Wednesday, July 19, 2006

R K Narayan

I have always wanted to compose a writeup on people who have influenced my life, and with due respect to my parents and friends, I would like to start off with the most acclaimed Indian author of all time, RK Narayan, the man for whom simplicity meant everything.

RK Narayan has had a great influence in my life, thanks to my father, who imbibed in me the virtues of reading anything and everything. RK Narayan had this uncanny ability to observe people, and come up with stirring short stories that left an indelible mark on the minds of the readers. It is not easy to interweave plots and connect people through day to day situations. This is what makes RK Narayan get close to people. He would never juxtapose his writings with complex vocabulary and sentences. It was plain and easy going, as if two people are having a daily conversation. The "common man" found it easy to identify with the characters created by the great man. He brought Malgudi, a town created by him to the forefront of the literary world. It made people sit back and ask questions "Where is Malgudi? Is it represented on the world map?" Such was the powerful influence of his imaginary world that it could pull people to a gripping sense of reality. RK Narayan in all his interviews has always maintained Malgudi to be a universal town, though he did say that he was inspired by the two of the oldest residential areas in Bangalore - Malleswaram and Basavanagudi. Now, Memphi Hills, Sarayu River, Nallapa's Grove, Kabir Street, Lawley Extension and many other landmarks are permanently affixed in literature and more importantly, in people's minds.

The settings for his short stories are derived from simple characters and people who we come across in daily life. Two elders talking in the corner of the street, a coconut seller arguing with a customer and an old woman crossing the street would so easily be transformed into a short story, transporting the reader to realms of high quality literature and more importantly with a stirring message. As RK Narayan himself mentions, his inspiration for his stories came from observing people in his street in Mysore. His ideal day would be a walk for about a couple of hours where he would meet a multitude of people each having their share of news, that would bear a connotation that deemed fit for his short stories. He would not spend more than a couple of hours in a day with his writing. The rest as they say is history.

RK Narayan did not have a rosy entrance to the literary world. He sent his manuscript to many authors across the length and breadth of the country. His writings also found a seat on the table of Graham Greene, with whom RK Narayan shared a great relationship in the future. Graham Greene happened to read his book on a rainy day and was tremendously impressed by the simplicity of his writing. The book happened to be Swami and Friends, and again, the rest as they say is history. Swami and Friends is a delightful and entertaining story of a young boy named Swami, and his tryst with his friends Mani and Rajam, their fights and patch up, their emotional relationship and their common understandings and minor fissures. This book is a true replica of any school going boy's lifestyle. The final chapter of the book is truly enchanting and touching. His many other works similarly delve deeply into human relationship and its importance. People could associate an autobiographic style in his future works. It would be so easy to talk about his works, but I would save that for later.

RK Narayan throughout his life has been compared to many great authors, but to me he was a man who could understand and capture the essence of life from an Indian perspective in the most simple way. He is an inspiration for many young people and his writings have the ability to transcend all generations. His death(in the year 2001) has left an irreplaceable void in Indian literature, but his short stories and novels with its unique characters are truly immortal and will live in the hearts of the readers forever.