"Iswaran" (1947, 10 pages)
"The Evening Gift" (1047, 8 pages)
The Reading Life R. K. Narayan Project
Posts on Indian Literature
Is There No Hope in Malgudi?
Three Powerful Stories by R. K. Narayan
All of the stories I will post on today are from the 1947 collection of stories The Astrologer's Day and Other Stories. In each story in just a few pages Narayan made me feel I knew the characters and understood much about their lives. I will just post briefly on each of these stories. Each one is about hopes so close to being realized only to have them smashed at the moment it seems they will at last come true. Lives of work and drudgery seem about to take a turn for the better. All end on a capricious twist of fate brought on by the weakness and venality inherent in the human soul. I am detecting based on blog statistics a lot of interest in Narayan which is a very good thing as he belongs among the 20th century geniuses of the short story (and I have not yet read any of his longer works.)
"The Preforming Child" is both heartbreak and uplifting. Heartbreaking because a families only hope for a decent future for their daughter has been destroyed and their elated hopes totally defeated. Uplifting because in the end parental love seems to override the drive for material wealth, even if the drive is for their children. Their young daughter, at most 12, loves to sing and dance. She wins a local contest and and a big movie producer wants to bring his financial backer to the parents house to see the child preform as he thinks she has the potential to be a huge movie star. This means riches beyond the families dreams. All goes great during the visit-the men really want to put the daughter into movies (Bollywood is just getting started around 1947)-I do not want to tell the ending as it is a bit of a puzzle as to why it ends the way it does. What does the girl know or fear? I will leave the ending of this story unspoiled. If you have read the story, what do you think of the ending.
"Iswaran" is about a perpetual failure who almost succeeds. The lead character is trying to get into a good secondary school. In order to do so he has to pass a standard exam. He has flunked it so many times he is a laughing stock. He tries one more time. He does not even want to go check the board where the results are posted but he at last gets the courage up to look. He pasted. All the laughter will be gone now. He begins to imagine all the people he will soon be able to look down on and the new future that has opened up for him. Things do not work out. I found this a really well done story.
"The Evening Gift" is just so hilarious and so sad. I loved the occupation of the central character, he is the paid watch dog of a rich drunk. A wealthy man pays him to pick him up every night around 600pm and take him to drink. The man just watches him and no matter what he is to stop the man from drinking at 900pm. His boss has told him even if he has to use force take him home at 900pm. The boss has advised him that by 900pm he may well be drunk and will abuse him verbally and threaten to fire him. He has been told that even if the boss tells him he is fired to take him home and come back the next day like nothing happen has happened. The worker gets a call from his family saying the need 100 rupees to save the family home. He tells his boss about it and the boss says. "what that is nothing to me" and he makes the man a gift of the money. Of course things go bad from here!
You can read these stories and 27 others HERE (it looks like a sentence or two is missing at the end of "The Evening Gift"-if you have these last few line please e mail them to me-thanks)
If you have experience with Narayan please share it with us.