his long fasting for the people of Mangala village.

Like majority of the sub continental women, Rosie is ready to abandon her desire for dancing if her husband Marco becomes kind and soft in his dealings with her in their conjugal life. She is devoted to Marco in spite of his impotence and priggishness. She might have resisted her physical involvement with Raju if her husband had showed the least amount of kindness and consideration for her. Like the Indian women of butterfly-type, Rosie is glamorous and charming and not very particular and respectful about chastity, virtue etc. She causes disorder in her family life and in the life of Raju. As a typical Indian woman, she restores peace and harmony.

Marco as a Husband:

Though not as an ideal Indian husband, Marco does not take care of his wife’s beauty and also other demands, he is not either a western type husband. Unlike many western husbands and like most of the Indian husbands, Marco cannot support Rosie’s dancing for Raju in the hotel room.

Stress of Family:

The appreciating aspect of the Indian to put emphasis on family is also evident in The Guide as it occurs in other novels of R.K. Narayan. Sooth to say, “The family is the immediate context in which his sensibility operates, and his novels are remarkable for the subtlety and conviction with which family-relationships are treated” (William Walsh, R.K. Narayan)

Middle class life:

The life and life style of middle class Indians make an important feature of Narayan’s The Guide. Raju himself belongs to a lower middle class family. Rosie also comes of the same class. So the beliefs and ideas held by Raju and Rosie, and their facing various situation in life are certainly of those who belong to their class.

Indian Beliefs, Values and Customs:

India with her age-old religious beliefs, values and customs is pictorial in The Guide. Indians’ belief that violation of traditional beliefs, values and customs leads to disorder and conformity to these leads to order is brilliantly illustrated in Raju’s rise from tourist guide to fake swami to a martyr. Raju has to receive punishment for deviating from tradition, for developing an illicit affair with Rosie, for showing disrespect for his mother and for deceit and crime. Later, Raju conforms to tradition, accepts the faith of the villagers and gains spiritual maturity, the chaos in his life is replaced by order, happiness and salvation of soul.

Archaeological Enrichment of Indian Sub-continent:

Indian sub-continent is rich with archaeological sites. This aspect has made this region an attractive tourist zone. To say the truth, “The exposure of the ancient temple that had lain beneath the waters of the modern reservoir, an event which Narayan takes over in The Guide, served as a metonym for the notion of an archaeologically layered India, albeit one in which the different strata were coming to exist contiguously rather than in a temporal sequence, since an ancient infrastructure was now present on the surface. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, there are a good number of places which bear the testimony to this sub-continent being archaeologically rich. These sites are the bright examples of Mughal and other rules followed by Mughal Empire. (Thieme).

Pyol School:

Pyol School is an ideal example for sub-standard education received by the children in unprivileged class of the Indian sub-continent. The Pyol School has a similarity with ‘Maktab’ in Bangladesh. It was very popular about two decades ago and is still found in rural Bangladesh. It is generally administered by an old ‘Moulavi’ who teaches the students but his main concern is to control the naughty children rather than impart them good lessons. The teacher and the ‘Maulavi’ are respected but not well-paid. The shouting of the children and getting caned are two dominant traits of Pyol School or ‘Maktab’. The foul-mouthed teacher or ‘Moulavi’ abuses instead of nurturing good manners in the disciples. The parents take individual or co-operative effort to cater to the needs of the schoolmaster or ‘Moulavi’. These are typically Indian and represent typical village school or ‘Maktab’.

Betel Leaf Shop and The fondness for gossiping:

Almost all the railway stations in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are featured by the presence of a betel leaf shop where cigarette is also sold. This is a gathering centre not only for the passengers waiting for the train but a good number of neighbouring people also make it a regular habit to pay a visit to it to take betel-leaf, cigarette and most important of all to play the ‘vital’ role of participating in the important discussions related to home and international affairs giving main focus on the political issues. The betel leaf shop of Raju’s father is a typical of sub-continental context which serves as a popular gossiping center. Raju’s father being absorbed in the gossiping presents the fondness for this among the sub-continental people. While being engaged apparently in a very ‘important’ discussion people neglect the appreciating urge for returning home timely when wives wait eagerly and patiently to have pleasure by serving the dinner to their dear husbands.

Hospitality:

The people of this region have a praiseworthy tradition of entertaining the guest. They are extremely hospitable. In The Guide, we can see that Raju and his mother take care of every comfort of Rosie. His mother does not raise any question at first though later on she becomes dissatisfied with Rosie and leaves home bag and baggage as Rosie continues living in her house. In the same way, Velan and other villagers of Mangala arrange for the meals of the swami, not asking any question though they themselves suffer from drought.

The Dance of King Cobra and Bharat Nattyam:

The dance of king cobra displayed by the snake-charmers playing tune on flute may be less important
considering the Indianness but a minute picture of India is presented by it. Bharat Nattyam, a special kind of dancing is a unique cultural element of India, that is of South-India.

Merry Making:

To ensure the maximum utilization of an opportunity for merry-making is a vital trait of the Indians. Their joy and mirth centre round from a big religious festival to a very minor occasion. As the fasting Raju is on the verge of collapse, a whole crowd of men, women and children gathers on the bank of the river and there is eating,drinking and merry-making.

Narrow-political Motive:

The narrow political motive of the sub-continental rulers are evident in the government’s special arrangement for the fasting swami and his devotees. In fact the main aim of the political rulers of this region is to accomplish the works which serve their political interest rather than the real welfare of the common people. Thus they succeed to show their false patriotism and sympathy for the common people. In The Guide. We can see the government to depute doctors for the fasting swami though they do nothing for the drought-stricken villagers. That is, getting media coverage and cheap popularity is a dominant factor in the sub-continental political strategy. In Bangladesh we can observe that the political leaders rush to any affected spot and express their deep sympathy for the affected people through different gestures. They also make a good number of promises for their relief from sufferings. But an insignificant percentage of the promises are materialized later. The news of their feeling deep sympathy for the people and making promises draws the attention of the media and thus comes into common people’s notice. This fact helps them to achieve political purpose.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Picture of the Indian Society in R. K. Narayan’s in the Guide

The daily life of the Indians, the traditions of the land and indeed the superstitions and values of India gain a form in the remarkable novel “The Guide”. R.K.Narayan quite consciously in his novel “The Guide” echoes the more and tradition of the Indian society amidst his literal symbolism. R.K.Narayan’s chief concern is to give an artistic expression of Indian life. Though his art form is western, his theme, atmosphere, situations and scenes are truly Indian.

