Monday, September 17, 2012

Book review : The Guide

I start a blog on my favourite reads and not mention 'The Guide' by R.K.Narayan! Impossible. This book is always dear to my heart because not only its the work of a great Indian writer, or has the scenic drop of my favourite Malgudi town but also it is the novel that marked the beginning of my book world. Although my ever thoughtful persuasive mother loaded me with children books during my primary schooling, I rarely had the mood to indulge in them. Primary schooling for me was the blissful monkey period where playing 24*7 on the street, with my buddies was all that mattered to me. As I grew up, in the middle of ninth standard I came across 'The Guide' in our school library (gosh!! library was a place me and my friends never stepped into and our actions were somehow justified for the library lay in the lowest basement level of our school).

The protagonist of the book is a highly corrupt and shrewd guide Raju, who makes money through selling outrageous lies about his hometown Malgudi to the tourists. One fine day Railway Raju as he was fondly known, comes across a tourist couple that would change his life forever. The husband Marco, an archaeologist is immensely dedicated to his work and has little or no concern towards his demure, sensual and talented dancer wife Rosie/Nalini. Raju gets flown away by his lust for this love deprived woman and takes her under his wing with alluring promises of a love filled life and of a bright dance career for Rosie. Raju becomes Rosie's stage manager and propels her dancing career to great heights. The tragedy sets in when Raju's lack of education and genuine appreciation for art takes a toll on his lover. Rosie begins to grow more and more focussed on dancing and spends time with her artist friends which leads to irritation, depression and anger in Raju.

The story takes an unexpected turn when Raju is imprisoned for two years in a forgery case. Rosie being absorbed in her art fails to lend her support and love to Raju at this stage of his life. On release form the jail, ashamed to return to Malgudi with the disgrace, Raju enters another village where he is mistaken for a Sadhu. Life was never the same for Raju after that. His reputation of a great Sadhu reaches a large number of people and he ends up holding a much publicized fast to please the rain god and relieve the village of long stretched drought.

The last line of the novel is 'Raju said "Velan, its raining up the hills, I can feel it under my feet." And with this he saged down'. With my limited knowledge at that age to decipher philosophical meanings I failed to understand this line. I was left to imagine what happened to Raju with a prolonged fast - did he die? was the village blessed with rain? did he survive and continue to live a life of hermit? If suppose he was successful at pleasing the rain god did he return to his love? did he attain the divine knowledge and determination of a sage? what happened to Rosie? I never had the luxury of internet at that age of my life. I thought about the book, characters, scenes and meanings for a long time with many questions that my immature mind couldn't answer or understand. I don't intend to maim the thoughts of my first book by a reread. No, those thoughts are better left how they are - unclear, want for better explanations, incomplete understanding of the characters, puzzled philosophy, strange murky vocabulary. I will cherish my first book for some more time with memories just as how they are. 


  1. The last line in the book is heavily crypted, yet simply written. It does take you a lot of time to understand whatever happened. I too read the last line a lot of times to try and make sense of it, before understanding the meaning of it. Although I had seen the movie in bits and pieces, I was never really able to appreciate its beauty. It was once I read the book that I wanted to see the movie with a fresh perspective. I havent been able to do that yet, but I intend to do it sometime soon. Maybe we should watch it together. :-)

  2. As they say "never judge a book by its movie". I would love to watch the movie with you who also happens to appreciate the book.