Malgudi Days (short story collection)

Malgudi Days is a collection of short stories by R. K. Narayan published in 1943 by Indian Thought Publications.[1]

Malgudi Days
Malgudi Days.jpg
AuthorR. K. Narayan
IllustratorR. K. Laxman
Cover artistSahil Sahu
CountryIndia
LanguageEnglish
GenreShort story collections
PublisherIndian Thought Publications
Publication date
1943
Media typePrint
Pages150
ISBN81-85986-17-7
OCLC7813056
Preceded byThe Dark Room 
Followed byThe English Teacher 

The book was republished outside India in 1982 by Penguin Classics.[2] The book includes 32 stories, all set in the fictional town of Malgudi,[3] located in South India. Each of the stories portrays a facet of life in Malgudi.[4] The New York Times described the virtue of the book as "everyone in the book seems to have a capacity for responding to the quality of his particular hour. It's an art we need to study and revive."[5]

In 1986, a few of the stories in the book were included in the Malgudi Days television series and directed by actor and director, Shankar Nag.

In 2004, the project was revived with film-maker Kavitha Lankesh replacing the late Shankar Nag as director. The new series was telecast from April 26, 2006, on Doordarshan.[6]

In 2014, Google commemorated Narayan's 108th birthday by featuring a Google Doodle showing him behind a copy of Malgudi Days.[7]

ChaptersEdit

  • "An Astrologer's Day":

A short story about an astrologer who knows nothing about stars or astrology. He applied for the job after going on the run, though we are not told why he ran away. The townspeople believe his predictions because of his study, practice and shrewd guesswork. One day, a customer bets a large amount of money the astrologer can't reveal anything of substance. The astrologer resists the bet until he recognizes the man (who is called Guru Nayak). After some haggling, the astrologer tells the man he had been stabbed and left for dead in a well. The impressed customer pays up (although not the promised sum) and the astrologer warns him not to travel to this part of the country again. That night, the astrologer's wife asks where he had been so late, and he confesses he had tried to kill the man years ago.[8]

  • "The Missing Mail":

A story about Thanappa, a postman who always talks to the people on his route. He delivered to a man named Ramanujam from before his daughter was born to the time she is of marrying age. After the last marriage prospect falls through, Thanappa recommends a suitor in a faraway town. The meeting goes well and everyone is rushing to get the wedding done May 20. If it is delayed even one day, the groom's "training" will delay it three years. After the wedding, Thanappa reveals a postcard to Ramanujam about the death of a relative, which should have been delivered May 20. Thanappa did not want to disrupt the wedding, even though hiding the letter should cost him his job. Ramanujam says he will not issue a complaint.

  • "The Doctor's Word":

A story about Dr Raman, who by time and tradition is only called for life-and-death situations. As such, he believes pleasant lies can't save lives. He is very staunch about that. Suddenly his best friend, Gopal, falls terribly ill. After treating him, the doctor privately thinks he has 1:1000 odds of surviving, but his chances are worse the more he exerts himself. Gopal begs the doctor to tell him if he will make it; if not, he needs to sign his will then and there. Raman can't bear to tell Gopal the truth, but can't let him keep straining himself. He tells Gopal he will be fine. The next morning, Gopal's health is splendid, and the doctor says his survival will puzzle him the rest of his life.

  • "Gateman's Gift":

A story about Govind Singh who served as a gatekeeper and security guard. He only spoke to the General Manager twice in his 25 years of service, and came to perceive the GM as a god. After retiring, he took up the hobby of making miniatures and dioramas using clay, sawdust, and paints. Each time his pension comes, he delivers his clay work to his old company, always asking what the GM thought of his last one. The accountant always says he liked it. One day, a registered letter from the GM comes, and Singh is too afraid to open it, thinking it is something horrible. He goes to an X-ray technician to see what's inside without opening it, but they tell him he is unwell. Singh concludes he is mad because he plays with clay, not because of his response to the letter. He goes through town acting like a complete madman until the accountant sees him and opens the letter. The GM had thanked him, sent a large check, and hoped to see more of his work in the future. Singh gives up his clay hobby, saying it is no work for a sane man.

  • "The Blind Dog":

A story about a stray dog who befriends a blind beggar. When the old woman who cares for the blind man dies, he leashes the dog and begs while walking the streets. The blind man finds he has greatly increased his income this way becomes greedy. He constantly kicks the dog and beats him to keep working. When the market sellers learn he is so rich he's lending money, they cut the leash with scissors and the dog runs away. After a few weeks of not seeing the blind man or the dog, they see them again and the dog's leash is a metal chain. The blind man says his dog came back to him one night. The sellers pity the dog.