Malgudi

Narayan’s India is symbolized by Malgudi. Malgudi, of course, does not exist. It an imaginary landscape inhabited by the unique characters of his stories. It is an average town with swamis, beggars, postmen, shopkeepers, spongers etc. Narayan creates his fictional world of Malgudi as an essentially Indian society or town. Gradually it grows like any other town and becomes a city of tourists, a centre of attraction for scholars of ancient Indian culture and even Americans who see the future of India in its growth. The Indian ness and Indian sensibility pervaded the whole place. Narayan's Malgudi is also a microcosm of India. It grows and develops and expands and changes, and is full of humanity.

Two Locales

In The Guide there are two locales, namely-Malgudi and Mangala. Though Mangla is the actual setting, Malgudi is a part of recollection and consciousness. The hero is common to both the locales. Like all other heroes of R.K.Narayan, the hero of The Guide has a longer consciousness and involved with bigger concerns of life.

The Village School

Narayan gives a vivid and faithful picture of a village school. The “pyol” school, with its respected but not well paid teachers; the school master sitting on a cushion with classes going on simultaneously, the routine of school- boys shouting and getting caned; the foul-mouthed teacher who abuses instead of including good manners; the co-operative effort of the parents in catering to the needs of the schoolmaster- all these are typically Indian and represent a typical village school.

Religious Beliefs- Swami

The Guide also depicts Indian religious beliefs, superstitions and philosophy. The blind faith of the Indian masses in sadhus and religious men is depicted in their acceptance of Raju as a swami. However, unlike most swamis, Raju is forced into this role due to circumstances and he has a true discipline (Velan) instead of the usual fake accomplices. The blind faith of Indians who worship swamis’s and give offerings to them is depicted very realistically. The drought and their response to it, is authentically Indian-they make offerings and wait for a muscle man to foot and bring rain. The reaction to the fast, too, is characteristic- they are glad and they make use of the opportunity for “party”, make money and make merry.

Sacrifice

The sacrifice of life for social and spiritual good, an ideal of Indian philosophy, is portrayed through all this. Selfishness gives way to altruism and sacrifice: Raju, epitomizes this Indian belief he moves from skepticism to idealism, he changes his psyche and from a criminal he becomes as a altruistic swami with true feelings for those who have fed him. Raju spends his days muttering prayers as a result of his indubitable liberation from his ego, and it is revealed by his words-“I am only doing what I have to do; that is all. My likes and dislikes do not count”. Thus, he sacrifices his life for the well being of the villagers.

Traditional Morality

The Guide also portrays other Indian beliefs. The Indian philosophy is that any deviation from tradition creates disorder and unhappiness. Happiness can only be restored by conforming to traditional views, is well illustrated in the novel. Raju, too deviates from traditional morality by seducing Marco’s wife. When Rosie comes to live in the house, she brings disorder in his life and he is ultimately jailed. However, by becoming a sadhu and accepting the traditional belief in sacrifice, self-discipline and purification, he brings harmony and order to his spiritual life. He has a spiritual rebirth because he confirms to traditional belief.

Indian Culture

In all this Narayan’s character like Raju, Marco and Rosie are deeply rooted in Indian culture-Rosie, a “devdasis” daughter stands for traditional Indian culture; Marco embodies modern man appreciating the Indian heritage, Raju’s death and faith stand for man’s faith in Indian tradition. The temple and rural poverty widen his perspective in contrast with his urban life with Rosie and he gains spiritual faith and peace. Indian faith and tradition are ultimately triumphant in spite of modernization.

Family

Family relationships being a part of Indian tradition the main theme of family, too, is characteristically Indian. Narayan gives a graphic description of Raju’s family and inter-family relationships. His relationship with his father and mother is expressed vividly. The theme of family relationship is also depicted with reference to Velan who has the responsibility of marrying off his sister.

Hospitality

Another Indian trait which is depicted is hospitality. Indian’s being extremely hospitable. Raju and his mother look after Rosie. His mother asks no question at first. In the same way Velan and the villagers arrange for the meals of the swami, without asking any question.

Narayan also gives a realistic picture of the plight of Indian villagers.

Indian Scenes and Situations

In fact, at each and every step, we come across Indian scenes and situations. The mother and son’s argument over marriage, the material uncle’s endeavor to bring Raju to the senses, the establishment of Raju as a fake swami, the fascination of tourists for king Cobra’s dance, the renovation of the temple, chanting of holy text,lighting of the lamp at the temple, the “mela” like atmosphere while Raju is fasting-are all typically Indian.

Narayan also gives a realistic picture of the plight of Indian villagers. He authentically portrays the problems of a country dependent on agriculture and monsoons. Drought leads to the inevitable femine, dying cattle, lack of water, hoarding by merchants, riots, penance, pujas, and sacrifices to appease the ran-God. This faith in swamis at the time of drought and the consequent fasting by Raju is typically Indian. The gloomy picture, as usual, only attracts the attention of the government, tourists and journalist but the problem of the villagers remains unattended. The activity which occurs due to the drought is an authentic portrayal of India.

Narayan, in his authentic portrayal of India, uphold the traditional Hindu world-view. By juxtaposing several symbolic elements Narayan represents the religious and philosophical beliefs based on the great Indian epics, legends, folk and tales. It affirms values of Indian traditional life and undeniably confers on the novel its artistic uniqueness.

Use of Irony in R . K. Narayan’s 'The Guide'

R. K. Narayan’s conception of humor is meticulously achieved in The Guide. We get a glimpse of the complexity of life in this novel through irony of motives, characters, situations, and ideas.

Narayan behaves like Chaucer when the matter of religion arrives. Narayan satirizes the corruption of the sadhus through irony. Sainthood is reduces to a matter merely of external appearance when Raju thinks to compose his feature for his professional role and smoothes out his beard and hair, and sits down in the seat with a book in his hand.

“He was hypnotised by his own voice; he felt himself growing in stature as he saw the upturned faces of the children shinning in the half light when he spoke. No one was more impressed with the grandeur of the whole thing than Raju himself”

Narayan criticizes sharply when Raju relates some principal of living with a particular variety of delicious food and he mentions it with an air of seriousness, so that his listeners take it as a spiritual need.

Narayan had all respect for Gandhi and Gandhism but the Gandhi and use of fasting for self-purification is also satirized when a fraud is shown as being compelled to undertake a fast to bring down the rains. Narayan has full command over verbal irony s for example Velan says to Raju,’ Your presence is similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi. He has left a disciple in you to save us’.

