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Indian Writing in English with Reference to R. K.

Narayan’s novels The

Guide and The Financial Expert

Indian Writing in English

Indian English literature refers to the body of work by writers in India who
write in the English language and whose native or co-native language could be one of the
numerous languages of India. It is also associated with the works of members of the
Indian Diaspora, such as V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, who are of Indian descent.

It is frequently referred to as Indo-Anglian literature. (Indo-Anglian is a specific

term in the sole context of writing that should not be confused with the term Anglo-
Indian). As a category, this production comes under the broader realm of postcolonial
literature- the production from previously colonised countries such as India.

Indian Writing in English has a relatively recent history, it is only one and a half
centuries old. The first book written by an Indian in English was by Sake Dean
Mahomet, titled Travels of Dean Mahomet; Mahomet's travel narrative was published in
1793 in England. In its early stages it was influenced by the Western art form of the
novel. Early Indian writers used English unadulterated by Indian words to convey an
experience which was essentially Indian. Raja Rao's Kanthapura is Indian in terms of its
storytelling qualities. Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Bengali and English and was
responsible for the translations of his own work into English. Dhan Gopal Mukerji was
the first Indian author to win a literary award in the United States. Nirad C. Chaudhuri,
a writer of non-fiction, is best known for his The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
where he relates his life experiences and influences. P. Lal, a poet, translator, publisher
and essayist, founded a press in the 1950s for Indian English writing, Writers Workshop.
Among the later writers, the most notable is Salman Rushdie, born in India, now
living in the United Kingdom. Rushdie with his famous work Midnight's Children
(Booker Prize 1981, Booker of Bookers 1992, and Best of the Bookers 2008) ushered in a
new trend of writing. He used a hybrid language – English generously peppered with
Indian terms – to convey a theme that could be seen as representing the vast canvas of
India. He is usually categorised under the magic realism mode of writing most famously
associated with Gabriel García Márquez.

Vikram Seth, author of A Suitable Boy (1994) is a writer who uses a purer
English and more realistic themes. Being a self-confessed fan of Jane Austen, his
attention is on the story, its details and its twists and turns.

Shashi Tharoor, in his The Great Indian Novel (1989), follows a story-telling (though in
a satirical) mode as in the Mahabharata drawing his ideas by going back and forth in
time. His work as UN official living outside India has given him a vantage point that
helps construct an objective Indianness.

Other authors include Manoj Das Vikram Chandra, Anita Desai, Kiran Desai,
Arundhati Roy, Gita Mehta, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Raj Kamal Jha, Jhumpa Lahiri,
Bharti Kirchner, Khushwant Singh, Vijay Singh, Tarun Tejpal, Amit Chaudhuri, Amitav
Ghosh, Vikas Swarup, Rohinton Mistry, Suketu Mehta, Kiran Nagarkar, Dr Birbal Jha,
Bharati Mukherjee, Mysore N. Prakash and C R Krishnan.

History of Indian English Literature

Indian English Literature has grown from a sapling to a strong rooted tree in full
bloom. Indians, however, did not start writing in English in a day – it took several
historical events and distinguished personalities to bring Indian writing in English to its
present eminence. Historical Perspective is an effort to contextualise the growth and rise
of Indian English Literature, from its inception to its present glory. During the 20 years
between 1835 to1855 thenumber of those educated in English had been rapidly
increasing. It is saidthat even in 1834-5, 32,000 English books sold in India, as against
13,000 in nativeIndian languages. The vogue for English books increased, and the
demand camemore from English educated Indians than from the Englishmen in India.

Indians started with reading, speaking andcomprehending English, and they soon
started writing also. Once this started,Indian writing in English had to range from the
most utilitarian prose to themost ambitious verse-epics, for example. On the other hand,
Indian writing inEnglish was but only one of the manifestations of the new creative urge
in India – what is often referred to as theliterary Renaissance in India.The study of
English literature stimulated literary creation in Bengali,Marathi, Telegu, Gujrati and
other Indian languages. And Indo-Anglianliterature had the same origin as the other
modern literature in India,though here the foreign element seemed more pronounced. The
filiations betweenthe modern Indian literatures (including Indian English Literature) and
Englishliterature have been close.

