This is my first RK Narayan book, read as part of RK Narayan Readalong hosted by Deepika at Worn Corners. Thanks, Deepika! I had so much fun reading this book, that I’ll definitely get the others.
After being released from prison Raju goes to barber shop and then to an abandoned temple to consider his next moves. In his pre-prison days Raju was a tourist guide, now he sits in the temple thinking whether he should go back home or try his luck somewhere else. Suddenly Raju is approached by Velan, who mistakes him for a saint. Raju does not confirm but also does not deny, our story starts from here.
Raju tells us the story of his life in the temple but at the same time we get more and more glimpses of his past and all events that led him to the temple, as he narrates it to Velan. Both parts converge towards the end of the book, as Raju starts understanding his life better.
Raju doesn’t take himself too seriously, his narration is full of humour, but also emotions. I really liked the parts where he struggled with his new status of being a fake saint, or maybe actually becoming a real one.
The thing that had really bothered him was that he might sound too brilliant in everything he said. He had observed silence as a precaution. But that fear was now gone. He decided to look as brilliant as he could manage, let drop gems of thought from his lips, assume all the radiance available, and afford them all the guidance they required without stint.
He was surprised at the amount of wisdom welling from the depths of his being.
The essence of sainthood seemed to lie in one’s ability to utter mystifying statements.
Raju is an interesting character, he is no saint and he knows it, on the other hand he is a person that we sympathise with as we get to know his story. He uses his opportunities, adapts to the situation and tries to make the best of it even if that mean doing the wrong thing morally. He loves like crazy, but is also greedy and arrogant. As he tells his story to Velan he starts to understand where he went wrong, he does not regret things openly, he is not unhappy as a saint, but we know he sees some of the things he did as wrong, as we get to know Raju he also gets to know himself.
It’s a book that made me laugh numerous times, it is also a book with soul. Narayan has fantastic gift for creating sense of place and characters that are well rounded, but do not take themselves too seriously. His prose puts things in perspective. It was a lovely refreshing read, I’ll definitely be going back to Malgudi.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska