एक बुक जर्नल: Waiting for Mahatma by R K Narayan

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Waiting for Mahatma by R K Narayan

Rating : 4/5
Finished On:20th of November, 2013

 

Another novel by Mr Narayan set in the simplistic and rustic environment of Malgudi. What can I say about the book? I loved the book as I’ve loved all the works of Narayan. This novel is set in the period where India was fighting for its freedom.
When Sriram turns 20 his grandmother gives him the pass book of the saving account where she had been assiduously saving pension of Sriram’s father. She now considers Sriram old enough to take care of his finances. Sriram who has been petted from childhood by her grandmother and who till now seems to be living under the shadow of her grandmother feels for the first time like a grown up man.

It was an adventure accompanying Granny to the Fund office, four doors off. She seemed to shrink under open sky-she who dominated the landscape under the roof of Number 14 lost her stature completely in the open.
Kanni cried breezily from his shop:’Oho,grandmother and her pet on an outing! A fine sight!The young gentleman is shooting up madam.”. Sriram felt proud of this compliment; he was seized with a feeling of towering height, and he pursued his lips in a determined manner.

 Although Sriram is twenty but he still has the immaturity of a child which often comes to those who have been pampered all their life.  Time flies by and it was after four years that another chapter of Sriram’s existence begins.

It was an unruffled, quiet  existence which went on without a break for the next four years, the passing of time being hardly noticed in this scheme-except when one or the other of the festivals of the season turned up and his granny wanted him to bring something from the market.

He goes to the market and see a girl and falls in head over heels in love with her.

As he approached the Market Fountain a pretty girl came up and stopped him.
‘Your contritbution ?’ she asked, shaking a sealed tin collecting box.
Sriram’s throat went dry and no sound came . He had never been spoken to by any girl before; she was slender and young, with eyes that sparkled with happiness. He wanted to ask, ’How old are you? What caste are you? Where is your horoscope? Are you free to marry me?’ She looked so different from the beauty from Kanni’s shop; his critical faculties were at once alert and he realized how shallow was the other beauty, the European queen, and wondered that he had ever given her a thought. He wouldn’t look at the picture again even if Kanni should give it to him for free.

After making inquiries he finds out that she belongs to a retinue of Mahatma Gandhi and that the great man is due to make his presence in Malgudi for the first time. So with thoughts of the girl he decides to go to the meeting.
And his thoughts could not  be any far from the welfare of the country.

‘But’, mahatmaji was saying,’ if I have the slightest suspicion that your heart is not pure or that there is bitterness there, I’d rather have the British stay on. It is the lesser of the two evils.’
Sriram thought: ’Oh, reverend Mahatmaji, have no doubt that my heart is pure and without bitterness. How can I have any bitterness in my heart for a creature who looks so divine?’
 
And Sriram joins the freedom struggle not for the country but for the woman of his dreams. He finds out that the woman, Bharti, is prominent member of Mahtamaji’s cadre and he’ll have to be part of it too if he wants to be near her. Would lovelorn Sriram see his love reciprocated? And what are the problems that lay ahead of him as freedom fighter? For the above questions you’ll have to read the book.

The book was amazing and I loved it. The story revolves around the freedom struggle of India and is seen through eyes of Sriram and Bharti. Where Sriram has entered in the struggle for impressing Bharti, but in case of Bharti it’s about the ideals. Sriram respects Mahatma although most of the times he doesn’t have a clue what his teaching means. He reiterates it to people without having a clue what he’s speaking about and is gullible to be influenced by personalities like Jagadish who is a violent freedom fighter. On the other hand Bharti is mature and intelligent.
The book is interspersed with narayanian brand of humor which is to be found in most of his books. The character of Sriram and his thoughts are sometimes so childish you can’t stop from laughing.

Gandhi seemed to be the man who spotted disturbers and cross thinkers however far away they sat. He was sure to catch him the moment he arrived on the platform and say, ’You, there! Come up and make a clean breast of it. Tell this assembly what your thoughts were. Don’t look in the direction of the girls at all if you cannot control your thoughts.’ Sriram resolutely looked away in another direction, where men were seated. ‘A most uninteresting and boring collection of human faces; wherever I turn I see only some shopkeeper or a schoolmaster. What is the use of spending one’s life looking at them?’ Very soon unconsciously, he turned again towards the women, telling himself,’So many sisters and mothers. I wish they would let me speak to them. Of course I’ve no evil thoughts in my mind at the moment.’

She became tender when she found out she was talking to someone without a mother, and Sriram noticing this felt it was worthwhile being motherless and grandmother tended.
 
The visit to Malgudi has never been a dull affair for me and I can say the same for this visit too. This was also an entertaining and engrossing read. If you have still not visited Malgudi, I must say you have missed out a lot and those who have visited and not met Sriram, I’d say you should. 

You can purchase the book from the following links:



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