Indian authors writing in English have conquered the world. These eminent
writers have won coveted national and international Literary Awards, attracted vast
media attention and made the publishing industry breath afresh. With a rising readership,
they are the centre of critical attention, scholarly works and research activities of
International academia.

R. K. Narayan

R. K. Narayan was born in Madras in 1906 and educated there and at Maharajah's
College in Mysore. He has lived in India ever since, apart from his travels. Most of his
work, starting from his first novel Swami and friends (1935) is set in the fictional town of
Malgudi which at the same time captures everything Indian while having a unique
identity of its own. After having read only a few of his books it is difficult to shake off
the feeling that you have vicariously lived in this town. Malgudi is perhaps the single
most endearing "character" R. K. Narayan has ever created.
He has published numerous novels, five collections of short stories (A Horse and
Two Goats, An Astrologer's Day, Lawley Road, Malgudi Days, and The Grandmother's
Tale), two travel books (My Dateless Diary and The Emerald Route), four collections of
essays (Next Sunday, Reluctant Guru, A Writer's Nightmare, and A Story-Teller's
World), a memoir (My Days), and some translations of Indian epics and myths (The
Ramayana, The Mahabharata, and Gods, Demons and Others).

In 1980, R. K. Narayan was awarded the A.C. Benson award by the Royal Society
of Literature and was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute
of Arts and Letters. In 1989 he was made a member of the Rajya Sabha (the non-elective
House of Parliament in India). He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for The Guide

R. K. Narayan's full name is Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Naranayanaswami.

In his early years he signed his name as R. K. Narayanaswami, but apparently at the time
of the publication of Swami and Friends, he shortened it to R. K. Narayan on Graham
Greene's suggestion.

R.K. Narayan is a writer who contributed over many decades and who continued
to write till his death recently. He was discovered by Graham Greene in the sense that the
latter helped him find a publisher in England. Graham Greene and Narayan remained
close friends till the end. Similar to Thomas Hardy's Wessex, Narayan created the
fictitious town of Malgudi where he set his novels. Some criticise Narayan for the
parochial, detached and closed world that he created in the face of the changing
conditions in India at the times in which the stories are set. Others, such as Graham
Greene, however, feel that through Malgudi they could vividly understand the Indian
experience. Narayan's evocation of small town life and its experiences through the eyes
of the endearing child protagonist Swaminathan in Swami and Friends is a good sample
of his writing style. Simultaneous with Narayan's pastoral idylls, a very different writer,
Mulk Raj Anand, was similarly gaining recognition for his writing set in rural India; but
his stories were harsher, and engaged, sometimes brutally, with divisions of caste, class
and religion.

Creating a Small-Town World

Narayan wrote his first novel, Swami and Friends, in 1935, after short,
uninspiring stints as a teacher, an editorial assistant, and a newspaperman. In it, he
invented the small south Indian city of Malgudi, a literary microcosm that critics later
compared to William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. More than a dozen novels and
many short stories that followed were set in Malgudi.

Narayan's second novel, Bachelor of Arts (1939), marked the beginning of his
reputation in England, where the novelist Graham Greene was largely responsible for
getting it published. Greene has called Narayan "the novelist I most admire in the English
language." His fourth novel, The English Teacher, published in 1945, was partly
autobiographical, concerning a teacher's struggle to cope with the death of his wife. In
1953, Michigan State University published it under the title Grateful to Life and Death,
along with his novel The Financial Expert; they were Narayan's first books published in
the United States.

Subsequent publications of his novels, especially Mr. Sampath, Waiting for the
Mahatma, The Guide, The Man-eater of Malgudi, and The Vendor of Sweets, established
Narayan's reputation in the West. Many critics consider The Guide (1958) to be
Narayan's masterpiece. Told in a complex series of flashbacks, it concerns a tourist guide
who seduces the wife of a client, prospers, and ends up in jail. The novel won India's
highest literary honor, and it was adapted for the off-Broadway stage in 1968.
At least two of Narayan's novels, Mr. Sampath (1949) and The Guide (1958),
were adapted for the movies. Narayan usually wrote for an hour or two a day, composing
fast, often writing as many as 2,000 words and seldom correcting or rewriting.