Raju, the protagonist, is a victim of the irony of life. His life which moves from birth to death, symbolizes the rise and fall of man in life. Though Raju detests Marco, the scholar ironically, he teaches others all his life. Raju is trusted by Marco, but ironically Raju seduces his wife. He hides Marco’s book to keep his control over Rosie, but this act of deception ironically alternates her. He forges Rosie’s signature, for greed and to keep her away from Marco, but instead he loses her, instead of a box of jewelry, a warrant for his arrest arrives. His attempt to hide Marco’s generosity ironically exposes his deceit, and Rosie loses her respect for him. Ironically Marco, the scholar who studies “dead things” and is unaware of his surroundings, ends in out-witting Raju, the clever guide. Raju’s pride over his role in Rosie’s success ironically replaces by the realization that she is capable of even great success without him. Thus, he is a victim of irony at every step.

After his release from prison he wants a life of solitude but ironically he becomes a fake swami, he is surrounded by people and greatness is thrust upon him. They believe that a superior soul has come to live near their village.

In order to appear wise, he tells the story of a man who fasted for twelve days to appease the gods. Ironially, he too has to have to fast to propitiate the rain-god. His own story rebounds on him and the fake swami has to fast to keep up the faith of the people. Once again, he is the victim of the irony when he tells Velan’s half brother that he will not eat ill they stop fighting. His aim is to get food, but ironically the message is distorted and the villagers come without food. It is ironical that his desire for food results in him fasting for life. In a desperate bid to save his life, he confesses to Velan in the hope that he will condemn him and give him food, but ironically Velan pardons him as the frank confession confirms Velan’s belief in his goodness. Thus, the man who becomes a fake swami because of food becomes a true swami, once he renounces food.
Thus Raju faces the unexpectations at every stage. At every stage, he gets what he rejects; he is denied what he wants.

Narayan satirizes the thing through irony. In this novel he refers to lawyers-five year plan, red-tapism, postal services, efforts to eradicate mosquitoes etc, all expose the irony of life. The reaction of the government to Raju’s fast is ironical, while special arrangement are made for the fasting swami and the pilgrims who throng to see Raju but nothing is done to help the drought effected villagers. The ignorant villagers, the government and the elite are also satirized as they affirm their belief in fake sadhus. Equally ironical is the interview of the American journalist.

The final lines of the book, as Raju steps into the water for the last time, are both ambiguous and hopeful, and the complexity is once again achieved through the use of irony:

Raju opened his eyes, looked about, and said, “Velan, it’s raining in the hill. I can feel I coming up under my feet, up my legs,….He sagged down. It may simply be an illusion because of his physical weakness.


Narayan very aptly exposes and ridicules human follies and weakness through irony. His irony arises from the bringing together the opposites and contrasting them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Use of Memory and Flashback Technique in R.K Narayan's The Guide

The Guide is one of Narayan’s most interesting and popular works and is told in a series of flashbacks. In this novel Raju is the narrator of his past and points out his feelings from memory.

Raju frequently remembers his childhood when he has just released from prison and stops to rest near an abandoned shrine. He remembers that his father ran a shop in a village where he also uses to help him sometimes everyday. A crowd of peasants and drivers of bullock wagons always gather in front of his shop. Every afternoon his father has asked him to take charge of the shop and has given him all necessary instructions. Sitting at the shop and selling peppermints would be no trouble for Raju, but he did not like his father’s habit of waking him up with the crowing of the cock and then teaching him alphabets and arithmetic. Sometimes, his father would take him to the town when he went there to make his purchase. Raju would be fascinated by the changing scene, men, women, children and carts moving around him, till he would feel drowsy and go to sleep.

Raju memorizes the time when railway track and a railway train are to be built. There is a great excitement and the main question being asked is the time it would take for the railway to arrive at Malgudi. The red earth is brought in a number of trucks, and soon a small mountain is raised in front of Raju’s house. Raju would spend mot of his time playing, listening to the gossip of the laborers working on the truck, laughing at their jokes, and picking up their coarse vulgar abuses which they freely hurl at each other. One day, as he plays on the mound of earth, a boy, who is rearing his cows nearby, also comes there to play. Raju asks him to go away and shouts vulgar abuses. The boy complains his father and repeats the exact words Raju has used. Raju’s father becomes angry, and decides that he must go to school from the very next day.

Raju recalls his school days. He is sent not to the Albert mission School, for his father believes that boys are converted to Christianity there, but to another school called Pyol School. All the classes have been held there at the same time and Raju belongs to the youngest and most elementary set. He has learnt the alphabets and numbers. But the teacher, an old man is a very abusive man. The boys make a lot of noises. Once they even have entered the master’s kitchen and have made fun of him. They have been forbidden to enter his house again. The old teacher has been paid one rupee per month for each boy. However, the boys frequently have been bringing some eatables for him, and in this way he has been able to make his both ends meet. Raju has proved himself to be an intelligent student after a year at this school; he makes sufficient progress to be admitted to the local Board High School. The old teacher himself leaves him there and blesses him. This act of his teacher surprises Raju.


Through flash black, Raju continues with the story of his past. The laying of the railway track finally completes and a railway station is established at Malgudi. The coming of the Railway train to Malgudi has been a turning point in Raju’s career. Raju’s father has been given a shop on the platform and Raju has been asked to run this shop. After his father’s sudden death, the burden of managing both the shops falls on Raju’s shoulders. Raju comes into contact with the passengers, chair with them learn things from them, give them information and helps them. Gradually he becomes a famous tourist guide. The shop is then entrusted to a boy as Raju can not spare enough time for the shop. Raju becomes very popular as a guide and soon comes to be known as “Railway Raju’. Travelers visiting Malgudi would straightway ask for him as he is shrewd enough to give the right type of help to each tourist.


Now Raju remembers his first meeting with Rosie. She was not very glamorous, but she had a beautiful figure, beautifully fashioned eyes that sparkled, a complexion not white, but dusky. Raju nicknamed her husband Marco because the man dresses in thick jacket and helmet as if undertaking an expedition like Marco Polo. Marco is a man of academic interest and he is deeply interested in research relating to the history of art and culture. Marco, who is more interested in his research than his wife or her needs, desires, wishes. Raju gets the opportunity of spending considerable time in the company of Rosie and excites her liking. Later, he pleases her by appreciating her beauty and her skill as a dancer. Raju comes into close contact with Rosie.


Now Raju reminisces how he changes from a skilful tourist guide to an adept lover. Both fall in love with each other. Raju and Rosie fully enjoy the beauty ad surroundings of Malgudi. They amuse each other, entertain each other and their days passes very smoothly. They pass together one night in the hotel and Rosie becomes Raju’s mistress.

