There is always a great pleasure in reading about the unknown and the unfamiliar. A book about distant places, strange lands and different people takes you into a new world, a world that is exciting because it is strange to you. Most of the English books we read in our childhood were of this kind. There was Treasure Island, which took us to a world of ships, pirates, treasure and adventure, or Alice in wonderland, which was pure fantasy and therefore magical. But there is also kind of pleasure in seeing in a book something you know, something which is a part of your life and you are familiar with. You get excited, thinking ‘I know that!’ or ‘yes, I’ve felt exactly like that’ or ‘That happened to me too.’ I remember that when we read books like What Katy did or Little women , we rarely remembered that the children we were reading about were living in America, for the children in these books were, despite their surroundings of snowing winters and fireplaces, just like us.
R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Schooldays combines both these pleasures. It is the story of a schoolboy Swami (his full name is Swaminathan-quite a mouthful!) living in a small town, Malgudi, which is somewhere in South India. But because it is set in a much earlier period, a time when the British still ruled India and Gandhiji was fighting for india’s independenc e it seems almost like a strange country. Things were very different from what they are now. Schoolboys wore coasts and caps to school, sometimes even a dhoti- yes, a dhoti, Look at one of the pictures in the book. (By the way , the the author’s brother and a famous artist in his own right.) It was a time when children walked to school, carried ink bottles with them, and money was rupees, annas and pice (even pies)! (it’s an old cylcle wheel) to play with!
Yet once you begin reading, you will find that Swami and his friends are not so different after all, from the schoolboys of today. Like so many children, swami has problems with disciplining father and is petted by his mother and grandmother. In school Swami has friends, best friends, and enemies. Which happens when the new boy Rajam, the police officer’s son, who wears ‘socks and shoes, a fur cup and tie and a wonderful coat,’ joins school and swami becomes his ardent admirer; ‘Rajan Tail,’ the other boys mock him. All children will sympathize with Swami’s troubles in school, at his attempts to get out of school early so that he can practice cricket, and all will laugh at the excuse he offers, of being ‘delirious’, a word he does not even know meaning of Yes, there is much fun in this book, like Swami’s terror of ghosts and the letter the MCC (the Malgudi Cricket club, founded by Swami and his friends) write, ordering cricket bats for their team. However, out Sami is also; he takes a small part in a demonstration for India’s clothes and is expelled from school for his ‘political’ activities.
R.K. Narayan, the author of this book, was one of the early Indian writers writing in English. He lived almost all his life in Mysore, which, in his writing became Malgudi, a little town through which a river flows. By the end of his life, he had readers throughout the world. One wonders whether Narayan recreated his childhood in his stories of Swami and his friends. He certainly knew that the world of children is not always happy and carefree. Swami has his share of problems and troubles, both at home and in school. However, Swami is givrn a chance to redeem himself and cover himself with glory in the cricket match the MCC and a rival; club are to play. Does he take the chance? Will Swami prove himself a Tate (the greatest fast bowler of that time) and help the MCC win the match? Will his school take him back?
No, I will not give away the ending. You have to read the book to know the answers. Enough to say that all will be well and swami will survive to fight and to enjoy another day.
R.K. Narayan’s classic stories about the adventures of Swami and his friends Rajam and Mani, in a sleepy and picturesque South Indian town called Malgudi have regaled both young and old for years. Swami’s days are full of action. When he is not creating a ruckucs in the classroom or preparing, in his immitable way, for exams he’s dreaming about running down the streets of Malgudi with the Coachman’s son’s hoop; playing tricks on his immitable way, for exams he’s dreaming about running down the streets of Mlagudi with the coachman’s son’s hoop; playing tricks on his grandmother; or stoning the school windows, inspired by a swadeshi demonstration. But the greatest feat of swami and his friends lies in putting together a cricket team for the MCC (the Malgudi Cricket Club) and challenging the neighbouring Young Men’s Union to a match. Just before the match, however, things go horribly wrong, and swami has no option but to tun away home, wanting never to return to Malgudi again.
Malgudi Schooldays is a a lightly abridged version of Narayan’s celebrated novel swami and friends, and includes two more stories featuring Swami. A delightfully funny account of the life of a human-scarum schoolboy by one of the greatest English-language writers of our time, Malgudi schoolboy enchants and captivates all those who step into its world.
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