Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Grandmother's Tale by R K Narayan

There was a time when grandiloquent writings gave me sleepless nights. How I wished I could use such words while writing. It was then I accidentally chanced upon R K Narayan's books which thankfully broke all my misconceptions. I knew at once that a story could be told beautifully with simple words too. My all time favourites are ' The Guide ' and ' The English Teacher'. But there are several more to explore.

Coming to Grandmother's tale, I did have a different picture before reading it. I was associating the title of the book with so many things such as pickles, Tairu saadam, the mischief of Swamy and many tales told by his grandmother. But it was not so. The book was about Bala and Vishwa, RK's great grandparents and their life from marriage until their death. Though I could read this book at a stretch, I could not relish it as I have done many of his other books.

RK's  grandparents tied the knot when they were little children. Unlike today, the husband and wife could not be together until the young wife Bala attains puberty. Once in a while, they were left alone only for a few minutes to talk to each other. Many of their such meetings went awry as they could not muster the courage to talk to themselves. But eventually, in one of such meeting, Bala somehow manages to talk to him. All she did was to point out to Vishwa, a dark patch under one of his ear. To this, he replies “ This is a lucky sign and my mother says I would be a king,” which became true.  He becomes rich but at the cost of Bala. 

 The story is all about how Bala manages to bring back his husband who left her and got married to another woman. As the story was completely told only from the point of Bala, there were many questions unanswered. Why did Vishwa become ready to desert his second wife though he loves her and come back to his first wife whom he hardly knows? What happened to Surma, his second wife when she was abandoned by Vishwa. Though he prospered after coming back to his village why didn't he make any effort to search Surma?

I grabbed this book as I was quite lured by the picture of the book where a small boy was seen sitting with his grandmother with inquisitive eyes on a swing.

- Shalet Jimmy