Raju once again starts thinking about his past life. Raju’s encouragement motivates Rosie to discuss her dance performance with Marco. Rosie goes to Marco to seek permission for dancing and unconsciously confesses to Marco her relationship with Raju. Marco abandons Rosie and leaves for Madras.


Raju recollects the evening when Rosie comes back to Raju. He becomes very happy getting Rosie back. Raju’s obsession with Rosie grows to such an extent that he loses his job, shop, gets into heavy debt, and falls in his mother’s eyes too. She leaves him and the house as she cannot tolerate his living with a married woman who has been left by her husband.


As Rosie is a trained classical dancer and always had an inner craving to make a mark for herself as a dancer. Raju encourages her to start dancing again-something that Marco always hated and never allowed her to do. Rosie resumes her dancing and Raju becomes her manager, thus helping launch a successful dancing career for her. Both start getting a lot of offers for dance performances all over the country and Rosie becomes popular. But Raju starts spending the earned money recklessly. In order to keep control over Rosie, and out of greed, he even forges her signature. Marco has sent some documents for Rosie’s signature. After signing the document, Rosie would be able to get a jewelry box which Marco has deposited in a bank. Raju forges the document and posts it back but does not tell Rosie about the document because he is afraid that she may be disturbed by Marco’s thoughtfulness and would form a high opinion about her husband’s honesty. But, unfortunately, for him Marco discovers the fraud, reports the matter to the police and Raju is arrested. He is sent to jail for two years for this crime.


The reminiscence of Raju makes the novel more realistic. The flashback technique arouses the curiosity and the interest of the reader. It also proves Narayan’s skill as a born story teller.

Use of Memory and Flashback Technique in R.K Narayan's 'The Guide'

The Guide is one of Narayan’s most interesting and popular works and is told in a series of flashbacks. In this novel Raju is the narrator of his past and points out his feelings from memory.

Raju frequently remembers his childhood when he has just released from prison and stops to rest near an abandoned shrine. He remembers that his father ran a shop in a village where he also uses to help him sometimes everyday. A crowd of peasants and drivers of bullock wagons always gather in front of his shop. Every afternoon his father has asked him to take charge of the shop and has given him all necessary instructions. Sitting at the shop and selling peppermints would be no trouble for Raju, but he did not like his father’s habit of waking him up with the crowing of the cock and then teaching him alphabets and arithmetic. Sometimes, his father would take him to the town when he went there to make his purchase. Raju would be fascinated by the changing scene, men, women, children and carts moving around him, till he would feel drowsy and go to sleep.

Raju memorizes the time when railway track and a railway train are to be built. There is a great excitement and the main question being asked is the time it would take for the railway to arrive at Malgudi. The red earth is brought in a number of trucks, and soon a small mountain is raised in front of Raju’s house. Raju would spend mot of his time playing, listening to the gossip of the laborers working on the truck, laughing at their jokes, and picking up their coarse vulgar abuses which they freely hurl at each other. One day, as he plays on the mound of earth, a boy, who is rearing his cows nearby, also comes there to play. Raju asks him to go away and shouts vulgar abuses. The boy complains his father and repeats the exact words Raju has used. Raju’s father becomes angry, and decides that he must go to school from the very next day.

Raju recalls his school days. He is sent not to the Albert mission School, for his father believes that boys are converted to Christianity there, but to another school called Pyol School. All the classes have been held there at the same time and Raju belongs to the youngest and most elementary set. He has learnt the alphabets and numbers. But the teacher, an old man is a very abusive man. The boys make a lot of noises. Once they even have entered the master’s kitchen and have made fun of him. They have been forbidden to enter his house again. The old teacher has been paid one rupee per month for each boy. However, the boys frequently have been bringing some eatables for him, and in this way he has been able to make his both ends meet. Raju has proved himself to be an intelligent student after a year at this school; he makes sufficient progress to be admitted to the local Board High School. The old teacher himself leaves him there and blesses him. This act of his teacher surprises Raju.


Through flash black, Raju continues with the story of his past. The laying of the railway track finally completes and a railway station is established at Malgudi. The coming of the Railway train to Malgudi has been a turning point in Raju’s career. Raju’s father has been given a shop on the platform and Raju has been asked to run this shop. After his father’s sudden death, the burden of managing both the shops falls on Raju’s shoulders. Raju comes into contact with the passengers, chair with them learn things from them, give them information and helps them. Gradually he becomes a famous tourist guide. The shop is then entrusted to a boy as Raju can not spare enough time for the shop. Raju becomes very popular as a guide and soon comes to be known as “Railway Raju’. Travelers visiting Malgudi would straightway ask for him as he is shrewd enough to give the right type of help to each tourist.


Now Raju remembers his first meeting with Rosie. She was not very glamorous, but she had a beautiful figure, beautifully fashioned eyes that sparkled, a complexion not white, but dusky. Raju nicknamed her husband Marco because the man dresses in thick jacket and helmet as if undertaking an expedition like Marco Polo. Marco is a man of academic interest and he is deeply interested in research relating to the history of art and culture. Marco, who is more interested in his research than his wife or her needs, desires, wishes. Raju gets the opportunity of spending considerable time in the company of Rosie and excites her liking. Later, he pleases her by appreciating her beauty and her skill as a dancer. Raju comes into close contact with Rosie.


Now Raju reminisces how he changes from a skilful tourist guide to an adept lover. Both fall in love with each other. Raju and Rosie fully enjoy the beauty ad surroundings of Malgudi. They amuse each other, entertain each other and their days passes very smoothly. They pass together one night in the hotel and Rosie becomes Raju’s mistress.

Raju once again starts thinking about his past life. Raju’s encouragement motivates Rosie to discuss her dance performance with Marco. Rosie goes to Marco to seek permission for dancing and unconsciously confesses to Marco her relationship with Raju. Marco abandons Rosie and leaves for Madras.


Raju recollects the evening when Rosie comes back to Raju. He becomes very happy getting Rosie back. Raju’s obsession with Rosie grows to such an extent that he loses his job, shop, gets into heavy debt, and falls in his mother’s eyes too. She leaves him and the house as she cannot tolerate his living with a married woman who has been left by her husband.


