R K Narayan is perhaps the most beloved Indian author of all times. It would be tough to find any book-lover in India who is not well acquainted with Narayan’s works. His creation of a fictitious Indian town, Malgudi in his major works remains etched in the memories of all those who have either read him or seen the beautiful rendition of the town as a part of a Tele-series. His iconic works include a collection of short stories named Malgudi Days and the unintentional thematic trilogy of Swami and his friends, B A Pass and The English teacher. Indeed his works are not merely stories but pieces of art meant to be cherished and valued forever. It is writers like him who reassure one of the fact that an artist is not just someone who paints his thoughts with vibrant colours but also someone who crafts his stories with beautiful words.
The one thing that distinguishes Narayan from all others is his almost magical and surrealistic use of lucid form of writing in his short stories, novels and all other works. His words and sentences are so simple that a mere school grader can easily comprehend them but the scope and the depth of the works of this wordsmith is astonishing. His novels or stories are more than just a sum of its various sentences and paragraphs. He is a master of delightful and delicate story plots and executed his simple style like a craftsman. Reading his works is always a soothing indulgence in pleasure and joy!
His characters are real, plots are simple and language is flawless but without any pomp or needless grandiloquence. He recreates such a vivid picture of colonial India that flipping through the pages is like watching an episodic series with interspersed with interesting trivia and delicate emotions. He does not feel the need to twist and turn what can be said in simple terms. Blessed with a remarkable mastery over the language his flow is unmatched and the places or the people in his stories mirror the society in its exactness. The real beauty of his craft lies in the minutia. The minor details in his story strike a note of strange familiarity, a delicate connect. A reader instantly falls in love with the places and the people that he describes in such intricate yet straightforward detail. His anecdotes and instances have an underlying thread of humanity, empathy and innocence running through them.
While he is best known for the endearing character of Swami, we get to know his depth of writing when he injects pathos and metaphysics into the poignant and spiritual semi-autobiographical novel The English teacher. Also, he has dealt with the controversial subjects of mysticism, psychic experiments and ghosts in his autobiography titled My Days with amazing comfort and adeptness. These extraordinary and unconventional experiences are penned with such gliding smoothness that nowhere does the reader get shocked or intimidated. He talks about the vanishing line between life and death in almost as easy a manner as he spins the adventurous tales of young friends. This exhibits the sheer genius and confidence of the writer who may be regarded as the first truly famous Indian writer in English.
R K Narayan serves as an inspiration to millions of writers around the world especially budding Indian writers who are often overawed by complexity and grandiloquence of English writing. His language and storytelling must be studied by beginners and experts alike. To put the most serious and mature thoughts in such a plain and lucid manner is something that all budding writers would do well to learn. Narayan’s style cannot be merely described in words, his works have to be read with an open mind and felt with an open heart to fully understand and appreciate his absolutely unique and original brilliance. Even the mundane looks magical draped in such effortless artistry of Narayan’s narratives!