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In a country of over 1.2 billion people, it is difficult to create any sort of niche in the minds of the public. To do so in a manner that commands universal respect, is of course, is an entirely different story. Very few people in this country have been able to do this…Sachin Tendulkar, Amrish Puri, Vikram Seth, to name a few.
Another man in this league of extraordinary gentlemen was Dr. RK Narayan. With a writing career spanning over six decades, I guess only a precious few people would be oblivious of this man’s existence and the presence of the phenomenon called ‘Malgudi’.
I was barely five years old when my father presented me with a book called ‘Swami & Friends’. This was one of the first books I ever read. Swami was a character I really related to & I managed to finish that book within that week.
The best part about Narayan’s writing was that the stories didn’t have the dreamy, happy endings that Indian books & movies are famous for. The books had an uncomplicated air about them. This coupled with the straightforward language & the inherent simplicity of the anecdotes only added flavor to the writing. The scheduled trials of the everyday man generated enormous mass-appeal for these books! His books brought out the humor & energy of ordinary life & displayed the compassionate humanism of the common village-folk.
Dr. Narayan managed to evolve his writings with each successive attempt & so it was the perfect platform for anyone to evolve as a reader. From Bachelor of Arts to Mahabharata, from A Tiger for Malgudi to The Guide, each of his books implanted a unique aspect of simple life into the reader’s mind.
RK Narayan won many prestigious awards including India’s second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan & was even nominated to the Rajya Sabha.His writings were compared to the likes of long standing stalwart Guy de Maupassant as they both have the ability to compressive the narrative without losing out on the elements of the story…
The town of Malgudi, a fictional South-Indian town which was the scene of most of Dr Narayan’s stories, transcended cultural and political borders. It could represent almost any town in any country at that time, be it New York or London. His narratives, arguable the best parts of his writings, highlighted social context &provided a feel for his characters through social life.
His writing style was often compared to William Faulkner, who also conjured up an imaginary town & his writings contained faint traces of biographical views as well. On the morning of 13th May, 2001, RK Narayan passed away at the age of 94 for reasons unknown…he had been in a state of constant depression & grief ever since his wife had passed away & although, this was a great loss to the literary world, his demise was treated by his followers as a graceful exit of a triumphant performer after a thoroughly entertaining show.
Dr. Narayan shall always remain alive in the eyes of all who were touched by the magic of Malgudi…