As Rosie is a trained classical dancer and always had an inner craving to make a mark for herself as a dancer. Raju encourages her to start dancing again-something that Marco always hated and never allowed her to do. Rosie resumes her dancing and Raju becomes her manager, thus helping launch a successful dancing career for her. Both start getting a lot of offers for dance performances all over the country and Rosie becomes popular. But Raju starts spending the earned money recklessly. In order to keep control over Rosie, and out of greed, he even forges her signature. Marco has sent some documents for Rosie’s signature. After signing the document, Rosie would be able to get a jewelry box which Marco has deposited in a bank. Raju forges the document and posts it back but does not tell Rosie about the document because he is afraid that she may be disturbed by Marco’s thoughtfulness and would form a high opinion about her husband’s honesty. But, unfortunately, for him Marco discovers the fraud, reports the matter to the police and Raju is arrested. He is sent to jail for two years for this crime.


The reminiscence of Raju makes the novel more realistic. The flashback technique arouses the curiosity and the interest of the reader. It also proves Narayan’s skill as a born story teller.

A Study of the Character Rosie in the Novel “The Guide” by R.K. Narayan

Rosie is one of the main characters of the novel “The Guide” by R.K. Narayan. R.K. Narayan portrays the character Rosie as a typical Indian woman who loves her husband despite his entire fault and always feels proud of her husband. Though she belongs to a dancer family, she is highly educated and is influenced by her husband and her background. She is presented in the novel as a beautiful dancer, of the Devadasi variety of temple dancers.

As a Wife

Rosie is an attractive young wife of 'Marco'. . Her marriage has been like a curse in disguise to her as Marco is totally engaged in his career and is totally apathetic and unemotional to her. She is very passionate about dancing but her husband does not allow her to dance

She is like a traditional Indian wife. Her husband is like God to her. Marco calls her dancing skills as street acrobatics and compares it to monkey dance. Despite all these insults she continues to be his wife. When Marco came to know about the intimacy between her and Raju he became very upset and didn’t talk to her and completely ignored her presence. She sincerely apologizes to Marco. Rosie explains to Raju, "I followed him, day after day, like a dog-waiting on his grace” She tries to persuade her husband and bears all the insults. But Marco reacts by categorically disowning his wife. "I'm trying to forget..... even the earlier fact that I ever took a wife you are free to go and do what you please."

This incident shows her tremendous tolerance power and her optimistic attitude. She is basically kind and loving towards her husband’s. She appreciates the fact that he gives her freedom, security and does not kill her for her betrayal. That she is emotionally attached to him at the last is evident from the fact that she cuts his picture from The Illustrated Weekly and pastes it on her mirror.

Human Desire and Liveliness

Rosie was a dreamer and human desire is visible in Rosie’s character. Rosie tells Raju ``I`d preferred any kind of mother in law, if it had meant one real, live husband”. But Macro on the other hand is only interested in “dead and decaying things” not in his wife "who as dancer was the living embodiment of those images."

Complete Devotion to Dance

When she was left by Marco in Malgudi and was living with Raju she devoted herself completely to dancing. She loves dance and that is what matters to her. She woke early in the morning and practiced hard for three hours regularly. She is always willing to talk about dance and even tries to teach Raju some tips of it. In the end, though she loses her husband and her lover, she continues to dance. Dance is her life whatever comes to her way. According to Raju “ Neither Marco nor I had any place in her life, which had its own sustaining utility and which she herself had underestimated all along”

Religious by nature

She is religious by nature as she believes in Goddess Saraswati and has the bronze image of Nataraja in her office.

Passionate Nature

Her success doesn’t gets to her head as she remains a down to earth person even after becoming very successful in her dancing career. Once Raju became very upset because Rosie spent lot of time with different artists and not with him. He came to her and said that these artists come to her because they are inferior to her .She replies to him saying that she doesn’t believe in superior and inferior .She doesn’t discriminate people on the basis of their financial status. On one hand when Raju prefers to meet people who are very rich and influential in the society Rosie doesn’t care much about these people. Being herself an artist she respects art and likes to be in the company of artist and other music lovers.

True to Her lover

Rosie is also true to her lover. In spite of the forgery, Rosie does not desert Raju. Though Rosie comes to know about every treacherous and fraud activity of Raju, she compromises with the situation. Instead of punishing Raju for his deceit, she is determined, like a true beloved, to spend every penny that she is arranging a capable defense for Raju although she has earlier decided to give up dancing as a profession. She signs fresh dancing contracts to raise more money for this purpose.

In fact, her dignified and noble behavior brings out our sympathy. She embodies the “Feminine Principle” of ideal woman-hood.

The Metamorphosis of Raju in R . K Narayan's The Guide

The central theme of the novel The Guide by R.K Narayan is the transformation of Raju from his role as a tour guide to that of a spiritual guide. The title of the novel, The Guide, has a double meaning, and Raju is in a sense a double character. As a tour guide and lover, he is impulsive, unprincipled, and self-indulgent. After his imprisonment, and after his transformation as a holy man, he is careful, thoughtful, and self-disciplined.

The Guide opens with the release of the protagonist, Raju from prison and on his taking refuge in an old temple on the banks of the rive Sarayu. Unable to face the people of Malgudi, Raju hides himself to live in secrecy. Before his imprisonment he was a public figure and because of his brilliant wit he succeeded in playing several roles: a corrupt tourist guide, an adulterous lover and a theatrical impresario. Having live the life of an adventurer he eventually sacrifices his life as a saint, a new mahatma as the people around him say, for the welfare of a rural community.

Raju, the guide is fated to be a guide by chance and temperament. He becomes a tourist guide by chance when he is given charge of the railway shop, he buys papers and old books to wrap articles, he reads book and papers to while away his time, gathers information about Malgudi, never says “no”, gives false information, cheats the tourists successfully and becomes famous as a tourist guide. In fact he tells Velan “It was not because I wanted to utter a falsehood, but only because I wanted to be pleasant.”

His role as lover and stage manager is very appreciable. After his seduction of Rosie, he is dismissed by her because of her guilt and Marco’s knowledge about them. Though he is obsessed by her, he does not pursue her. Rosie comes to his house on her own as she has been deserted by Marco. His love for her motivates him to look after her physical and artistic needs. The storage of money and Rosie’s devotion to dance compels him to arrange a public performance for her. As a result of her success and complete dedication to her profession, he becomes her manager and arranges her business affairs. He lives on her, but also works hard for her Rosie more or les forces turn into accepting the role. Being a capable actor, he performs to role to perfection. Being an ignorant he does not understand the basics of dance, but he understands Rosie’s desire to be a dancer and thus financially he manages her affairs perfectly.