Making the Mundane Extraordinary

Narayan's stories begin with realistic settings and everyday happenings in the
lives of a cross-section of Indian society, with characters of all classes. Gradually fate or
chance, oversight or blunder, transforms mundane events to preposterous happenings.
Unexpected disasters befall the hero as easily as unforeseen good fortune. The characters
accept their fates with an equanimity that suggests the faith that things will somehow turn
out happily, whatever their own motivations or actions. Progress, in the form of Western-
imported goods and attitudes, combined with bureaucratic institutions, meets in Malgudi
with long-held conventions, beliefs, and ways of doing things. The modern world can
never win a clear-cut victory because Malgudi accepts only what it wants, according to
its own private logic.

Reviewing Narayan's 1976 novel The Painter of Signs, Anthony Thwaite of the
New York Times said Narayan created "a world as richly human and volatile as that of
Dickens." His next novel, A Tiger for Malgudi (1983), is narrated by a tiger whose holy
master is trying to lead him to enlightenment. It and his fourteenth novel Talkative Man
(1987) received mixed reviews.

In his 80s, Narayan continued to have books published. He returned to his original
inspiration, his grandmother, with the 1994 book Grandmother's Tale and Other Stories,
which Publishers Weekly called "an exemplary collection from one of India's most
distinguished men of letters." Donna Seaman of Booklist hailed the collection of short
stories that spanned over 50 years of Narayan's writing as "an excellent sampling of his
short fiction, generally considered his best work" from "one of the world's finest
storytellers." Narayan once noted: "Novels may bore me, but never people."
Synopsis of The Financial Expert:

The Financial Expert was the first of his works published in the United States in
the year of 1952. This is also created at the backdrop of Narayan`s fictitious village
Malgudi. The protagonist here is a `Financial Expert` Margayya. He is a man of many
hopes but consequently he has a few resources. He usually spends his time under a
banyan tree and distributes financial advice to those willing to pay for his knowledge. He
is a man of many ambitions or high hopes. This books also takes some steps into
psychological analysis. Here at this book Narayan incorporated his style of storytelling
into his character Margayya. He brings forth the rich imagery of indian life with all the
absorving details and also intense storytelling. This book traces the rise and fall of
Margayya. He is proud, imaginative moneylender. In due course of time with all ups and
downs in life he becomes rich but darkness comes in his own life as his son becomes
spoiled. When he lost all his money his son denies to sit under the banyan tree so at his
old age he himself decides to sit under the tree and starts all over again.

Synopsis of The Guide:

`The guide` is also set at the background of Malgudi, R. K. Narayan`s make-

believe place in southern India. The novel is told through a series of flashbacks. Raju is
the hero of the story who grows up near a railway station and eventually becomes a
shopkeeper. Later he becomes a resourceful tourist guide. He meets Rosie and her
husband. Rosie is a beautiful dancer. Her husband Marco is a scholar and anthropologist
and is more interested in his research than in his young wife Rosie. As the progresses the
guide falls in love with Rosie and starts to live with her. He losses all his money and
inspires Rosie to start dancing. He becomes his manager. But he cannot forget his habit
and one day caught red handedly while forging Rosie`s signature to sell one of her
necklaces. He stays in jail for two years. After returning from imprisonment he decides
not to go to Malgudi. He goes to a village named Vellan where the people take him
wrongly as a spiritual guide. They start offering him food and some comforts. Raju
enjoys the whole process. The irony of the story is a drought that occurs in the village.
Raju takes 12-day fast on people request. After many days of his fasting in one fine
morning when he goes to the riverside for his daily rituals his legs sag down and he feels
it is raining in the hillside. The ending of the novel is a bit confusing as it leaves an
unfinished end of Raju`s death or end of drought.

Comparison of The Guide and The Financial Expert:

Raju the protagonists in the novel The Guide and Margayya the protagonist in
the novel The Financial Expert are Mundane characters none possess anything ideal in
their character so to be an example to their society. Raju After his father’s death is in
charge of the shop in Railway station at Malgudy. As a side business he starts guiding
tourists and soon changes it as his main profession and known as Railway Raju. He lacks
character and gets attracted to Rosie that brings shocks that makes him unsettled. Her
meeting Raju on the railway platform is significant since until then the railway has been
his life, but with Rosie's entrance his familiar world will be disrupted. He will be tempted
to discard his attachment to the railway for a far greater and passionate attachment.

