The Guide By R.K. Narayan

INTRODUCTION

R.K. Narayan is one of the most important novelists of India along with Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao. The three were colossal figures of their generations who put Indian Literature in English on the world map. R.K. Narayan’s novels show his keen observations about Indian social life. The current paper concentrates on his novel The Guide which has also been made into a successful film by Dev Anand. The paper shows how Narayan uses the characters of Rosie and Raju to bring home the point that criminality never pays.

R.K. Narayan’s novel The Guide is the story of a man named Raju who comes from a small village in India called Malgudi. Malgudi itself does not exist. This fact gives Narayan’s novel the feeling of a fable or fantasy. Raju’s life is predicated on a series of self-deceptions which eventually lead the character down a road of confusion, loss of self and then to spiritual transformation and awakening.

The theme revolves around Raju’s failure to fulfil the moral responsibilities of being a guide that is, to show the true path and interpret it correctly.

The Guide is a 1958 novel written in English by the Indian author R. K. Narayan. Like most of his works, the novel is based in Malgudi, the fictional town in South India. The novel describes the transformation of the protagonist, Raju, from a tour guide to a spiritual guide and then one of the greatest holy men of India.

Summary of Raju in R. K Narayan’s The Guide

The central theme of the novel The Guide by R.K Narayan is the transformation of Raju from his role as a tour guide to that of a spiritual guide. The title of the novel, The Guide, has a double meaning, and Raju is in a sense a double character. As a tour guide and lover, he is impulsive, unprincipled, and self-indulgent. After his imprisonment, and after his transformation as a holy man, he is careful, thoughtful, and self-disciplined.

The Guide opens with the release of the protagonist, Raju, from prison and taking refuge in the old temple on the banks of the Sarayu River. Unable to face the people of Malgudi, Raju is hiding to live in secrecy. Before his imprisonment, he was a public figure, and because of his brilliant wit, he was able to play several roles: a corrupt tourist guide, an adulterous lover and a theatre impresario. Having lived the life of an adventurer, he eventually sacrificed his life as a saint, a new mahatma, as the people around him say, for the sake of the rural community.

Raju, the guide is destined to be a guide by chance and temperament. By chance, he becomes a tourist guide when he gets in charge of the railway shop, buys papers and old books to wrap up articles, reads books and papers while away his time, gathers information about Malgudis, never says “no,” gives false information, successfully cheats tourists and becomes famous as a tourist guide. In fact, he says to Velan, “It wasn’t because I wanted to utter a falsehood, but because I wanted to be pleasant.”

His role as a lover and stage manager is highly appreciable. After he seduced Rosie, he was dismissed by her because of her guilt and Marco’s knowledge of them. He’s obsessed with her, but he doesn’t pursue her. Rosie comes to her own house as she was deserted by Marco. His love for her motivates him to take care of her physical and artistic needs. The storage of money and Rosie’s devotion to dance compels him to organise a public performance for her. As a result of her success and complete dedication to her profession, she becomes her manager and manages her business affairs. He’s living on her, but he’s also working hard to turn Rosie’s more or less strength into accepting the role. Being a capable actor, he plays the role of perfection. Being ignorant, he does not understand the basics of dance, but he understands Rosie’s desire to be a dancer, and so he manages her affairs perfectly financially.

Rosie’s obsession with dance, however, results in alienation and communication loss. Raju feels perplexed and the best. His love, jealousy, and possessiveness make him hide. Marco’s book and copy the signature of Rosie. Basically, he doesn’t want her to realise the generosity of Marco. This choice of his leads, ironically, to his imprisonment. In fact, he’s so used to playing roles that he doesn’t realise the extent of his act.

When he sits lonely and bored near a dilapidated temple, a villager called Velan comes and tells him his trouble. The simple peasant is mistaken for a “swami” because there is actually something holy about Raju’s appearance. He’s sitting on a slab of granite. As the storey reveals Velan’s respectful gaze at Raju, he chooses to sit two steps below the slab. Impressed by the holy appearance, Velan is encouraged to unburden himself, seeking advice and guidance. Raju, on the other hand, is tempted to play the role of the Swami because “it was in his nature to get involved in other people’s interest and activities”.

