Malgudi Days Summary

R. K. Narayan

Malgudi Days

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Malgudi Days Summary

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Malgudi Days is a collection of short stories written by R. K. Narayan, published in 1943 by Indian Thought Publications, the publishing company Naraya huimself founded in 1942. He founded the company after he was cut off from England as a result of WWII, and needed some outlet for his writing. It wasn’t just a vanity press, though, as during the war there was no other way to circulate Indian writing, and Indian readers had no access to new work. The press is still in operation, now run by Narayan’s granddaughter, Bhuvaneswari, or Minnie. Malgudi Days was first published outside of India in the 1982, by Penguin Classics. The book consists of 32 stories, all of which take place in the fictional town of Malgudi, in southern India. Each story is meant to portray a different facet of life in Malgudi. The project has been adapted several times, beginning in 1986 when a few of the stories were adapted into a television series, also called Malgudi Days, which was directed by actor and director, Shankar Nag. In 2004, it was revived by the film maker Kavitha Lankesh; the new series was broadcast on the public service broadcaster founded by the Government of India, Doordarshan.

“An Astrologer’s Day” features an astrologer who knows absolutely nothing about stars or astrology. He never wanted the job but he was so impoverished, he couldn’t turn down the job. Through clever guesswork and manipulation, he has made many amazing predictions over the years so that people keep using his services. One day he comes across his rival, a man he thought he had killed years ago. He disguises himself as “the astrologer” and fools his rival, effecting a narrow escape.

In “The Missing Mail,” Thannappa is a kind postman who has a pleasant relationship with each of his customers, especially Ramanujam, a senior clerk in the Revenue Department Office. Ramanujam’s daughter is finally set to be married after many ups and downs. Thannappa decides not to deliver a letter to Ramanujam, which tells his about his uncle’s death, in hopes that it will not disrupt the much anticipated marriage ceremony.

“The Doctor’s Word” tells the story of Dr. Raman, who believes good words can’t save lives. When his best friend suddenly falls seriously ill, he finds himself questioning his beliefs, and finally says ‘good words’ in order to save his friend’s life. He does this even though he knows there is no hope for his friend’s recovery. At the end of the story, though, his friend recovers. It is a medical miracle and even Raman is stunned.

In “Gateman’s Gift” we meet Govind Singh, who has been a gatekeeper and security guard for his entire life. When he finally retires, he picks up the hobby of working with sawdust and clay to make miniatures.

“The Blind Dog” depicts a blind beggar who catches a dog to help him navigate the city. He tortures and mistreats the dog, but the dog still returns to him after running away one day.

In “Fellow Feeling,” Rajam Iyer is a Tamil Brahmin who is travelling by train and gets into a fight with another passenger, while in “The Tiger’s Claw,” the Talkative Man, a recurring character in other stories, has a fight with a tiger.

In “Iswaran” the eponymous character is a boy who fails his Intermediate Exams ten times. He finally passes it, and in his celebrations, drowns in the river Sarayu.

“Such Perfection” tells the story of a sculptor who begins to worship his most recent creation.

“Father’s Help” introduces Swami, a character from R. K. Narayan’s first novel, Swami and Friends. In “Father’s Help”, Swami wrongly accuses his teacher Samuel. He learns lessons about proper behaviour and speaking the truth from his father.

In “The Snake Song” a musician narrates his life and experiences and explains why he stopped playing the harmonium.

The main character in “Engine Trouble” is a poor man who wins a road engine lottery, but gets himself into some serious trouble, and is not able to put his lottery win to good use.

“Forty-Five A Month” explores the relationship between a daughter, Shanta, and her father, Vankat Rao.

In “Attila,” a friendly dog with a frightening name tries to scare off burglars, without any success.

“Leela’s Friend” tells the story of a five year old girl named Leela and her servant, named Sidda. Sidda has a special ability to communicate with children. One day Sidda is arrested for the suspected theft of Leela’s gold chain, but Leela’s mother later finds it in a cooking pot.

Other short stories collected in Malgudi Days include: “Out of Business”, “The Axe”, “Lawley Road”, “Trail of the Green Blazer”, “The Martyr’s Corner”, “Wife’s Holiday”, “A Shadow”, “A Willing Slave”, “Mother and Son”, “Naga”, “Selvi”, “Second Opinion”, “Cat Within”, “The Edge”, “God and the Cobbler”, “Hungry Child”, and “Emden”.