However Rosie’s obsession with dance results in alienation and loss of communication. Raju feels bewildered and best. His love, jealousy and possessiveness motivate him to hide. Marco’s book and copy Rosie’s signature. Basically he does not want her to realize Marco’s generosity. This choice of his, ironically leads to his imprisonment. In fact he is so used to playing roles that he does not realize the extent of his act.

When he is sitting bored and lonely near a dilapidated temple a villager called Velan comes and tells him his trouble. The simple peasant mistakes him for a “swami” because there is actually something saintly about Raju’s appearance. He is sitting on a granite slab. As the story open Velan gazes at Raju respectfully, chooses a sit two step bellow the slab. Impressed by the saintly appearance Velan is encouraged to unburden himself, looking for advice and guidance. Raju on the other hand is tempted to play the role of the swami because “it was in his nature to get involved in other people’s interest and activities”.

Raju satisfies the demand of villagers of Mangala. He feels disconcerted by the devotion of the peasants, who believes that a superior soul has come to live near their village. Ironically Raju’s old habit of offering guidance to others when he was a tourist guide asserts itself when he wants to be honest this time. The special attention of the villagers makes him “feel uncomfortable” and so he wonders if he could device somemeans of escape from the company.” His circle of devotees inevitably widens because he is believed to have worked a miracle on Velan’s stepsister. Consequently it becomes a daily practice of Velan and his fellow villagers to bring food for the swami and the result is that men, women and children come to have darshan of him large number.

The affection and devotion of the peasants transform Raju to such an extent that he assumes the role of a spiritual guide: “his bear now caressed his chest, his hair covered his back and around his neck he wore a necklace of prayer breads.” He even assures himself that he has become an authentic saint. Their devotion to him was unquestionable. As the narrator tells us Raju “felt moved by the recollection of the big crowd of women and children touching his feet. He felt moved by the thought of their gratitude.”


The unshakeable faith of the people of Mangala transforms Raju into an instrument of their will so that he feels naturally inclined to fast for their survival. When he is called upon to fast by his devotees, and thus to bring rains to the parched land, he realizes that, “he had worked himself into a position from which he could not get out.” He makes an attempt to confess to Velan all about his notorious past. But Velan’s rustic discipline towards him is so deep that he refuses to believe him.


Then Raju become aware about the fact that something has changed within himself: “ if by avoiding food I should help the trees bloom, and the grass grow, why not do it thoroughly?” For the first time in his life he has making an earnest effort, for the first time he has learning the thrill of full application, outside money and love, for the first time he ha doing a thing in which he was not personally interested”. It reveals the spiritual achievement of Raju. He is aware that the whole countryside is now in a happy ferment because a great soul had agreed to go through the trial and he feels a moral duty not to insult the villager’s faith in him and so he becomes absorbed into communal archetype. As a “Saviour” he is expected “to stand in knee deep water to look the skies, and utter the payer lines for two weeks completely fasting during the period-and so the rains would come down provided the man who performed it was a pure soul. Was a great soul”

Thus Raju spends his days muttering prayers as a result of his indubitable liberation from his ego, and it is revealed by his words-“ I am only doing what I have to do; that is all. My likes and dislikes do not count”-until on the eleventh day when he collapses with the prophetic declaration that it is raining in the hills. The novel thus concludes “in the magnitude of his spiritual gain”.

R.K. Narayan's Narrative Technique in his The Guide

Narayan uses the interesting technique of a varied narrative perspective. The story shifts back and forth between first and third person narrative; at times it is Raju, the main character speaking, and at other times the story is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. The author also utilizes cinematic elements such as flashbacks and jump cuts.

When we first encounter Raju, he is about to meet Velan, and he is seen at this point from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. Then Raju takes over the narrative chores and relates his progress from sweetmeat seller to jailbird to Velan. In between, the omniscient narrator punctuates Raju's narrative by showing him dealing with the villagers as a holy man.

The Guide divided into two parts, narrates Raju’s childhood, love affair, imprisonment (first part) and growth into a swami (second part). Though the streams move simultaneously, the first part is set in Malgudi. Raju’s past and the second part is set in Mangla, Raju’s present. While Raju’s past in Malgudi is narrated by Raju himself, his present in Mangla is narrated by the author.

R.K. Narayan is a novelist of common people and common situations. His plot of The Guide is built of material and incidents that are neither extra-ordinary nor heroic. The Guide is a story of Raju’s romance, his greed for money, his sin and repentance.It is also the story of everyman’s growth from the ordinary to extra- ordinary, from the railway guide to the spiritual guide.

For most of his life Raju had managed to manipulate other people's emotional needs for his own advantage, but the novel shows him going beyond himself to do a genuinely disinterested act at the cost of his life.

Raju begins his professional life as the owner of a sweetmeat stall at the railway station in a region of India that has become a popular tourist attraction. He soon discovers that he has a knack for telling people what they would like to hear and becomes a fulltime guide. This profession leads him into an affair with one of his clients, Rosie, the neglected wife of an anthropologist Marco. Rosie has a passion for dancing which Marco doesn't approve of. Rosie, encouraged by Raju, decides to follow her dreams and walks out on her husband. Raju becomes her stage manager and soon with the help of Raju's marketing tactics, Rosie becomes a successful dancer. Raju, however, develops an inflated sense of self-importance and tries to control Rosie. Gradually, the relationship between Raju and Rosie becomes strained. Marco reappears and Raju inadvertently gets involved in a case of forgery and gets a two year sentence. After completing the sentence, Raju is passing through a village when he is mistaken for a sadhu (a spiritual guide). Reluctant not having to return in disgrace to Malgudi, he stays in an abandoned temple. Raju satisfies the demand of villagers of Mangala. Slowly and gradually, he becomes the spiritual guide of the villagers who come to get all sorts of issues resolved by him. They start to trust and listen to him and soon he earns their respect and turns into a guru or god like person for them.

Everything is running smoothly till the time the village is afflicted by a major drought and one of the villagers mistakes Raju’s comments to be a vow to keep a fast for 12 days in order to please the rain gods. Raju has no other option but to comply by his vow. The role that he took unhappily and forcibly in the beginning becomes very dear to him as time passes. He starts believing in his role and feels that for the first time in his life he is doing something for the people, selflessly, out of humanity and not lust for money or any other material goods. The news of his fasting spreads throughout the country like wildfire and a huge crowd of curious onlookers from other places starts gathering round him. As he can no longer take the fasting, his legs give away, he collapses dreaming or visualizing the rain drops somewhere in the hills. The novels ends with a question still unanswered whether he dies and whether the rain actually comes.