Raju fulfils the demand of the Mangala villagers. He was disconcerted by the devotion of the peasants, who believed that a superior soul had come to live near their village. Ironically, Raju’s old habit of offering guidance to others when he was a tour guide asserts himself when he wants to be honest this time. The special attention of the villagers makes him “feel uncomfortable” and so he wonders if he could devise some means of escape from the company.” His circle of devotees is bound to widen because he is believed to have worked a miracle on Velan’s step-sister. As a result, it becomes the daily practice of Velan and his own.

CHAPTER-WISE SUMMARY

In the first chapter Raju, who has recently been released from prison is sitting in an abandoned temple wondering what to do now that he is free. Raju is approached by a visitor named Velan, a man who lives in Mangal, a village not far from Raju’s home village of Malgudi. Velan has just come from visiting his daughter who lives nearby. The narrative then shifts to the past as Raju remembers stopping at the barbershop located just outside the prison. Raju goes in for a shave and a haircut before beginning his life outside the prison walls. The barber tells Raju that he can easily recognize an ex-convict. The barber tells Raju that he can tell how long a man has been in prison simply by looking at him.

In Chapter 2, Raju continues to reminisce about his boyhood in Malgudi. The character talks in vivid detail about the arrival of the railway. After Raju calls another boy a foul name, the boy runs and tells Raju’s father. When questioned, Raju admits learning the bad word from the workmen who are building the railway. Raju’s father decides to send Raju to school the next day. Raju is extremely unhappy with his father’s decision. Rather than sending Raju to the more prestigious Albert Mission School, Raju’s father chooses for his son to attend a local “pyol” school. The name “pyol” school signifies that the children are taught while sitting on the teacher’s “pyol” or front porch.

One day, the boys sneak over the threshold and into the teacher’s house and watch him prepare a meal in his kitchen.

In the third chapter, the railway finally comes to Malgudi. In celebration, everyone in town is given the day off. A band played and many important men gave speeches lauding the arrival of progress. Raju’s father’s business continues to do well and his father invests in a “jutka” (a kind of taxi) and a horse to pull it. Raju’s mother complains about her husband’s expenditure, telling him that the animals they own are “sufficient bother”. Nevertheless, Raju’s father ignores his wife’s protestations and a groom is hired to care for the horse. The groom subsequently convinces Raju’s father to be allowed to hire out the jutka and horse since the family does not use it very often. The groom agrees to pay for the horse’s grain and promises Raju’s father two rupees a day as a return on his investment.

Chapter 4 once again returns to the perspective of the omniscient narrator as Raju speaks with a large group of villagers at the ancient temple. Raju learns that the villagers are not sending their sons to school during the day, preferring instead to have the boys take the cattle out for grazing. He suggests sending the boys to school in the evenings. Raju asks the villagers to send the schoolmaster to the temple. The next day, Raju speaks with the schoolmaster and convinces the man to teach the children their lessons at the temple in the evenings. The schoolmaster apologizes to Raju for only being able to bring a dozen or so children to the temple. He tells Raju that the children are apprehensive about crossing the river at night because they are afraid of being eaten by crocodiles.

Chapter 5 begins with Raju explaining how he came to be called “Railway Raju.” During his time as a shopkeeper at the Malgudi station, Raju earns a reputation among the travellers as a man who can get anything for anyone at any time. People passing through would ask Raju a variety of questions: how to get to a particular hotel or where they might buy a delicious meal. Raju always has an answer even if he has to make up a lie. Raju does not see this type of lying as a detriment, he is merely unable to say, “No,” and “I don’t know.” Raju tells himself that he simply lies sometimes in order to be pleasant. Eventually, Raju establishes a professional friendship with Gaffur the taxi driver.