  • "Fellow Feeling":

A story about Rajam Iyer, a Tamil Brahmin who is travelling on an express train. Another passenger gets on and starts verbally abusing a third passenger. Rajam gets involved and the bully complains that Brahmins are secretly eating meat and driving prices up. The argument escalates until they stand to fight. Rajam stops short of the first blow and explains that he will rearrange the bully's face so his mouth is under his left ear, bluffing. As he is about to strike again, the bully sees they are at a stop and leaps out the window, saying this is his stop. Rajam lies and tells the other passengers the bully got back on into a different compartment, but they don't believe him.

  • "The Tiger's Claw":

A story about The Talkative Man, a recurring character in several short stories. Some hunters bring a dead tiger into town, and The Talkative Man tells a story to some children. When he was a fertilizer salesman, he stayed in a tiny village overnight in their train station. He left the door cracked because it got too hot to sleep. A tiger barged in and woke him up in the middle of the night. He barricaded himself behind a lot of furniture, so the tiger could only reach in one paw. The man used his knife to cut off three toes before the tiger retreated. Back in the town, the children ask to see the tiger's paw; sure enough, three toes are missing. The hunters say some tribesmen like to take tiger cubs and cut off three toes as good luck charms.

  • "Iswaran":

A story about a man named Iswaran who failed his intermediate college exams nine years in a row. After taking the exams a tenth time, the day scores are reported has arrived. Instead of viewing his scores, Iswaran goes to the cinema. When other boys come in to the theater celebrating their own success, Iswaran becomes self-loathing and is sure he failed again. He decides to drown himself in the river. He writes a suicide note and leaves it in his jacket on the shore. But wanting to know for sure, he checks his score. Not only did he pass, but with second-class honors. In his excitement, he leaps into the river. His body and suicide note are discovered the next day.

  • "Such Perfection":

A story about a sculptor who finishes a statue after five years of labor. It is a statue of the god Nataraja, and everyone insists its form is perfect; so perfect that if the people saw it, the glory of the god would consume them. The priest asks the sculptor to break off its little toe so that it will be safe to view, but the sculptor won't do it. The priest thus refuses to consecrate it in the temple. The sculptor turns his house into a temple to have it consecrated there. The god then comes to life and rattles the region with every kind of natural disaster. The people beg the sculptor to mar the statue's perfection after so many people died, but he won't. He ran to the overflowed lake to drown himself as an offering to the god, but on the way, a tree falls on his house. He returns to see the statue was unharmed except for a severed little toe. The imperfect statue is consecrated at the temple, and the sculptor gives up his trade.

  • "Father's Help":

A story about Swami, a character from his first novel "Swami and Friends". Swami oversleeps on Monday and convinces his mother to let him stay home from school. His father insists he still go to school with a "headache," so Swami lies and says his teacher Samuel beats children severely for lateness or any small offense. His father writes a letter for Swami to deliver to the headmaster and sends him to school. The letter will surely get Samuel fired, maybe even imprisoned. At school, Swami provokes Samuel to do something deserving of getting fired. But Samuel only canes his hands a few times, which Swami doesn't even react to. When he tries to deliver the letter to the headmaster, he is on leave all week. The assistant headmaster could accept it, but it's Samuel. Swami runs home without delivering the letter. His father thinks he was lying about the headmaster being on leave and says he deserves Samuel.

  • "The Snake-Song":

A story about the Talkative Man. A group of men leave a concert hall having enjoyed the performance, but the Talkative Man looked tortured. He says taste has sunk and tells his story. He studied the bamboo flute with a master musician (who is so obscure his name is unknown, of course). A beggar interrupts the Talkative Man's practice at night and asks him for food. He declines the beggar even the right to come in and listen to him practicing. The beggar curses him, saying this was his last day of music. Later that night, a massive cobra comes and listens to him play. It gets agitated when he stops or plays anything other than the snake-song. After playing the same song all night, he throws himself prostrate and begs the snake to spare him. When he looks up, it is gone. The Talkative Man says he gave up his flute, but if he could find the beggar and ask forgiveness, he would take up his flute again.

  • "Engine Trouble":

Another story about the Talkative Man. A carnival comes to town, and he wins a road engine (steam-powered tractor). Not knowing even how to drive or power the road engine, he simply leaves it in the park. The city starts to fine him for the parking space at over double his home rent. He arranges to move it, but it crashes in a wall instead, leaving him to pay for the damages. A swami comes to town, eating glass, burying himself alive, etc. The swami asks for a road engine for his assistant to run over his chest, but the city magistrate refuses to allow it. After a massive earthquake, the road engine lodges in a well owned by the same man whose wall was destroyed. He thanks the Talkative Man, as the city was going to fine him for the dirty water if it wasn't sealed. Of course, you can't see the engine lodged in the well anymore, as it is now sealed with concrete.