“Everything was so good and quiet - until you came in like a viper...
On the very day I heard him mention the 'serpent girl' my heart

He is so obsessed with Rosie that he forgets his business, falls into debt, and loses his
shop at the railway station. He also loses his mother’s respect because he is living with a
married woman. Raju’s mother moves out of their house, and the house is claimed to pay
off his debts. he spends money extravagantly, and is tricked by Marco into forging
Rosie’s signature for a package of her jewels, a mistake that earns him a two-year prison
sentence. On his release from prison, Raju stops to rest near an abandoned temple, where
a villager named Velan mistakes him for a holy man. Raju does not want to return in
disgrace to his friends in Malgudi, and reluctantly decides to play the part of a holy man.
The novel also tells two stories, that of Raju’s relationship with Rosie, and that of Raju’s
relationship with the villagers as a holy man. He is transformed from a sinner to a saint,
though he is never truly a sinner, and never truly a saint. Because of his capacity for
empathy, Raju is a sympathetic character throughout the novel. A central theme of the
novel is the transformation of Raju from his role as a tour guide to that of a spiritual
guide. The title of the novel, The Guide, has a double meaning, and Raju is in a sense a
double character. As a tour guide and lover, he is impulsive, unprincipled, and self-
indulgent. After his imprisonment, and after his transformation as a holy man, he is
careful, thoughtful, and self-disciplined.

Margayya earns a modest living as a financial consultant from a spot under a

banyan tree in Malgudi. Margyya is a family man loves his son Balu more than anything.
Eventually, he becomes a wealthy moneylender and banker, but when he assaults an old
associate, he loses his reputation, his business, and his fortune.

The arrival of Dr. Pal into the life of Margayya drives the action. He arranges the
horoscope to fit the needs of Margayya, he is the one behind the sale of the illicit book,
and ultimately, he is the one that is at least partially responsible for Margayya’s eventual
downfall. Though Margayya earns riches through the counsel of Dr. Pal, he maintains a
safe distance from him, which provokes Dr. Pal. Maragayya is thoughtful of Balu’s
betterment in life. Later he realizes that he himself has spoiled his son through his
extreme care and affection once again tries to straighten the things by getting his son
married. Balu mislead by Dr. Pal fights with Margayya over the property. However
Margayya’s misfortune brings him back to the same banyan tree where he takes up the
role of the financial expert once again. The final scene where Margayya is seen teaching
basics of finance to his grandson is really moving.

Both the protoganists dig their own pitfall out of immoral desires for Raju
becomes passionate of other man’s wife. Whereas Margayya becomes rich by writing and
publishing an illicit book, the money is rolled on to financing with more interest, and his
riches grow. The arrival of Rossie to Raju is same as the arrival Dr. Pal to Margayya.
Both Raju and Margayya are the victims of the maya of life. As a youth Raju is lost in
the maya of passion for a woman Rossie and later gets enlightenment and becomes a
spiritual guide from the position of a touris guide. Margayya being poor father is lost in
the maya of passion for money so that he could provide all the needs of his son and his
enlightenment makes him a responsible and practical family man.


Narayan's greatest achievement was making India accessible to the outside world
through his literature. He is regarded as one of the three leading English language Indian
fiction writers, along with Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand. He gave his readers something
to look forward to with Malgudi and its residents[101][113] and is considered to be one of the
best novelists India has ever produced. He brought small-town India to his audience in a
manner that was both believable and experiential. Malgudi was not just a fictional town
in India, but one teeming with characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies and
attitudes, making the situation as familiar to the reader as if it were their own backyard.[83]

“Whom next shall I meet in Malgudi? That is the thought that comes
to me when I close a novel of Mr Narayan's. I do not wait for another
novel. I wait to go out of my door into those loved and shabby streets
and see with excitement and a certainty of pleasure a stranger
approaching, past the bank, the cinema, the haircutting saloon, a
stranger who will greet me I know with some unexpected and
revealing phrase that will open a door on to yet another human

—Graham Greene