At the beginning of Chapter 6, the narrator observes that Raju has lost track of how long he has been hiding out at the temple. It could be months or years, Raju does not know for certain. Velan and the other villagers continue to bring gifts of flowers and food to Raju, in appreciation of all the new priest has done for them. At one point, Raju begins distributing the gifts among the villagers, embarrassed by the outpouring of respect and adulation. The people begin to call Raju “Swami.” During the times of heavy rains, the people would all crowd around Raju in the temple. However, after a while, Raju notices that it has failed to rain for quite a long time.

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Raju elaborates on his relationship with Rosie and Marco. Raju finds Marco to be a rather impractical man who is so engrossed in his work that Marco has no head for the affairs of ordinary daily living. Because Marco is so involved in his exploration of the cave friezes at Mempi, Rosie and Raju begin to spend more time together, much to the displeasure of Gaffur the taxi driver. With Marco ensconced at his Mempi Peak bungalow, Rosie and Raju make Room 28 at the Adnan Bhavan their home away from home. Raju begins to feel insecure about his affair with Rosie. Raju finds himself confused and muddled, riddled with fear that he is not good enough for Rosie.

Raju’s creditor, a man known as the Sait, comes to the house demanding payment. Raju tells the Sait that he has no money. The Sait threatens to take Raju to court. Raju plays it off because he does not want Rosie to worry about anything. Raju is unemployed and desperate for money. Raju brainstorms about how he can make money from Rosie’s dancing. Raju asks Gaffur for a 500 rupee loan and Gaffur refuses. Raju realizes that his friendship with Gaffur has ended.

Raju gives his last five rupees to a lawyer who has agreed to represent him in court. The lawyer manages to secure an adjournment. One morning, Raju’s uncle pays them a visit. The uncle verbally berates Raju and tries to bully Rosie into leaving. Raju’s mother joins in and tells Rosie that she will have to leave.

Nalini’s professional career takes off. Raju realizes that he is recognized because of his association with Nalini and not the other way around. Raju takes it upon himself to play the impresario in public, controlling every facet of Nalini’s career. He imagines himself to be a very important man and cannot see Nalini being able to get along without him. For Raju to settle his outstanding debt to the Sait, it becomes necessary for his mother to sign over her interest in the house. Raju’s mother signs without resisting. Raju and Nalini’ move into a new home that is quite upscale and rather large. Raju hires musicians to accompany Nalini during her performances. Raju also hires two cooks, two gardeners, a bodyguard and a private driver.

Nalini visits Raju in jail and he advises her to go to their banker to assess their financial state of affairs. Nalini learns that all of Raju’s frivolous spending has left them with next to no money. After three days in the local jail, Raju returns home to Nalini. Ashamed of what has done, Raju does his best to stay out of Nalini’s way. Raju tries to convince Nalini to go through with the performances he has booked for her during the next quarter in an effort to collect the balance of fees owed to them in order to recover some of the money they lost. Nalini informs Raju that she has decided to let all of the servants go. Raju and Nalini argue after Nalini tells Raju that she will refund the advance money paid for the upcoming engagements.

As Chapter 11 opens, the sun is coming up and Velan sits silently before Raju as Raju finishes telling Velan his story. When asked for his reaction to what Raju has told him, Velan is unswayed in his devotion to the “Swami.” Velan gives Raju his solemn word that he will not tell anyone what Raju has shared with him. This puzzles Raju. Velan descends the temple steps and goes back across the river to his village. Soon, news of Raju’s hunger strike spreads throughout India and members of the press begin to converge on the temple where Raju lives. Crowds of people gather at the temple to pay homage to Raju, the accidental holy man. Velan attends to Raju day and night, making sure Raju is not disturbed by pilgrims and onlookers.

The Guide | Analysis

Published in 1958, The Guide is the most acclaimed novel of R. K. Narayan that won him not only immense popularity but also the Sahitya Academy Award for 1960. Of all the Indian novelists writing in English, Narayan alone has the distinction of being a pure artist, one who writes specifically for the aesthetic satisfaction and not for any ulterior motives like propagating his political or economic agendas. In all his novels, he presents a slice of life as he sees it, neutrally and justly. However, one must not presume out of this, that Narayan does not have any vision of life. It only means that he does not construct his novels around an officious message. Consequently, his novels are entirely free from didactic tendencies.

