R.K. Narayan : The Novelist who became Honorary Member of American Academy's image
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R.K. Narayan : The Novelist who became Honorary Member of American Academy

Kavishala LabsKavishala Labs October 10, 2021
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“ The difference between a simpleton and an intelligent man,

according to the man who is convinced that he is of the latter category,

is that the former wholeheartedly accept all things that he sees and hears while the latter never admit anything except after most searching scrutiny.

He imagines his intelligence to be a sieve of closely woven mesh through which nothing but the finest can pass. ”

― R. K. Narayan

Having been born and raised in Madras, in 1906, he was educated there at Maharaja's College. In 1958 R.K. Narayan's work The Guide won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, the country's highest literary honor. Thus, R. K. Narayan became the most widely known Indian English Novelists.

Let's recite the most adorable poem ‘Malgudi’ to remember R K Narayan, the creator of India’s most loveable town of all time -


I have come to Malgudi –

at last!

All is flux

but Malgudi does not fluctuate.

It is what and where

it always has been,

resting like a cloud

somewhere in South India.

It flows as it has always flowed –

the river Sarayu –

and has not changed course.

Birnam Wood may move

but Mempi Forest – guess what –

it hasn’t moved an inch,

not to Chennai or Mumbai.

Here’s the thing:

all needs are fulfilled in Malgudi.

If rain’s required,

will Raju not earnestly pray

for the first drop to fall?

Furthermore:

if poems need printing

someone will be waiting,

at Truth Printing Works:

why, if they pass muster

one can read them to the long-suffering pupils

of Albert Mission School (established 1904)

or give them first to Srinivas

for top-class editing.

What else?

Should I need oil

is Elliman Street not home

to oil mongers?

What if I get bored?

I can gaze at that statue again –

Sir Frederick Lawley proudly on his horse,

a good Brit: a “Quit India” Brit!

The Boardless restaurant

where only the most exquisite gossip is exchanged:

a certain gentleman of Kabir Street

cuckolded again – for the third time.

Pop up to the station

and see who’s getting off the train.

A Talkative Man, perhaps?

So what if I stare!

In Malgudi, it’s not rude to stare.

A stray dog without a name

lies down beside its weary shadow.

Early morning stroll

to the river for ablutions:

the milkman might ask, “What time is it?”

Jingle of ox-bells, carts on their way to market.

Ah! I have come to Malgudi.

If taken ill

What better than an earful of good words from Dr. Raman!

If more good news is needed

Surely postman Thannappa will bring it.

Friendship?

A poet is recreating the life of Krishna

in priceless monosyllabic verse –

“Girls with girls did dance in trance –”

surely he will become my dearest friend!

Some people say, “It has changed.”

No! The way ‘some people’ see it has changed

but that’s people for you, not Malgudi!

Malgudi does not change,

it does not expand anymore

or contract.

Let others follow their dreams and mirages –

Jagan, vendor of sweets,

still follows the Mahatma.

Rome, Vrindavan, Cork, Los Angeles –

I could not live anywhere else. No.

I have come at last to Malgudi!

But wait!

Yes. Of course. Yes, I know…

Do you take me for a crazed one,

Idiot of the Month?

I know full well it does not exist.

But I have news for you:

neither does Rome, Cork

or anywhere else.

Malgudi is nothing,

nothing but fiction,

a dream, pure illusion…

The Regal Haircutting Saloon –

I mean to say, really!

And yet…

I have come

I am here and not here

I have reached the unreachable:

I have come at last to Malgudi.

-Gabriel Rosenstock


Along with writing top novels, Narayan has authored almost 5 collections of short stories, including A Horse and Two Goats, Malgudi Days, and Under the Banyan Tree including 2 travel books and 2 volumes of essays, 1 volume of memoirs, and the re-told legends Gods and Demons.

Early in the year 1980, he has been awarded the A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature.

Whereas in 1982 he was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Most of his work, beginning with his very first novel Swami and Friends (1935), captures many Indian traits while retaining a unique identity of its own. His Novels and stories were grounded in a compassionate humanism and nurtured the humor and energy of ordinary human life.

R.K. Narayan lived among us till the age of 94 but unfortunately died in 2001. He had written for more than 50 years and published Noveld until he was 87 years old. He titled 14 novels, 5 volumes of short stories, a number of travelogues, and collections of non-fiction, wrapping up with the condensed versions of Indian epics and the memoir My Days.

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