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Wednesday, 2 June 2010

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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 Narayanaswami.

“Mr. Narayan, I’m a master. This is my disciple.”

“Ah well, Mr. Master. Glad to see you. So take a seat somewhere here.”

“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 wholeheartedly.

“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 wastepaper basket.

“That hasn’t come out well.”

“But then you will have to type the whole thing again.” Disciple said.

“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 Maupassant?”

“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 Faulkner too?”

“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 real?”

“Nobody denies so Mr. Narayan.” Master had the most sheepish smile ever.

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 listen.

“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 fictional village.”

“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 were puzzled.

“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.

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