Narayan is a penetrating analyst of human passions and human motives, which makes him a great critic of human conduct. He presents both the good and the evil and never takes sides. He holds a mirror to nature, and like a mirror shows nature truthfully without any distortion. Despite this, he does take the pain to communicate that bad or evil actions lead to similar consequences and good actions yield good results. There is no doubt that Narayan’s vision is essentially moral, for the problems he sets himself to resolve in his novels are largely ethical. Besides, it usually revolves around Hindu traditionalism in Narayan’s works and involves a confrontation when that traditionalism is defied by the characters that entertain a more modern and more guilelessly individualistic value. Interestingly, in The Guide too, Narayan’s main characters resist the traditional, religious and familial duties and then inadvertently drift towards their destined doom because in Narayan’s system the aberration or disorder caused by the non-adherence of norms definitely leads to adverse outcomes. However, as stated Narayan’s moral vision is not consciously or explicitly cultivated in his writing. They are incidentally and inherently part of his art of storytelling and of the cultural environment, which is the background for all his stories. Thus, Narayan’s message in The Guide also has to be garnered by the readers themselves according to their own respective intuitions.

In the novel, the protagonist Raju encounters questions of traditional morality when he sets out to realise his dreams and aspirations. He does not care to abide by the social and moral norms when it comes to Rosie. He seduces Rosie, the other man Marco’s wife, begins living with him and thus violates a major conventional order. The whole society including his own widowed mother stands against him but he puts a blind eye on the severity of the chaotic situation. He gets into financial trouble and becomes a kind of social outcast due to his relationship with Rosie but he refuses to mend his ways and thus fails to bring order and harmony in his own life and his surrounding society. Raju’s life becomes a total failure and he earns the wrath of everyone around him because he deals erratically with each one of him or her. Krishna Sen aptly observes in this context:

Strikingly, Narayan’s human experience and compassion constitute a mature moral vision which is vitalised by his humorous narration and given depth by his acceptance of traditional and religious values, which at various points in his narratives place his characters in moral relief. His humour discriminates between the permanent and the absurd; thus while Narayan gently mocks some peculiar, pretentious or hypocritical attachments to traditional customs, or displays some of the inept incongruities which result from a blunt attempt to amalgamate tradition and modernity he indicates time and again that the traditional way provides the best guarantee of joy and fulfilment.

In the novel, Raju is portrayed as an ordinary and not-so-great human being and Narayan presents in a humorous yet serious vein, his clumsy attempts at realising his potential for greatness, and also the spectacle of his efforts towards maturity that is spiritually enlightening and morally uplifting. We see Raju maturing before us by stages, over a period of time. His self-awareness is hard-earned but not in the way in which a tragic character earns it. The cleansing takes place no doubt but not in the heroic strain. As Raju is a kind of anti-hero, Narayan does not show this ‘common man’ reach the tragic height of Shakespeare’s protagonists, although Raju’s self-awareness and the sense of social and spiritual fulfilment that results from it in the end, is something that astonishes us and elicits appreciation.

Narayan’s knowledge of Indian classical literature, philosophy, religion, morals and ethics pervades his writing, but as said already he does not burden unnecessarily, his readers with discourses on his viewpoint and vision. This is perhaps so because Narayan views life’s lapses not with any missionary kindness or zeal but with the understanding and sympathy of an artist who acknowledges various compulsions and complexities of life and then describes them accordingly, through his chimerical narrative modes. So behind the narrative mask of his novels, Narayan attempts to portray a vision of life, a life of opposing dualities, of appearance and reality, beliefs and betrayals. According to S. C. Sharma and Birendra Kumar, “Narayan uses myth as a technique to illustrate his moral vision of life. More interestingly, he always comes upon an ancient myth which enables him to express his view of the world and vision of life”. For instance, “Raju, in re-enacting the penances of the sages of yore, is trying to bring rain to end the drought. This is reminiscent of the story of the sage-king Bhagirath who conducted severe penance to bring down the goddess Ganga, a story found in both the Ramayana and Matsyapurana”.

