This book of the ‘Grand Old Man Of Malgudi’ was written in 1983 but still shows the simple Indian town of Malgudi in its unique rustic setting which makes the book a very pleasant read. The author in this book seems to want to focus on characters rather than incidents which helps us to put ourselves in the places of the characters portrayed by R.K.Narayan. The novel is comparatively a short one. The author in the postscript himself states that he needed to finish the story itself with its suspense on page 116 & thoroughly justifies his action which appeals to the contemporary Indian reader. He also states that he wanted to focus on his characters in the story especially on the character of the fraud & cassanova Dr. Rann which the author does well enough for the reader to love & hate the character at the same time.
What intrigues me about this novel was the way the author has analysed his characters. There is an equal amount of action in this novel as well as drama in a very humorous form (very much like R.K.Narayan) to keep a reader wanting to know what will come next. There are the usual Malgudi characters in this story who as usual bring out the rich flavor of the book but also adds to its intricacy. I highly appreciated this work for the way it described the charisma of a born flirt & his Home Guard (equipped with pistol) wife Sasara.
The first mention that I want to make in regard to the literary value of this piece of art is, the role of protagonist.,ie.,the Talkative Man himself ! This personage has been appearing in most (if not all) of Narayan’s literary attempts. He is never referred to by his real name at all except the pet name bestowed on him which is that of a very ‘Talkative Man’. He is also called TM for short…..but never by his personal name. (except once where an old school friend refers to him as Madhu in this very book itself for the first time) the reason behind the non-usage of the name is plain & simple…Narayan wishes this intellectual character to remain sans emotion & sans opinion & what best way to create an impersonal character than by just not giving the character a name or any
overruling emotion. I can state this for, it is a truth that TM does not really have an emotional side to him at all. He is a rich person in his own right, who lives on the famous Kabir Street of Malgudi but does not like to be idle. He therefore spends his time as a freelance journalist, roaming about the streets of Malgudi for stories which he can post to his publishers. (somewhat like R.K.Narayan himself during his days as a journalist)TM has no family & is not married which again adds to his anonymity. He speaks a lot & carries tales of the residents to others, similar to the celestial sage Narada in Hinduism whom Narayan is most obsessed with. Yet, he is trusted by his friends & is genuinely a very helpful individual.
The second ingredient that was very remarkable in this Narayan edition was the person of the infamous Dr. Rann.Now, Dr. Rann has been described in detail in this manuscript but he does not speak much throughout the novel. His ‘women’ or the women in his life whom he had duped really tell us more about the character of Dr. Rann than Dr. Rann himself. He is the crux of the whole story & the reader will note that Dr. Rann’s character is not only a novelty to Malgudi, but also to us himself. We cannot stop our curiosity about the man & his vague ‘research’ about futurology which seems as peculiar as the person professing it in question. Dr. Rann has some charm about him that endears him not only to TM but also to women…..be they his seniors or his juniors. He seems to know this trait about himself. He tries to avoid its complexes, yet can’t do without it. This brings out a very human side of the character we involuntarily admire & laugh at.
The activities of the characters are brisk just like TM himself & rather mysterious (like Dr. Rann & the librarian’s grand daughter who meet at a Protestant Cemetery to court each other)
But the resemblance of these characters in our own selves is evident.
Humour is at its peak in this novel, although its short lived as the novel ends quite quickly. All in all however, a perfect read for a reader who enjoys his characters.