Ruddy drops of a sad heart
The door was almost ajar.
They were on the outside, trying to look in. Something ensues, they
thought, with the distant sound of keys being tapped against a
typewriter. It was the clue: a writer is inside. A writer, indeed!
Master was whispering into the disciple’s ear.
R. K. Narayan
“Take a peek, will you…”
“I don’t think we are going to make it, master.” Disciple said - it
was more yelling than whispering back - unthinkingly. It annoyed the
master all the same, but the elder could not burst the balloon in the
same high note.
“Shut up oaf! I didn’t ask you to yell out.” But master was too late.
“Who is there? Whoever it is why don’t you come in?” Keys ceased to
tap. It was all quiet all of a sudden, and slowly did they step in. Once
inside, the disciple closed the door behind. Across the typewriter, the
writer’s eyes settled on the unexpected visitors.
Then they made him out: R. K. Narayan. Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer
“Mr. Narayan, I’m a master. This is my disciple.”
“Ah well, Mr. Master. Glad to see you. So take a seat somewhere
“We must have disturbed you at this hour.”
Narayan was in a little tatty wicker chair with the typewriter that
looked much heavier than the desk it rested upon. He laughed
“No, my friends, not in the least. You must be here on lookout for
me, I suppose.”
Master and disciple nodded. Narayan rose, and gazed out the window.
He fell into thought for a while and turned to the bookshelf located to
the right of his guests. Disciple was aching to ask his question.
“Mr. Narayan, you were busy before we came in?”
Back at the typewriter, Narayan pulled the sheet of paper clear of
it. He took a long breath and started reading, but did not continue. He
took a pen and crossed out a whole patch on the paper. Then he threw a
white glare at master and disciple, who could only look at each other.
Then on a sudden thought he crushed the paper and tossed it into the
“That hasn’t come out well.”
“But then you will have to type the whole thing again.” Disciple
“Doesn’t matter. After all it’s always far better to write one whole
thing than keeping a useless piece. There are times I become somewhat a
bore. I don’t feel happy with my work.”
“But people admire your works, huh?” Disciple said, his hands lolled
against the armrest of the cheap-looking sofa.
“I don’t think so. Perhaps after my death they will.”
“Perhaps you don’t know they compare you to Guy du Maupassant.”
Disciple said smiling.
“Oh really? I didn’t know that. But how so they compare me to
“It’s like this.” Disciple settled in to spell out.
“Maupassant could foreshorten the narrative without destroying the
real essence. I mean, you can narrate stories shortly but without
destroying the elements of a story.”
For a few seconds nobody did the talking. Was that silence
uncomfortable, nobody knew. Master and disciple were waiting for
Narayan, and his mind was elsewhere perhaps grasping disciple’s words.
“I understand your point son. But they used to criticize I’m too
simple in my prose.”
“And do you know,” master butted in, “they compare you to William
“Aha… that’s news, master.”
“Faulkner also created a fictional town and people took it for real.”
“You are talking about Malgudi, I see. What if I say Malgudi is
“Nobody denies so Mr. Narayan.” Master had the most sheepish smile
The room was clean, though not immaculate. There were a few scattered
lemons strewn all over. On the wall hung a jasmine garland and some
incense sticks. Only a fly or two flitted around. The aroma was sensual,
quite oddly. Curiosity reigned, but all they needed was just have a
“I am familiar with Tamil and Kannada mostly. I know their joys and
sorrows like it happens to me. So when I wrote about them, I wanted to
have a specific background. That’s how Malgudi came to be. Well it may
not be the actual place, but you can say it is somewhat similar to my
“Is there an actual place, Mr. Narayan?”
“Yes there is. Only a few hours from Chinnapanahalli. But that place
is quite different to that of mine.” And then Narayan’s tone changed –
sounded somewhat sudden.
“So… that’s about it. I’m waiting for a guest. You may like to see
him too.” Narayan gazed out the window once more. Master and disciple
“He will be here any second now. You must see Mr. Graham Greene. If
not for him, I would be no one to this world.”
And then they heard the bell chime. They were yet to know the worth
of the forthcoming moment.