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 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.