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RK Narayan Sameer Jha BAJC First Year ‘B’ 100701055
A Few Words o It is very difficult for me to be somebody’s fan. I don’t like a lot of things, and even if I do, I often find a reason for it’s inferiority. And, thus lose a significant amount of respect for the creator. However, there a handful of people, whom I think can do no wrong. RK Narayan is one of them.
o In May, last year, I picked up one of his novels (The Bachelor Of Arts) by getting attracted to its name. Reason being, that I too had enrolled for the BA course a few months back. (Which, I ultimately had to drop because of attendance shortage. ) Reading it, immediately gave me a feeling that this is how books should be written. A big reason for that would be, that the character of Chandran is very similar to my own. And much to my delight, most Narayan novels are written from a similar viewpoint, that of a upper middle class Brahmin with artistic bents.
Early Life o Since this is a history project and not a literary one, it is more important to talk about his life than his work. (Though, the two are related. ) R. K. Narayan was born in Madras (now known as Chennai), Madras Presidency, British India. His father was a school headmaster, and Narayan did some of his studies at his father's school. As his father's job required frequent moves, Narayan spent part of his childhood under the care of his maternal grandmother, Parvati. During this time his best friends and playmates were a peacock and a mischievous monkey. If you want a better account, please refer to the first chapter of his autobiography ‘My Days’. That said, his first book, ‘Swami and Friends’, is a better recommendation if you want to ignore the facts and straightaway know what kind of a child he was.
Reading o No writer of modern times can be explained, without first understanding what his influences were. As a kid, Narayan was lucky to have a father who was a school headmaster. This gave him access to the library at any time. He read a lot of books by various authors like Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, Wodehouse, Conan Doyle, and many others. He also followed Magazines, and the literary world of England held his fascination. “After Scott I picked up a whole row of Dickens and loved his London and the queer personalities therin. Rider Haggard, Marie Corelli, Moliere and Pope and Marlowe, Tolstoi, Thomas Hardy – an indiscriminate jumble; I read everything with the utmost enjoyment. ”
Writing Struggle o Even though Narayan is a well respected writer now, his early years were not that easy. In his autobiography, he mentions how he wrote several stories revolving around matrimony, for his uncle’s friend who was starting a magazine on it. Later, the editor said, that he would publish the stories one by one, over a period of time, and the payment too was delayed. Or not made at all. I am not sure. The whole concept of him becoming a writer, was in itself a very uncomfortable pill to swallow for his family. “Unwisdom!” one gentleman cried. “You could write as a hobby, how can you make a living as a writer? The notion is very unpractical. ”
o He mentioned in his memoir, “I had got used to getting back my manuscript with unfailing regularity once every six weeks- two weeks onward journey, two weeks on the editor’s table, and two weeks’ homeward journey with a rejection slip pinned to it… All in all it provided me with six weeks of hope. ” The response to ‘Swami and friends’ was mixed even amongst his family. While one person said it was brilliant and a masterpiece, his uncle criticised the very first sentence. He held one to the light and read out, " 'It was Monday morning. ' Oh, oh, Monday! Why not Tuesday or Friday? "
Success At Last! o His novel did ultimately get published, and in quite a dramatic fashion. After being rejected by half-a-dozen publishers in England, he asked his friend Purna, to weigh it with a stone and drop it into the Thames river. Better sense prevailed, and Purna sent the novel to Graham Greene. He said that the book was one in ten thousand found a publisher for Swami and Friends. The novel despite being well received did not do well as far as sales are concerned. The publisher, Hamish Hamilton, refused to publish his second novel, ‘The Bachelor Of Arts’, and again Graham Greene intervened and found him a publisher.
o Years later, when RK Narayan met Hamish Hamilton at a party (who other than Graham Greene’s), Hamilton said, ‘’Remember I was your first publisher, and I will always be proud of the fact. ”
Narayan’s Fiction. o “Only the story matters, that is all. If readers read more significance into my stories than was meant originally, then that’s the reader’s understanding of things. But if a story is in tune completely with the truth of life, truth as I perceive it, then it will be automatically significant. " R. K. Narayan has written around 15 novels, mostly revolving around the fictional town of Malgudi. Most revolve with a middle class Brahmin as the protagonist. About the origin of Malgudi and his first novel, he says: “Malgudi with it little railway station swam into me all readymade, with a character called Swaminathan running down the platform peering into the faces of passengers and grimacing at a bearded face. ”
o "I must be absolutely certain about the psychology of the character I am writing about, and I must be equally sure of the background. I know the Tamil and Kannada speaking people most. I know their background. I know how their minds work and almost as if it is happening to me, I know exactly what will happen to them in certain circumstances. And I know how they will react. "
o As for his short stories, one can make out from the introduction of his anthology Malgudi Days, that he enjoys writing them more. As they offer the writer and the reader more variety in less time. Several of his short stories and his novels, Swami and Friends, and The Vendor Of Sweets has been converted into a novel.
Other Works Of RK Narayan o Besides his fictional work he has written, the two great Indian epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata, a healthy amount of essays, an autobiography, a travelogue, and also a Guide Book of Karnataka, which he republished as ‘The Emerald Route’ under his own publication. “It may sound hyperbolic, but I am prepared to state that almost every individual among the five hundred millions living in India is aware of the story of the Ramayana in some measure or the other. Everyone of whatever age, outlook, education, or station in life knows the essential part of the epic. ” “As a fiction writer, I have enjoyed reading Kamban, felt the stimulation of his poetry and the felicity of his language, admired the profundity of his thought, outlook, characterization, and sense of drama. ”
o Besides this, he even started a journal called ‘Indian Thought’, which he later discontinued. The Publication (also ‘Indian Thought’) still exists and is managed by Narayan’s granddaughter. It publishes only Narayan’s books and prices them in the range of Rs. 100. He wrote a travelogue, on his journey to USA, called ‘The Dateless Diary’. It has many humorous incidents, including one where Narayan was asked whether he liked to have his coffee, ‘black’ or ‘white’. Narayan, confused, said that he’d like to have it brown the way it was made back home.
Awards o Awards His first major award was in 1958, the Sahitya Akademi Award for. The Guide. In 1964, he received the Padma Bhushan during the Republic Day honours. In 1980, he was awarded the AC Benson Medal by the (British) Royal Society of Literature, of which he was an honorary member. In 1982 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature multiple times, but never won the honour. Recognition also came in the form of honorary doctorates by the University of Leeds (1967), the University of Mysore (1976) and Delhi University (1973). Towards the end of his career, Narayan was nominated to the upper house of the Indian Parliament for a six-year term starting in 1989, for his contributions to Indian literature. A year before his death, in 2000, he was awarded India's secondhighest civilian honour, the Padma VIbhushan.
Death Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Narayanswamy Iyer, died on May 13 th, 2001. Leaving behind a rich series of books, which cliché’d as it sounds, still makes him and his imagination alive.