  • "Forty-Five A Month":

A story about a daughter, Shanta, and her father, Venkat Rao. Shanta is a primary school student who is eager to go home from school early, as her father has promised to take her to the cinema. At home, she gets dressed up and waits for her father. When he doesn't come home by the time he said he would, she tries to find his office, but gets lost. A servant leads her back home. We flash back to that morning and follow Venkat Rao's day. He feels guilty that he stays at work until after his daughter goes to bed, seven days a week. So when Shanta asks to be taken to the cinema, he promises to take her. That afternoon, he asks his boss for personal leave or else he resigns. His boss tells him nothing is more urgent than work, so he goes back to working. Fed up with being bought for forty rupees a month, he writes a letter of resignation. His boss tells him he got a raise to forty-five rupees a month, so he tears up his letter. Venkat Rao gets home after his daughter falls asleep and tells his wife he can't take Shanta out at all since he got a raise.

  • "Out of Business"

A story about Rama Rao, a man who had just lost his gramophone business as the only factory in the region closed down. Rama Rao looks for a local job, to no success. The family lay off their servants and rent out the house they built to live in a smaller abode. With no more job prospects, Rama Rao enters a magazine crossword contest, where everyone who gets every answer right wins 4000 rupees. After seeing how badly he lost, he lays down on the train tracks to die. After waiting too long, he finds a crowd at the station and hears that a derailment has delayed all trains three more hours. Recognizing his good fortune, he goes home and his wife tells him the renters want to buy their house. He is excited to sell for 4500 rupees and will use some of the money to go to Madras and get a job there.

  • "Attila":

A story about a friendly dog named Attila, after the "Scourge of Europe". After the neighborhood experienced a number of break-ins, a family buys a dog for security. He is friendly with everyone and does not stop thieves from taking their garden flowers, so the family keep him inside at night. One night, a thief named Ranga does break in to steal jewels. Attila is so excited to meet this new friend that he follows Ranga into the open street. The family assumes the dog was stolen too, but they see Attila run to catch him. Ranga gets scared and runs, but trips over the dog, spilling the jewels he stole. The police arrest Ranga, and Attila is praised for being a master detective.

  • "The Axe"

A story about Velan, who an astrologer predicted would live in a three-story house. Velan came from the poorest family in his village. At age 18, his father slapped his face in public, and he left. After a few days of walking and begging, he got a job as a gardener for an old man. The plot of land was large and they built a three-story mansion on it, but Velan lived in his hut on the grounds. After being awed by the mansion's construction, he grips a margosa's stem in his fingers and tells it to grow up big and worthy of the house or he will pluck it out. It does grow, and his master's great-grandchildren play under it and hundreds of birds live in its branches. Velan's master dies and the house trades hands with family members for some years until wear and tear make the house look haunted and no one will live in it, except Velan when he is given the keys. Some years later, a man arrives to say the plot has been bought and will be cleared for small housing. One morning, Velan awakes to the sound of men chopping the margosa tree with axes. He begs them to stop until he has gathered his belongings and gone out of earshot.

  • "Lawley Road"

Another story about the Talkative Man. Just after India's independence, there was a flurry of patriotism. The municipality renamed streets from English things to Indian names. There was a statue of a Sir Frederick Lawley in town, and when the street bearing his name was changed, the municipality voted to remove the statue. The people also researched Lawley and found he had been a British tyrant over the Indians. When the city failed to find anyone to remove it within budget, the Talkative Man is offered the chance to take it for himself. He does and lodges it halfway inside his house with great difficulty. When he writes in the news how he got the statue, historical societies across India are outraged, as there are two Sir Lawleys, and the statue celebrated a kind man who founded Malgudi and even died to save Indians. The public protests the removal of the statue, but now neither the city nor the Talkative Man have funds to move it again. An election is coming, and if the statue problem is not returned to the city, the whole council will be voted out. The Chairman of Malgudi buys the Talkative Man's house with his private fund\\\

  • "The Edge"
  • "God and the Cobbler"
  • "Hungry Child"
  • "Emden"

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Malgudi Days by RK Narayan| Kaitholil.com". kaitholil.com. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  2. ^ Beade, Pedro (1 September 1985). "Ambiguities on parade in R.K.Narayan's stories, people can be animals and vice versa". Providence Journal. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  3. ^ Magill, Frank (1987). Critical survey of short fiction. Salem Press. pp. 224–226. ISBN 978-0-89356-218-2. OCLC 16225069.
  4. ^ "Malgudi Days (review)". Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2010.
  5. ^ Broyard, Anatole (20 February 1982). "Books of The Times – The Art of Teeming; Malgudi Days". NY Times. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  6. ^ "Malgudi Days on DD1". The Hindu. 12 May 2006. Archived from the original on 12 January 2010. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  7. ^ Flood, Alison (10 October 2014). "RK Narayan celebrated in a Google doodle – but only in India". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  8. ^ Malgudi Days by R.K.Narayan