Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Guide - R. K. Narayan

Date of Reading: 20/06/2007
Author: R. K. Narayan
Publisher: Indian Thought Publications
Place: Chennai
Year: 2007 (63rd reprint)

          Railway Raju is a disarmingly corrupt tourist guide, who lives by his wits and falls in love with a beautiful dancer named Rosie. More by chance than skill, he seduces her away from her husband, Marco, a lonely writer who is obsessed with local rock carvings, and transforms her into a celebrity courted by wealthy and influential dignitaries wherever she performs.
          Meanwhile Marco has been risen to fame through his book; he writes a letter to her demanding her signature for the deliverance of a jewel box. Raju who was in charge of the correspondence, forges her signature and later finds himself in jail.
           After two years of imprisonment, he sits on the river step beside an ancient shrine wondering about his future. Velan, from the village of Mangal, approaches for advice mistaking him for a Holy Man. Word soon spreads and more and more people come to get a dharsan of the saint. Raju accepts the role gratefully as he does not want to return to Malgudi disgraced.
          Once a drought and famine shook the village; discontented villagers starts to quarrel with others. To put an end to this discords (which may also call the attention of the police) Raju decides to fast until they stop. But his message gets misinterpreted and everyone believes he is going to fast till the coming of the rain.
          Trapped, Raju confesses his story to Velan who remains steadfast even after hearing the truth; he declared that the story will be safe with him. Touched by this loyalty and innocence, he decides to be the role that he has chosen. With the media publicising the event, a huge crowd gathers around to get blessings. On the 11th day, he goes to the riverside to pray as part of his daily ritual, where his legs sag down and he feels the rain falling in the hills. Ending is ambiguous; the question of whether Raju dies or whether the drought has really ended is left unanswered.

Rating: Very Good

          Narration is not linear; this was a little troublesome as I frequently turned the pages to know what happens to the saint Raju. Like all his other novels, there are no powerful women characters; Rosie is weak and is constantly at a conflict as whether to choose her husband or lover. The interesting part, as always, is the life in Malgudi -- the village school, coming of the railway station, Mempi hills etc.
--- novel brought RKN the 1960 Sahitya Academy Award for English.
--- the film Guide was released in 1965, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

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