The English Teacher

 I have not overlooked my love for authors from R – from Roald Dahl to Ruskin Bond to Rudyard Kipling to R.K.Narayan and why, even R.K. Laxman, one of the best cartoonists in my opinion.

the english teacher

The English Teacher is written by R.K. Narayan and is considered to be the last of the series preceded by Swami and his Friends and Bachelor of Arts. Based on the life of an English teacher at the Albert Mission College, Krishna, this story is known to be autobiographical and hence largely based on R.K. Narayan’s life.

Krishna‘s wife Susila is away at her parent’s place post-delivery of their daughter. As the story unfolds, the couple move to a small rented place and thus begins a period of marital bliss. Their daughter Leela becomes the apple of their eye and it all seems like a paradise, until fate decides otherwise. The happiness that seemed to perpetuate every nook and cranny is only short-lived. Krishna‘s life undergoes a huge change and he is benumbed by the events around him.

Just when tears cloud your vision, fate teases him again. A stranger seems to have the strangest message for him from someone he couldn’t even imagine. And it is here, that you see hope and extraordinary insight in the form of conversations. During this time, he also meets a profound man, the headmaster of a school for children with whom he builds a wonderful relationship. As if all these were dots, the climax (or a new beinning) signifies the process and how the dots are beautifully connected making way for inner peace and wisdom.

I picked this one up from Higginbothams at Ooty a couple of months back and am so glad I did. I LOVED reading it. It made me ponder and made me want to read endlessly and yet had me dying-to-know how it would all unfold. If a book does that, I know I have a gem.

I stuck page tabs one after the other hoping to come back to lines so simple in language but so big in thought. That’s why I love this man.  Like Spectator puts it, “The hardest of all things for a novelist to communicate is the extraordinary ordariness of human happiness. ” R.K. Narayan does it with such elan and finesse that you don’t even recognize the attempt until much after you have closed the book and it all dawns on you and creeps into every hair cell of your body.

Each character is woven intricately – from the bindi of Susila to her saree’s colour to the glow on her face and her expressions – I could see her in front of me. The emotional turmoil, the happiness derived from simple everyday pleasures, the euphoria of dreaming big, the joy of companionship, the innocence that is a child, the humour in a staffroom – everything is depicted par excellence.

“These tiny phials had compressed in them the essence of her personality, the rustle of her dress, her footfalls, laughter, her voice, and the light in her eyes, the perfume of her presence. The bottles were empty now but the lingering scent in them covered for a brief moment the gulf between the present and the past.”

One beauty about RKN’s writing is how he manages to write a one page story in 100 pages and yet make it seem to vivid as a motion picture.

I took away a lot of beautiful thoughts and gained a lot of reminders and insight through the conversations between the characters.

“Wife, child,brothers, parents, friends…. we come together only to go apart gaain. It is one continuous movement. They move away from us as we move away from them. The law of life can’t be avoided. The law comes into operation the moment we detach ourselves from our mother’s womb. All struggle and misery in life is due to our attempt to arrest this law or get away from it or in allowing ourselves to be hurt by it. … A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life….”

As I read the last few lines –

” A cool breeze lapped our faces. The boundaries of our personalities suddenly dissolved. It was a moment of rare, immutable joy – a moment for which one feels grateful to Life and Death.”

I was numb  for having been transported in place, time and soul to magical realism.




  1. Destination Infinity · October 29, 2013

    “A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life….” – how prophetic. I will try to read this book sometime ~ I have never read a RKN book until now!

    Destination Infinity

    • kismitoffeebar · October 29, 2013

      Please do DI – I hope you enjoy the experience 🙂

  2. Titaxy · October 29, 2013

    i have read one of his books many years ago and don’t remember much about it. have a couple of books on the shelf now, have to get to reading them soon. this review has enticed me more to read RK Narayan soon

  3. Deeps · October 30, 2013

    Great snippets you shared from the book, Kismi..very profound! Marked it to read already 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · October 30, 2013

      You are most welcome Deeps! 🙂 Hope you enjoy this one 🙂

  4. The Girl Next Door · October 30, 2013

    Loved the snippets from the book that you have included in the post. Must read this one some time.
    I have read only one book by RK Narayan, Swami And Friends, and liked it, though the frame of mind I was in at that time made it seem too simplistic. Maybe I should go back to that book – and others by the author – once again.

    • kismitoffeebar · October 30, 2013

      I hope you enjoy this one 🙂 I have read Swami and friends like multiple times in Kannada and English. And watched reruns of the television series MalguDi days as well. Maybe its Mysore setting and the characters, the story, the simplicity struck a chord bigtime 🙂

  5. chattywren · October 30, 2013

    Would love to read this book, Kismi. I loved the second quote you shared – Wife, child, …………..A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life… very profound and simple view of life.

    • kismitoffeebar · October 31, 2013

      Sometimes when we think of things as being seemingly complicated, this kind of an approach works wonders right, Chattywren? Hope you get to enjoy this one soon 🙂

  6. pixie · November 4, 2013

    RK Narayan is one of my favorite authors!! His books have this magic… And The English Teacher is a fab book!
    (We had it as part of our non-detail text in English)

    • pixie · November 4, 2013

      oh! I forgot to mention – you have an award to claim at my blog! 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · November 6, 2013

      Hi Pixie! same pinch there! 🙂 Oh whee! Thanks for the award, checking right away!

  7. sjscribbles · February 20, 2014

    What a wonderful description of the piece of art and the author.

    The way this book has been described wants me to grab it from your blog pic of the book and start reading all at once.

    My mind is wandering off, wondering which indian friend to pester to carry it back from their India trips.

    • kismitoffeebar · February 21, 2014


      I miss you! I read your blog but always think of mailign you but never get down to doing it. Are you coming sometime? I can lend you my copy. I think you will enjoy this book. Do get it somehow! I have sooooooo much to ask you. Pls give lots of hugs to the hero 🙂

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