Born in Madras of British India in 1906 R. K. Narayan short for Rasipuram Krishnaswamilyer Narayanswami, is one of the most celebrated authors in India to date. His simple writing style and descriptions of a hearty Indian town with its mix of townspeople won him hearts all over the world.
His first novel “Swami & Friends” was published in 1935 with help of British author Graham Green followed by “The Bachelor of Arts” made him an instant success in India as well as abroad. Graham Greene considered him one of the greatest novelist in English Language and fondly wrote,
Narayan wakes in me a spring of gratitude. Without him, I could never have known what it is like to be an Indian.
R. K. Narayan shortened his name after Graham Greene advised him to do so. He told him, “In this country, a name which is difficult for the old ladies in the library to remember materially affects sales.” Graham Greene became his mentor and friend for the rest of his life. Both writer’s influenced each other and that can be seen in their works.
R. K. Narayan. The Master Story Teller
Born as a teacher’s son, brought up between Madras and Mysore his stories were wildly based in a fictional town of “Malgudi”. Before Swami and Friends Narayan struggled to write. While he loved writing his first job was teaching which he left to write for a newspaper’s Police Beat column and spent the rest of his time scribbling stories of a fictional town’s myriad daily affairs.
So how did Graham Greene found such a small town guy writing away in his small woody chamber the daily lives of people of Malgudi under a rusty fan?
When his first draft was rejected by publishers a sad might as well say depressed R. K. Narayan sent it to his friend who was studying in Oxford, England with a note that said, “Weigh it with a stone and drown it in the Thames.” Yep, right! His friend did the opposite, he loved the story and gave it to Graham Greene for a read. The rest is history. A published book and a new friend for life, one of the many gifts his literary career bestowed him with.
Out of many titles by R. K. Narayan, his book “The Guide” was widely received. Bollywood director Vijay Anand along with Ted Danealiewski set out to make a movie of the same name starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman which released in 1965. A movie that I have enjoyed watching quite a lot of times and I recommend it to everyone. In 1968, an off-Broadway company adapted the novel into a play.
His book “Swami & Friends was adapted in a TV Drama “Malgudi days” first episode. Just it’s starting soundtrack is enough to bring back the fond memories of mischievous Swami’s fun life as he runs away from his boring school. His adventures with his friends (Mainly Mani), grandma and the townfolks. All the things that he made me want to do. hahaha Can’t describe the fun it was to imagine the things we could have done as kids. His father’s expectations from his son, an advocate himself. Here’s the first episode for you to watch – Malgudi Days Ep 1.
I loved Malgudi Days and Guide as visual adaptations of his novels until I was big enough to run around looking for his books in the bookshops and second-hand book shops. To my surprise, I find myself wanting to write simple stories that people can relate to. Suddenly, I am missing the childhood days I spent listening to the stories my Grandma told. The glorious innocence of childhood… It’s a pleasure to be able to read such books.
R. K. Narayan’s brother R. K. Laxman’s cartoons are published in many of Narayan’s books. When asked ‘where is Malgudi?‘ Usually, it ended it with a funny line by the author but one of his lines said it all, “Malgudi is a place where we all belong, and where we wished we lived.“
For now, I end this article. Despite his initial failure R. K. Narayan kept writing wonderful novels one after other and published 34 of the by the time of his death. He is an inspiration to all of us for his simple writing style to his honest accounts of his writing times. Got to read more of his books as time goes on.