Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting for the Mahatma by R K Narayan - Book Review

R K Narayan's novels, which involve various types of people from a fictitious town called Malgudi, are a delight to read. "Waiting for the Mahatma" is another realistic novel set during the freedom struggle days. I was surprised by noting R K Narayan handling a romance genre in his novel. However after reading this novel, I am amazed how well he brings out the emotions in romance as well. This novel is a stunning representation of freedom struggle movement and its impact on the lives of numerous Indian people.

The novel is about a boy of age around twenty called Sriram. He lives with his grandmother in Malgudi. Sriram tries to explore the outside world himself to figure out what interests him the most. He is drawn towards a beautiful and patriotic girl called Bharati in a local festival. He tries to woo her and comes to know that she is working under Mahatma Gandhi for the freedom struggle. He somehow manages to sneak into the freedom struggle movement even though he has no clue initially what it is for. The story unfolds as the experience of a conservative guy entering social life and his romance with a bold and beautiful girl.

Sriram deserts his old grandmother and travels across different villages of rural India along with Bharati to spread the message of the Mahatma. His encounters with different set of people like the shopkeeper who sells foreign imported biscuits is amusing. Sriram comes in contact with a terrorist called Jagadish and the consequences of his associations with him have been realistically portrayed. At some point of time both Sriram and Bharati are destined to be shut in jail indefinitely. Whether Sriram could get the acceptance of Bharati to marry her and whether Mahatma approved their marriage are interestingly narrated.

The best aspect of this novel is the capture of the simplicity of the India and its citizen prior to gaining independence. The ongoing freedom struggle which alters the lives of different people like Sriram makes one feel about the numerous citizens who were forced to abandon their families for their country. The comedy of errors associated with the death of grandmother are thoroughly enjoyable. The novel also provides an insight into the minds of cunning people like Jagadish who manipulate and drag others into their troublesome ways. Having Mahatma and Netaji as characters in the story adds credibility to the story.

Though the backdrop of the story is freedom struggle, R K Narayan makes it relatively light through his impeccable narrative style. The caring grandmother and the shopkeeper Kanni are characters one can easily find in Indian villages even today. I enjoyed the novel as much as any other novel of R K Narayan. The manner in which he brings out the subtle emotions associated with romance is brilliant. I doubt whether any of the present Indian writers have the capacity to match Narayan. This novel is a must read for anyone who wants to delve into the lives of Indian citizen before independence.


Hillranger said...

A nice novel to read. The subject of light romance has been very subtly dealt with so as to retain the seriousness of the struggle without diluting the movement. What's so amazing about RKN's writing is that he takes care only to narrate with a refined humour only he can embed in a story and leaves the judgement to the reader.

I would rate "The Financial Expert" as probably one the best of his novels.

Anonymous said...

Very well written... That is really a nice book to read.... the way he wrote and the way he narrated the incidents and related to common man or aamjunta is fantastic. Have read that book 3 times :)