In Narayan’s plot there is a mixture of the comic and serious, the real and the fantastic. So is the case with The Guide.Raju, the poor becomes the rich, the convict gets the reputation and regard of the saint, the holy man and the swami. There is squalor, poverty and misery in the life of Raju on the other side there is relief, which is beautiful and charming Rosie.

Another technique Narayan uses is imagery and symbolism which is rooted in Indian culture but has universal appeal. At the end of the story, where Raju is drowning, his eyes engrossed towards the mountains as a brilliant sun rises and villagers look on. By juxtaposing the simple background of the Indian village at sunrise with the suicide scene, Narayan effectively communicates Raju's death as an image of hope, consistent with the Indian belief in death and rebirth.

Narayan’s has a gift of sketching pen pictures that bring scenes and characters vividly to life without taking recourse to ornate or excessive description. Narayan’s simplicity of language conceals a sophisticated level of art. Narayan handles language like an immensely flexible tool that effortlessly conveys both the specific as well as symbolic and the universal. The tone of The Guide is quite and subdued.

Thus the use of flashback, common lifestyle, comedy, language and the double perspective, Raju’s and the novelist’s make the novel fresh stimulating, provocative and interesting.

Narayan’s Use of Humor in his The Guide

In his The Guide R.K. Narayan successfully uses gentle irony along with a humor. His interest in the Indian sensibility results in his exposing the peculiarity of life and his characters. Through exaggeration, force, juxtaposition of appearance and reality, he paints his total vision of life in his The Guide.

In his novel, The Guide there is humor of character, humor of situation, irony, wit and satire.

Burlesque

Laughter is generated in The Guide through farcial situations. The Pyol School with its abusive school master and the boy’s encroachment in the master’s kitchen creates humor. Another farcical situation occurs in the later part of the novel when the swami goes to have some food, finds the pot empty and throws it away in anger. Then coming out he explains to the waiting disciplines and devotees saying, “Empty vessels make much noise” creates laughter. Similarly maternal uncle’s attempt to brow- beat Raju is also farcical. The adjournment lawyer’s defense of Raju’s life in three acts is also comic.


Characterization

Part of the humor also arises from characterization. In fact all his characters are eccentric or grotesque in some form or the other.

Marco is eccentric. He “dressed like a man about to undertake an expedition with his thick colored glasses, thick jacket and a thick helmet over which was perpetually stretched a green, shiny, water proof cover, giving him the appearance of a space-traveler.”

Equally odd are Raju’s pompous maternal uncle, Gaffur, the taxi-driver and the “Five-rupee” lawyer. All these eccentric characters and caricatures arouse laughter.

Even Raju, who is a complex character, appears grotesque and fantastic at times. Inspite of all his efforts to appear grand, Rosie arrives unexpectedly and sees him in his poverty, Raju’s ambiguous statements and attempts to fleece the tourist create humor.

The entire interior monologue of Raju in the later half of the novel shows him in a comic light; when he realizes that he was expected to fast to bring down the rains. He muses, “Did they expect him to starve for twelve days and stand in knee in deep water eight hours”. He sat up. He regretted having given them the idea. If he had known that it would be applied to him, he might probably have given a different idea: that all villagers should combine to help him eat “bowda” for fifteen days without a break. And then, the saintly man would stand in the river for two minutes a day and it should bring down the rain, sooner or later.


Wit

The humor also arises out of Narayan’s use of wit and hyperbole. For example Velan says “your penance is similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi. He has left a discipline in you to save us”. Raju’s comment, “But his aloofness did not save him if he not go to the wedding, the wedding was to bound to come to him”. “The banana worked or miracle. The boy went from house to house, announcing that the saint was back at his post”. These and other such witty statements are woven brilliantly into the texture of the novel and go a long way is generating humor and adding to his comic vision of life.


Satire and Irony

Narayan satires not to preach or ridicule, but to entertain and exposes the follies. His indirect and mild satire of life is achieved by means of irony which arise humor. He satirizes: fake sadhus; the red tapism of government officials; the blind faith of discipline, the “five rupee”adjournment lawyer whose fluency “knocked five years off”; Raju’s power of money which enabled him to “get a train reservation at a moment’s notice, relieve a man summoned to jury work, and reinstate a dismissed official”. He also exposes the attitude of the government to the drought hit villagers- a flurry of activity is created because of the fake swami but nothing is done to help the villagers. Such is the irony of life.

Sainthood is external as Raju grows a beard to look like a swami and thus plays his role perfectly. However Narayan treats his role ironically: while giving a sermon on the Gita he thinks of food: he expects the usual “gift of food” even though there is a drought; he accepts the role of a swami for food, but he becomes a genuine swami by renouncing food. The judge condemns him for forgery and lies, but Velan, his judge pardons him for lies and forgery; he feasts for the people but this gives them an opportunity to “make merry” and “make money.” He aspires to be great but at the end he realizes the significance of his puny attempt. Thus, the author comments at the absurdity and irony of life, at every phase of Raju’s life.

Narayan’s comic and ironic vision of life is visualized through his characterization.

Serious Comedy

The novelist comically views the tragedy of life. The tragic note dissolves and a comedy is created. This can be seen especially at the end of the novel. Raju’s decision to fast begins the tragic note in the novel, but his ultimate end is a comedy. It is a comedy because of the fast and the publicity it receives, results in merry-making for the villagers. It is a comedy because of the indifference of the villagers. While Raju is dying; even his last sentence makes his role appear illusionary and comic, “it was raining in the hills but he felt it coming up under my feet, up my leg.” Thus the use of comic irony at the end exposes the absurdity of existence, the tragic irony of life, and Narayan’s skill as a comic writer.

To conclude, we can say that Narayan’s humor does not result from distortion, exaggeration or caricature. It results from an observation of the common human weakness, follies and fables. His humor is varied and all pervasive.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flashback Technique in R.K Narayan's The Guide

The Guide is narrated through a series of the protagonist Raju’s flashbacks/ memory. R K Narayan, like another Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh, masterfully handled the complex flow of time through the flashbacks/ memory. The novel unfolds through flashbacks, then progresses occasionally in the present. His use of the flashbacks, which present the past events during the present events, bridge the gap between the past and present. In this way the flashbacks provide the background for the current narration. Moreover, from this back and forth movement of the plot the readers get an insight into the protagonist’s motivation and personality. This makes the narration of the novel captivating to the reader. In this regard his The Guide can only be compared with Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, which was also narrated through a series of flashbacks/ from memory.

