Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tiger For Malgudi - R. K. Narayan

These days, whenever I feel like reading something that does not tax my mind, I reach out for any of RKN books. This time I picked up 'A Tiger for Malgudi' and it is vintage RKN. It's slim, as easy a read as any of his books and is set in the familiar setting of Malgudi with its Kabir street, the Boardless, the Pankaja Tiffin shop and other landmarks which have now become familiar to me. Only the characters change.

What is interesting about 'A Tiger for Malgudi' is that it is told from the perspective of a tiger. And I thought the 'Life of Pi' was the first! Obviously RKN did his research on the tiger's life in the jungle and the way it goes about its life and gave it his unique perspective of looking at human intrusion into its life. The tiger Raja even finds love and loses it! However, the story is that of Raja, an enormous tiger, that ventures into human territory after some hunters shoot down his lady love and children and how it is taken by a circus owner who trains it to perform in his circus. Captain, as he is called, is quite a character, and he trains the tiger well and shows it off as a new attraction. RKN in his inimitable style brings in the tiger tamer's weak side by showing a few exchanges with his wife Rita, the trapeze artist!

Anyway the news of the trained tiger reaches the ears of Madan a film producer who needs a trained tiger and the exchanges between him and the Captain are hilarious. Madan's movie is jeopardised when the tiger decides that enough is enough and makes a break and hides in the school headmaster's room. The room is locked, with the tiger inside, and the head master secure in his loft and RKN goes to town describing how the ordinary Malgudi denizen reacts to the extraordinary situation. Alphonse, the hunter, the vice Head Master and the strange Master who finally appears to tame the tiger with a dose of spirituality. There is enough fun in this book as there is in Malgudi, as there is drama and action and even tragedy.

I'd certainly recommend it.

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