Malgudi Days by R. K. Narayan

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Established along the banks of river Sarayu, Malgudi is a typical south Indian village. Although the protagonists and plots differ greatly, ranging from the life of a 10-year old boy to a snake charmer, or from a postman to a vendor of pipes or a goat herder, the focus of the tales never shift from their fundamental motif. The quintessence of the books lies in the routine lives of ordinary people, quotidian issues among family members, sundry cultural inhibitions, and social taboos synchronous to the mid-nineties.

The first of the trilogy, Swami and Friends, is set in the pre-independence era and is about 10-year-old Swaminathan, best known to all as Swami. The novel centers around Swami’s interactions with his two closest friends, Mani and Rajam, their categorical antipathy towards academics, their desire to participate in pro-independence activities, and the like. Swami’s ridiculous thought processes, along with his naive ideals, and most of all his lovable character, make this book the best of the three.

The second, The Bachelor of Arts, spins around the indecisive but appealing Chandran, his misgivings about his objectives in life, the woman who has captured his heart, and whether his love for her is bona fide.

The third and last story is The English Teacher, a tale in which the chief characters are Jagan and his son Mali. This is perhaps the deepest of the trilogy in terms of emotions and maturity. It depicts the issues that arise between parents and children as a consequence of the generation gap that separates them.

Malgudi Days was published in 1943 by Indian Thought Publications and published abroad again in 1982. In his humorous but graceful style, R.K. Narayan puts together a collection of tales, which are great favorites even today. It was adapted to a television series in 1986 by Shankar Nag.


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