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Like Narayan’s other novels, The Guide too begins with realistic settings and everyday happenings in the lives of a cross-section of Indian society, with characters of all sections. Gradually fate or chance, fault or blunder transforms mundane events to fantastic happenings. Unexpected disasters befall the hero as easily as unforeseen good fortune. The characters accept their fates with an equanimity that suggests the faith that things will somehow turn out happily. This, in a way, implies the basic viewpoint of the novelist and depicts the approach towards the life he seems to advocate. Raju, like a leaf, drifts away with the wind of circumstances, reaches his nadir when he gets imprisoned, is given a second chance and then hopes for a better tomorrow. P. S. Ramana observes: Narayan has studied a character first on the test of social order i.e. in the context of his community, set up and social environment, secondly, he studies a character in relation to himself. Further analysis of the characters’ life restates the claim of their grounding in Indian moral and social value system. Even Narayan’s comic vision too illuminates numerous significant themes like the place of woman in a traditional society, the moral limitations of a materialistic way of life and the consequences of outraging accepted codes. Rosie is unlike the typical Indian heroines. She leaves her legitimate husband and begins staying with Raju. This outrageous act becomes the reason for her further distress.

Narayan’s fiction combines different facets of life and experience. Narayan views human relations, traditional values and conventions as essential elements of an orderly human life. Besides, he also seems to believe that in order to attain harmony and peace in human life it is very essential to give due attention to relationships because man is basically a social animal and relations give stability to his existence. The marital relationship between Marco and Rosie breaks down because in the beginning, Marco neglects Rosie and later Rosie dares to break the chains and refuses to blindly respect and revere the tradition of marriage. The severing of relationship brings emotional trauma in its wake. Both husband and wife eventually suffer and repent for not giving due regard to their mutual relationship. The relationship between Marco and Rosie in The Guide is not based on conventional philosophic values as devised by Manu in Manusmriti dedication, surrender, mutual respect and proper understanding. This couple does not share the ideal kind of bond and therefore, their relationship does not become everlasting and in Narayan’s system, is bound to bring doom.

Thus, the role of traditional values and philosophical touch to human relationship has been emphasised by Narayan apparently in The Guide too, like his other novels. Narayan presents the characters passing through a period of struggle and transformation but towards the end, they attain a new vitality, which provides them with a new explication of common situations. The normalcy in the life of Raju comes, only because of his submission to traditional values and self-realisation. Further, Narayan’s vision also embodies the great theory of order and disorder He applies a pattern in almost all his novels including The Guide. This pattern is found in the relationship between Raju and his mother, Marco and Rosie and even Raju and Rosie. Order and peace prevails in these relationships in the beginning, but this order does not remain for a long time. These relationships do not attain any suitable dimension because the motives of the individuals involved in these relationships clash with each other and their viewpoints and attitudes differ from each other

When these characters comprehend the transient nature of human relationship based on selfishness and contrary purposes, the relationships split. But by the end, as they learn the lesson that traditional values are mandatory for any human being to achieve salvation and self-realisation, they attain spiritual calm and tranquillity in life.

Narayan shows that it is these values that help a person to maintain his or her equilibrium in times of discord, disagreement of motives and conflict. For instance, when in the novel, “Raju, the worldly man, turn into a Swami to perform the saintly act of penance, he negates the world of egoistical pleasure to seek in an act of goodness and God the ultimate goal of his life” (Mukhopadhyay). It is interesting to note that although most of R. K. Narayan’s characters have a grounding in the cultural life of their society and have deeply absorbed and assumed the philosophical ways of life, there are some, who are outgoing and bold in their approach. Characters like Raju and Rosie besides cherishing the ancient values and retaining the traditional ways of life, do not yet hesitate in bringing about a change, adopting and adapting to the modern ways of life. But thankfully, when they cross the line of social dignity in doing so, they are pulled back on the right path by twisted circumstances and situations.