The setting of R.K. Narayan’s novel, The Guide, as most of his novel, is Malgudi, a fictional town in southern India. The novel is told in a series of flashback.

The noble opens in the present with the Protagonist Raju’s release from prison, when he stops to rest near an abandoned shrine. Here he meets an ignorant villager named Velan, who mistakes him for a holy man and mentions his problems to him. His problem relates to his half sister who has run away from home on the day fixed for her marriage. Raju asks the man to bring his sister to him. The next day the man does so and also brings food and other offerings for Raju. The girl is so much impressed by Raju’s personality that she apologizes to her elders for her misdeeds and agrees to the marriage arranged by them. This establishes Raju’s fame as a Holyman and Velan becomes his devoted disciple. Since Raju does not want to return in disgrace to his friend in Malgudi he reluctantly decides to play the part of a holyman. He is happy to accept the daily offerings of food which the villagers bring for him. Gradually he accepts the role which has been thrust upon him and he act as spiritual adviser to the village community

Though Raju is living in the company of the villagers, he frequently remembers his past life.

Through this first flashback we come to know about Raju’s early life. Raju frequently remembers his childhood when he has just released from prison and stops to rest near an abandoned shrine. He remembers that his father ran a shop in a village where he also uses to help him sometimes everyday. A crowd of peasants and drivers of bullock wagons always gather in front of his shop. Every afternoon his father has asked him to take charge of the shop and has given him all necessary instructions. Sitting at the shop and selling peppermints would be no trouble for Raju, but he did not like his father’s habit of waking him up with the crowing of the cock and then teaching him alphabets and arithmetic. Sometimes, his father would take him to the town when he went there to make his purchase. Raju would be fascinated by the changing scene, men, women, children and carts moving around him, till he would feel drowsy and go to sleep.

Raju also remembers the time when railway track and a railway train are to be built. There is a great excitement and the main question being asked is the time it would take for the railway to arrive at Malgudi. The red earth is brought in a number of trucks, and soon a small mountain is raised in front of Raju’s house. Raju would spend mot of his time playing, listening to the gossip of the laborers working on the truck, laughing at their jokes, and picking up their coarse vulgar abuses which they freely hurl at each other. One day, as he plays on the mound of earth, a boy, who is rearing his cows nearby, also comes there to play. Raju asks him to go away and shouts vulgar abuses. The boy complains his father and repeats the exact words Raju has used. Raju’s father becomes angry, and decides that he must go to school from the very next day.

Raju recalls his school days. He is sent not to the Albert mission School, for his father believes that boys are converted to Christianity there, but to another school called Pyol School. All the classes have been held there at the same time and Raju belongs to the youngest and most elementary set. He has learnt the alphabets and numbers. But the teacher, an old man is a very abusive man. The boys make a lot of noises. Once they even have entered the master’s kitchen and have made fun of him. They have been forbidden to enter his house again. The old teacher has been paid one rupee per month for each boy. However, the boys frequently have been bringing some eatables for him, and in this way he has been able to make his both ends meet. Raju has proved himself to be an intelligent student after a year at this school; he makes sufficient progress to be admitted to the local Board High School. The old teacher himself leaves him there and blesses him. This act of his teacher surprises Raju.


Through flash black, Raju continues with the story of his past. The laying of the railway track finally completes and a railway station is established at Malgudi. The coming of the Railway train to Malgudi has been a turning point in Raju’s career. Raju’s father has been given a shop on the platform and Raju has been asked to run this shop. After his father’s sudden death, the burden of managing both the shops falls on Raju’s shoulders. Raju comes into contact with the passengers, chair with them learn things from them, give them information and helps them. Gradually he becomes a famous tourist guide. The shop is then entrusted to a boy as Raju can not spare enough time for the shop. Raju becomes very popular as a guide and soon comes to be known as “Railway Raju’. Travelers visiting Malgudi would straightway ask for him as he is shrewd enough to give the right type of help to each tourist.


Now Raju remembers his first meeting with Rosie. She was not very glamorous, but she had a beautiful figure, beautifully fashioned eyes that sparkled, a complexion not white, but dusky. Raju nicknamed her husband Marco because the man dresses in thick jacket and helmet as if undertaking an expedition like Marco Polo. Marco is a man of academic interest and he is deeply interested in research relating to the history of art and culture. Marco, who is more interested in his research than his wife or her needs, desires, wishes. Raju gets the opportunity of spending considerable time in the company of Rosie and excites her liking. Later, he pleases her by appreciating her beauty and her skill as a dancer. Raju comes into close contact with Rosie.


Now Raju reminisces how he changes from a skilful tourist guide to an adept lover. Both fall in love with each other. Raju and Rosie fully enjoy the beauty ad surroundings of Malgudi. They amuse each other; entertain each other and their days passes very smoothly. They pass together one night in the hotel and Rosie becomes Raju’s mistress.

Raju once again starts thinking about his past life. Raju’s encouragement motivates Rosie to discuss her dance performance with Marco. Rosie goes to Marco to seek permission for dancing and unconsciously confesses to Marco her relationship with Raju. Marco abandons Rosie and leaves for Madras.


Raju recollects the evening when Rosie comes back to Raju. He becomes very happy getting Rosie back. Raju’s obsession with Rosie grows to such an extent that he loses his job, shop, gets into heavy debt, and falls in his mother’s eyes too. She leaves him and the house as she cannot tolerate his living with a married woman who has been left by her husband.


Raju once again starts thinking about his past life. As Rosie is a trained classical dancer and always had an inner craving to make a mark for herself as a dancer. Raju encourages her to start dancing again-something that Marco always hated and never allowed her to do. Rosie resumes her dancing and Raju becomes her manager, thus helping launch a successful dancing career for her. Both start getting a lot of offers for dance performances all over the country and Rosie becomes popular. But Raju starts spending the earned money recklessly. In order to keep control over Rosie, and out of greed, he even forges her signature. Marco has sent some documents for Rosie’s signature. After signing the document, Rosie would be able to get a jewelry box which Marco has deposited in a bank. Raju forges the document and posts it back but does not tell Rosie about the document because he is afraid that she may be disturbed by Marco’s thoughtfulness and would form a high opinion about her husband’s honesty. But, unfortunately, for him Marco discovers the fraud, reports the matter to the police and Raju is arrested. He is sent to jail for two years for this crime.


The reminiscence of Raju makes the novel realistic as well as suspenseful. The flashback technique arouses the curiosity and the interest of the reader. The readers never get bored and are always on the lookout about what comes next. It also proves Narayan’s skill as a born story teller.

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