Monday, September 6, 2010

'My days' R.K.Narayan's Autobiography

I picked up this book from Harsha mainly because when I flipped through it at first go, I came upon the pages when R. K. Narayan's first book 'Swami and Friends' got published. I borrowed it and read it leisurely - it is an easy read of about 216 pages written in that straight, honest, self-deprecating and funny tone. From his childhood in Madras where he played with his uncle's peacock and monkey, living in fear of the neighbourhood bully, to his time at the Lutheran School, and then rejoining his family at Hassan, R.K.Narayan vividly paints the picture of India in the fewest words without adding any drama at all. His impressions of people, of events is hilarious as he breezes through his life in a dream like state. His non-achievements in school and college are written in the most matter-of-fact manner. Sometime after he joins college at Mysore, does the writer in him emerge, and he writes with great love for the city of Mysore.

His strict disciplinarian academic father who was the headmaster of the school he studied in, his mother who handled the large household, his many brothers of all ages and sizes (Laxman being the youngest), his uncles (senior and junior), his loves, his teachers, his friends, Narayan goes through fondly and easily. His marriage and his constant financial troubles, life in a joint family, his aspirations to be a writer at whatever cost and his rejection of formal employment give a glimpse into the kind of a man he was. He writes how Swami and Malgudi appeared one fine day in his mind and how the story progressed thereon.

His belief in his ability as a writer stands out strongly as he refuses all temptations and sticks to writing despite financial pressures. His trials and tribulations are the same as any writer would have experienced. Search for publishers, rejections, the temperamental nature of publishers after publishing, writers feeling that publishers are not pushing the sales properly etc. He writes that so well that any writer can empathise with his story. His friendship with Graham Greene, the famous writer, and the impact it had on his success as a novelist is yet another story.

Narayan's personal loss of losing his young wife to typhoid when their daughter was only three years old is one of the most poignant moments in the book. His depression and his long, arduous climb out of it is shared well. His love for her comes across through he never writes about it much - he never married again despite losing her when he was about 33 years old. His contempt for the way he was taken for a ride on the filming of 'Guide' comes across scathingly. And his peace with his words, with his Mysore, with his writing and life, as he goes about building his own house in Mysore, makes one want to visit Mysore and pay respects at his house.

The book serves as a great inspiration to all writers. It is the same story. But his discipline at sitting at his desk and writing for ten hours a day, shows in his enormous body of work. I am glad I have the R.K. Narayan Omnibus at home and it is time to revisit it all and the characters he said whom he based upon some real life people. I don't know why, but he reminds me so much of my friend and mentor, the late Rajan Bala, his uprightness, his financial planning, his passion for writing, his scathing sense of humour. I am deeply regretting not meeting him in his lifetime - I did pass through Mysore before that.

But I think I will certainly go and gawk at his houses 1,2 and 3 in Mysore soon. That much I can do.


Rajendra said...

I think Rajan Bala and Narayan looked alike too..

Harimohan said...

I thought so too.