Narayan’s fiction also represents his firm belief that crime never pays. Raju being a cunning man exploits Rosie, commercially as well as sexually for his own personal gratification. He uses Rosie’s talent to earn a fabulous fortune but wastes it in lavish living and bad habits. He becomes so mad in acquiring money that he reaches a point where he deceives Rosie and forges her signature, which lands him in the prison. This act of wickedness is not only a legal crime but also a crime against Rosie’s innocence that has trusted Raju completely. Narayan through Raju’s fate signifies that one can never escape the consequences of his or her acts.

Evidently, Narayan’s stories also emphasise the spiritual view of self-realisation and Moksha, which form an important subject in Indian philosophy too. The Bhagavad Gita and its Karma philosophy regard self-realisation or enlightenment as the absolute goal of man’s life. Man’s soul ultimately acquires concert with God and this unison gives him moral and intellectual perfection transcending the distinction between good and evil, between doubt and faith, between being and non-being. He becomes ready for his last release and attains the disposition of a saint. Narayan has very artistically interwoven these thoughts in his novels including The Guide. He has presented the theory of renunciation, and liberation or Moksha in The Guide through the character of Raju, the tourist guide. He is initially entrapped in the illusory world when the materialistic philosophy guides and governs his life. He forges the signature of Rosie and is accordingly punished for the crime and sent to the jail. His foul deeds have the obvious outcome. He receives his ill fate as per his evil actions. But during his stay in the prison, he finds time for his moral and social transgression. The prison provides him with an ideal opportunity to look into the innermost regions of his soul and shake off his material and social deceptions. Thereafter, Raju’s character evolves gradually but this evolution becomes a ceaseless and ongoing process. By the end of the novel, Raju attains that selfless state like a saint, which sets the stage for his release from all the worldly shackles.

Conclusively, The Guide is the story of the protagonist’s journey through life. It is his journey through a maze of illusions and the attainment of the ultimate universal truth. The concept of liberation has been underlined again and again in the novel and the character of Raju becomes the most convenient vehicle for Narayan to elucidate human weaknesses and subsequent enlightenment. Human existence is nothing but the endeavour of ‘individual-self’ to become the ‘pure-being’. The former is prevented from reaching the ideal state of ‘pure-being’ because of ignorance, which drives it into the labyrinth of illusion. We tend to blindly seek our true self but we can attain it only through the proper perception of life’s ultimate goals. The individual soul recognises the boundless reality existing forever behind the cosmic mask of illusion and realises that its own true nature is identical with the pure-being. This self-realisation makes it achieve the ultimate freedom. Through Raju, who eventually renounces his physiological needs and offers to sacrifice his life for the well-being of others, Narayan invites us to share the infinitude of Raju’s liberation which unifies him with the cosmos.

In the novel, Raju attempts several possible explanations for the movement of events in his life. His agonising self-awareness shows his faith is pre-ordained destiny. Joy and sorrow, reward and punishment all are the outcomes of one’s deeds done in the past. The actions of human beings affect, direct and condition their lives. Every action good or bad has a subsequent reaction. Understanding the supreme goal of life leads to the attainment of uncorrupted bliss. R. K. Narayan tries to drive home this point to a sincere reader through the most mundane incidents in The Guide.

The novel ends on the note of an unresolved problem. Whether Raju dies at the end of the novel or not, no one knows. However, the real essence of the novel lies in the fact that the readers’ witness Raju doing for the first time, something without any profit for himself, and the moment he accomplishes this selfless task, he renounces his previous life and achieves the state of Moksha and eternal bliss. Hence, the readers see Raju’s rebirth and not his death. Like a phoenix, Raju annihilates the past and recreates himself. Even as a knave, Raju always retains the sympathy of the reader. This follows from Narayan’s own attitude of humorous tolerance and humane understanding of individual debility and faults, which pervade all of his work. A moral lesson might be gently hinted but outright condemnation has never been part of his intention. Therefore, it might even seem that Raju’s misconduct actually grows directly out of his adverse circumstances. He is a victim of the coming of modern ways of life to Malgudi but finally, his salvation is worked out through a renewed contact with the traditional ways of life that remain still preserved in Mangala village.

