R K Narayan : A Hungry Conversationalist
Today, October 10th is India’s most celebrated writer R K Narayan’s birth anniversary. Undoubtedly one of the best story teller we have seen. Growing up reading Malgudi Days, Swami and Friends, Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories, The Bachelor of Arts, The Guide, Talkative Man, The Financial Expert, Mr. Sampath, The Vendor of Sweets, The Painter Of Signs, The Man-Eater of Malgudi, ah!…. The list continues.
Narayan’s writing was simple and unpretentious. He made India accessible to the outside world through his literature. Narayan’s writings often brought out the anomalies in social structures and views. He gave us an imaginary town Malgudi which will be remembered forever.
On his birth anniversary let’s look at his achievements and unheard stories of our very own Malgudi creator.
- One of the leading figure in Indian Literature (other two being Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao)
- In 1964, he received the Padma Bhushan (India’s third highest civilian award)
- Narayan recieved Padma Vibhushan (India’s second-highest civilian award)
- ‘The Guide’ won India’s prestigious Sahitya Academi Award, first time given to a book in English.
Failed in university but succeeded worldwide.
Narayan failed in his university entrance examination and had to spend a year at home. He spent his one year reading and writing. A 3 year Bachelor’s of Arts degree wasn’t 3 years for him. He took a year more to complete it.
A few of Narayan’s books are semi-autobiographical. You can see his years in completing Bachelor’s degree in his books ‘Bachelor of Arts’
Publication? Not at all easy!
His first novel Swami and Friends which remains the favourite of many was rejected by a string of publishers. He said in one of his interviews, “I had no difficulty in writing. I had difficulty in finding someone to publish what I wrote.”
Several Small Things for One Big Thing
Narayan had to struggle a lot to find publishers. He couldn’t publish all by himself due to financial barriers. He struggled to earn his living. He received small money by writing stories and essays for various newspapers.
“To do a big thing you have to do several small things big.” R K Narayan is an example for that.
A Tragedy Which Changed His Life
Narayan fell in love with Rajam. He was successful in convincing his father-in-law to get his daughter married to him. Unfortunately Rajam died of typhoid at an early age of 28, leaving behind a daughter of age 3. Rajam’s death affected Narayan deeply. He was depressed for a long time.
This incident brought a significant change in his life and became an inspiration for his next novel ‘The English Teacher’ He acknowledges it to be almost an autobiography.
When R K Narayan lived in Mysore, he would walk to the market ever afternoon. What’s there to buy every day? Well… He didn’t go with a purpose of shopping. He went to talk to the vendors, he enjoyed conversations, and he loved listening to people.
You can see the magic in Naryan’s novels. It assures us, Narayan was undoubtedly a good conversationalist.
It’s rare to find people who love listening to others. Listening makes you a better conversationalist. The better you listen the better you understand people. It enhances relationships in business. Not just in business, it does the same for personal relationships too.
It’s Never Easy with Critics
Romance, thrillers and mysteries are the most selling plots. Narayan said, “Everything was abolished in my style of work.” And most of them criticized him “What’s there in that story? There’s something interesting that you’ve written, but there’s no ending, there’s no powerful climax or anything. What are you driving at?”
R k Narayan’s works are beautiful, it didn’t need an ending, he made readers think, think in several aspects as to what direction would the character choose. He never wanted to bring in intense drama and thrillers. He wanted to portray a simple man, a man with emotional disturbances in the changing world. And we love him for that, for making simple things look beautiful and complex things look simple and nice.
Age is Just A Number
When one young journalist asked him on how he managed to write even after 50, here is what Narayan said “You see, fifty years is nothing. It might look very big for you, who are quite young. But when fifty years end, you find it just the same – the illusion of time, you know. We are what we are. Whether you grow older, more decrepit, inside, the sense of awareness, of being is the same throughout.”
He added, “The chap inside is the same, unchanged. Others see a little baldness, a little stooping and say, how’d you manage to live at all?” Typical Narayan’s style of response. Don’t you agree with me?
Graham Greene about R K Narayan
Graham Greene, an English novelist who is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Garaham Greene helped Narayan with publication in the west. He was the one who identified the genius in his initial days of struggle. Garaham Greene was very close to Narayan’s heart and so was Narayan to him.
Here is what Garaham Greene had to say about R K Narayan’s writing,“Whom next shall I meet in Malgudi? That is the thought that comes to me when I close a novel of Mr Narayan’s. I do not wait for another novel. I wait to go out of my door into those loved and shabby streets and see with excitement and a certainty of pleasure a stranger approaching, past the bank, the cinema, the haircutting saloon, a stranger who will greet me I know with some unexpected and revealing phrase that will open a door on to yet another human existence.”
It feels great to see Google homepage today. For me, coming from a place Mysore, where Narayan spent many of his days. The places you walk to, like market, Maharaja College where he studied his Bachelor of Arts, his favourite walking park, his house and many such places. All these places bring his story characters to life every now and then, to cherish the beauty and innocence in the busy schedule of life. Malgudi will stay in our hearts forever. He is one of my favourite writers and I have read many of his books out of which Swami and Friends, Malgudi Days are closer to my heart. Tell us your favourite, we would love to hear from you.
To know much about India’s great story teller, you have his autobiography My Days.
You can find his masterpieces here BEST OF R K NARAYAN.
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