“I do not know who R K Narayan is” said no Indian worth her salt. He evokes a distinct feeling of nostalgia among anyone who reads him. The fictional town of Malgudi with its tigers, dogs, lanes, the river Sarayu amidst rolling hills is a setting that is simple, vague and perennially caught in time. The characters that inhabit it are even more precious. The talkative man, the accountants, astrologers, tiffin man and even the statue of Sir Frederick Lawley all take a life and personality of their own contributing to the general atmosphere of the story. They recur in varying importance in the Malgudi Days stories till you feel you are part of their simple lives.
There is however an underlying seriousness and melancholy to the characters. Much is left unsaid and the strife and hustle of everyday life is only mentioned passingly in almost all characters. This is what makes it timeless. R K Narayan holds a microscope to the lives of Malgudi, but we always realize there is a larger life that is unexplored outside of these simple stories that hints at more “seriousness”.
And many times, when you watch green fields, thatched roofs and bent farmers when travelling in the train through a South Indian village, you will find yourself craning to read the signboard as the train whizzes by without stopping. In the hope that it reads Malgudi.