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THEME IF THE GUIDE

R.K. Narayan’s magnum opus, The Guide is a thought-provoking novel, which explicates the subtle and complex human relationships in a very lucid manner. It explores a face of India — its customs, traditions, culture, socio-economic conditions, illiteracy, superstitions and religious faith and presents a conflict between traditional and modern values. It also focuses on the institution of marriage and family bonds and on the fact that certain set roles are assigned to a woman in a patriarchal society and if she tries to cross the defined precincts and desires more freedom, she arouses the wrath of the family members. It also throws light on the role of destiny in a person’s life.

CHARACTERS IN THE GUIDE

RAJU

Raju, the protagonist of the novel seems to have a dual personality. His character can be explored in different phases in the novel — As a tourist guide, he tells lies and cheats the tourists for his personal benefit. Even when he does not have the knowledge about a certain place, he makes ambiguous statements about it and never says ‘no’. However, he does this to make their trip more enjoyable and meaningful. By his wit, eloquence, knowledge and common-sense, he impresses the tourists and intuitively comprehends their needs.

In his relationship with Rosie, he is morally corrupt, self-centred, possessive, jealous and exploits her both emotionally and monetarily but at the same time, he gives her what she could not get from her husband. While her husband always ignores and humiliates her and when he even forsakes her, Raju remains very warm, caring and understanding recognizes her innate dancing talent, motivates her to become a renowned dancer and adds a new meaning to her life. However, this relationship spoils his entire career and life.

As Marco’s guide, on one hand, Raju is very co-operative, affable and helps him at every step but on the other hand, he tries every strategy to seduce his wife. When Raju forges Rosie’s signature, he is incarcerated and declared a criminal.

However, the behaviour of this criminal in the prison is ‘ideal’; he helps everyone, keeping them busy and in high spirits. He is very close and deeply attached to his mother; he sobs and cries when she leaves him, but when it’s time to choose between Rosie and his mother, he goes for Rosie.

When the role of a saint is thrust upon him, he is more of a hypocrite exploiting the honesty and simplicity of the innocent villagers; improvising and perfectly acting his part, making impressive, aphoristic statements, getting free food and respect and dealing strategically with the quarrel-situation to avoid the police. But, at the same time, he seems to work like a philanthropist for the well-being of the villagers. The collective blind faith of the villagers transform him; he forgets that he is an actor playing a role. The role becomes a reality when he gets ready to become a martyr for the cause of the villagers.

Raju possesses a unique capacity to adapt himself to all kinds of situations. He is a genial, self-made man, extrovert, loves life and lives every moment as it comes to him. The dichotomy in his character seems very complex but sustains the interest of the reader throughout the novel.

ROSIE

Rosie, a very charming and attractive lady, belongs to the family of Devadasis, a post-graduate in Economics, marries Marco and considers herself to be fortunate as her husband belongs to the upper strata of society.

As Marco’s wife, she is very devoted, warm and caring, but very soon she discovers that their interests are poles apart. She chooses a different kind of life for herself but remains emotionally attached to her husband, even after he deserts her.

Later on, she feels guilty that she has betrayed her husband’s trust. Even while staying with Raju, she constantly thinks of Marco, cuts his picture from a Weekly magazine and pastes it on her mirror. When she leaves Malgudi, she sells all her possessions except the “most precious” thing, i.e. Marco’s book, which she carries with her.

Rosie’s passion for dance is so strong that she drifts towards Raju and is indifferent to the fact that Raju is exploiting her. Her own perseverance and Raju’s motivation makes her a very successful dancer and for this, she is grateful to Raju.

Although, she hates Raju for his act of forgery, yet she is determined to spend her entire fortune for his legal battle. She has given up dancing, but just to raise funds for Raju, she takes up dancing again. She breaks down when she goes to meet Raju in the prison. This shows that she is a good human being.

Even though Rosie has committed adultery, the reader seems to like her for her strong determination to achieve her goal, for her indifference to the materialistic values of life, and for her vitality, warmth, passionate and co-operative nature.

MARCO

Marco, Rosie’s wealthy husband is an academician and researcher, totally dedicated to the study of culture and art. He is so much engrossed with ‘the dead and decaying things’ that he has no time to spare for his ‘living’ wife, who is a ‘true embodiment of art’.

He seems to be a typical man of a patriarchal society, who wants Rosie only to be a very caring housewife, catering to the needs of the family and living like his shadow, with no identity of her own. He has a very traditional mindset; he does not consider dancing as a ‘great art’ but demeans it by equating it with “street acrobatics”.

He thinks that a woman belonging to a ‘good family’ should not become a dancer. Warmth, understanding and compromising nature–qualities which are prerequisites for a successful conjugal life are lacking in him.

At the same time, he feels that the most important thing in a good relationship is “trust”. When Rosie accepts the fact that she has adulterous relations with Raju, and sincerely begs for his forgiveness, he abandons her, as she has betrayed his trust.

He is very honest and sincere too; he acknowledges his gratitude to Raju in his newly published book, even though Raju has cheated him. He even return
Rosie’s jewellery. However, he informs the police about Raju’s act of forgery because he wants to teach him a lesson for seducing his wife.

One can say that Marco is an introvert, self-centred, slightly conservative, eccentric, harsh but a righteous man.

VELAN

Velan is a naive, innocent, simple, honest, clear-hearted and illiterate villager. He is the first person whom Raju encounters sitting beside an ancient shrine. Raju’s facade and style of speech makes Velan feel that he is above ordinary, a godly-man, so he confides in him. On getting logical and philosophical answers to his problem, he becomes Raju’s sincere disciple and makes the credible villagers also do the same. Velan’s blind faith in Raju does not shake, even when he tells him the truth about his past life; he has a grave expression on his face, but he continues to venerate him as a saint. He, along with the other villagers, is superstitious enough to believe that the fast of the pure-hearted saint can bring rain. He observes a symbolic fast along with him.

As Swamiji’s health deteriorates, he gets extremely concerned. It is Velan’s blind faith which brings about a transformation in Raju, who very sincerely resolves to sacrifice his life for the innocent villagers. As the novel begins with Raju’s talks with Velan; it ends also with Swami Raju’s last words to him, “Velan, it’s raining in the hills …..”

RAJU’S MOTHER

Raju’s mother is a typical mother of the patriarchal Indian society; she is totally devoted towards her family and fulfils her responsibilities with utmost care. She is very affectionate, grooms up her son Raju as a pampered child and narrates tales to him from Indian epics. She co-operates with her husband and at times acts like a nagging wife. She is a very religious lady, reads prayers and sits before God in meditation. When Rosie comes to stay with them, initially she is compassionate and hospitable.

However, later on, as she does not approve of Raju-Rosie relationship, she speaks harshly to her and tries every trick to drive her out of the house. When she decides to leave Raju, she is very sad and there is extraordinary consideration in her voice when she advises him to be very careful about his health. She is distraught when Raju is imprisoned. She is a kind-hearted, considerate lady, empathizes with the pain of others but cannot tolerate wrong things.

RAJU’S MATERNAL UNCLE

Raju’s maternal uncle drops ‘ like a bolt from the blue’ in the novel. He is physically strong, a big landowner and a kind of general advisor and director of Raju’s important family matters. He is very stern, a strict disciplinarian; Raju used to be scared of him even in his childhood. He is called by Raju’s mother to admonish Raju and help her to get rid of Rosie. He, too, is contemptuous of Raju-Rosie relationship. He warns Raju to drive away Rosie from their house and threatens him with dire consequences using very harsh and abusive language. When he does not succeed in his attempt, he asks his sister to accompany him to his village. He says that as long as he is alive, he will never let his sister down. He proves himself to be a very responsible, caring and affectionate brother.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

NOTE: Questions andand Answers will be added soon.

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