Traditional Vs Modern Ideologies

7 July 2016

R. K Narayan (1906-2001) is one of the most famous and widely known Indian English language author. He has written many short stories and novels but is very well known for his imaginary town Magudi and his novels such as Swami and Friends, The Bachelor Arts, The English Teacher, The Financial Expert and The Guide. Narayan is considered to be a leading figure in Indian English literature along with Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao. He wrote around the time when India was colonized by the British during the twentieth century thus a lot of his works are influenced by the events that took place at large during that period.

When British colonized India they brought along with them a different culture. The Britishers completely westernized India with their development of English schools, government offices, transportation and much more. As rightly said by Dr. Madhukar Nikam, “The writer in the colonized country tended to soak up the culture of the colonial power and feel a familiar-ity and some affection for it, even though the experience of colonialism may have demoralized and destabilized his own colonized culture” (Nikam “R.

Traditional Vs Modern Ideologies Essay Example

K Narayan as a Post-Colonial Novelist” 2012: 25) Narayan’s fictional town Malgudi which is located in South India was created by the author in order to escape the tyrants of the British colonial rule. As Nilufer Bharucha speaks about it in her essay “Colonial Enclosures and Autonomous Spaces: R. K Narayan’s Malgudi”, “fictional town of Malgudi was a sovereign space, independent of imperial domination. Malgudi asserted a pre-colonial order and distinct Indian society and culture within the reductiveness of colonialism”.

She uses the word “Utopia” (Bharucha “Colonial Enclosures and Autonomous Spaces: R. K Narayan’s Malgudi” 129) which is perfectly suitable for this town. Everyone would love to reside in a hassel free town like Malgudi. The stories appear to be very simple yet witty. From Narayan’s very first novel Swami and Friends till The World of Nagaraj (one of his last works) it has been quite a journey, we see Malgudi slowly undergoing through a lot of changes. In his very last novel The World of Nagaraj (1990) we notice transformation taking place in this peaceful town of Malgudi where westernization has come into being.

I will be thus exploring how Narayan’s last novel depicts changes in the postcolonial India and its aftermath on the younger generation (in the book) ultimately creating conflicts between two ideologies. The story revolves around the protagonist Nagaraj who calls himself “a man with mission” (Narayan,The World of Nagraj, 2005: 1) , yet he isn’t clear on what his mission is. He lives comfortably in a large house left by his father on Kabir Street with his wife Sita and his mother.

He spends his day walking around the town of Malgudi and meeting people from the neighborhood as he walks by. He lives a very leisurely life working at Coomar’s Boeing Sari Centre during the day for Coomar looking after the accounts. He works there for free because “this arrangement leaves me free to come and go when I like” (The World, 24). Later he would walk back home and sit on the veranda of his house watching the people pass by and planning to write a book on the celestial sage Narada but is unable to do so.

The trouble starts when his nephew Tim (his elder brother Gopu’s son) comes to Malgudi and plans to stay with them. Tim very clearly represents the younger generation who is affected by the urbanization and westernization of the Indian society. He left his father’s house because he called him a “Donkey” (The World, 37). The author here is probably mocking at the younger lot for having low tolerance level. Nagaraj plans to take full responsibility of Tim and the dilemma starts when Tim doesn’t adhere to Nagaraj’s way of living.

During the course of the novel we come to know that Tim has dropped out of the Albert Mission Junior College and works at a club called Kismet in New Extension. Kismet represents the epitome of westernization in a town like Malgudi. Nagaraj who is of the traditional mindset for him the word whiskey itself is a “horrible word, not for Kabir Street families” and Kismet is “such a horrible place that one should not be seen there” (The World, 59). In order to get Tim on the right track his father plans to get him married to a suitable young girl.

“Tim was not only impressed but overwhelmed” (The World, 91) with Saroja who had a talent for singing and playing harmonium which Nagaraj found very disturbing. After marriage we see that Tim and Saroja always keet to themselves and soon after when Tim decides to let Saroja work along with him at Kismet Club as a singer this situation totally shocks Nagaraj. He tries not to deal with it by concentrating on his book. Towards the end of the novel Tim and Saroja leave the Kabir Street only because Nagaraj didn’t stand and appreciate Saroja’s singing.

The event once more ridicules at the foolishness and impatience of the young people. Narayan depicts in his novel the impact of industrialization, disintegration of the families and the consequences of modern education very well. While reading the narrative we see a lot of instances which hint at the alterations taking place in Malgudi. A noteworthy example was that of the newspaper, “Only one sheet for ten paise and one side filled with advertisements! ” (The World, 2).

This clearly shows how newspapers have completely become capitalist, more interested in making money and expanding their business than to actually provide news to the general public. Another illustration is Bari’s stationary shop that prides itself on selling foreign goods as he says- ““I import pens the like of which you can’t see anywhere… might have heard of Hamilton Bond. It’s world famous-the best in the world”” (The World, 23). The author visibly indicates how stocking on imported stationary becomes a selling point for Bari and how the mass become infatuated and impressed by it.

This shows the lasting impact that British has created upon us, As Nilufer Bharucha points out- “the foreign paper and pens reiterate once again the interdependence and concomitant pluralisation and polarization as well as notions of the centre, margins and peripheries in colonial/postcolonial spaces” (Bharucha “Colonial Enclosures and Autonomous Spaces: R. K Narayan’s Malgudi” 150). Another aspect which goes unnoticed is when Nagaraj decides to start writing his novel regarding the sage Narada he prefers to write it in English considering it is a universal language and would want everyone to know about the sage.

“This maybe an ironic reference to the continuing importance and global presence of the English language, even after the death of the Empire” (Bharucha “Colonial Enclosures and Autonomous Spaces: R. K Narayan’s Malgudi” 151). The narration also deals with problematic relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law due to the differences in their attitude and beliefs. “Most of the Narayan’s stories are stories of characters drawn from every walk of life…They present a cross section of Indian culture” (Khatri. R. K Narayan:Reflections and Re-evaluation 2006: 13).

The partition of kitchen when Gopu married Charu and the whole episode of kerosene stove and mud oven brings out the clashes between younger and older generations. She goes herself to Chettiar’s shop, buys something and comes home. Never heard of any young woman going out to a shop by herself. She has brought from her parent’s house her own stove and vessels, and gives her husband what she likes. I never look at her corner of the kitchen. (The World, 29) Mother believes that food cooked over smoky firewood in the mud oven was healthful while kerosene flame caused throat

trouble. To prove it she blew her nose and sneezed when Charu lit her kerosene stove. Charu ignored theses systems and said, ‘Mother, a wood fire leads to cold and eye disease, that’s what my mother used to say…’ (The World, 30) As mentioned by Rajasverrie Naido in his thesis “R. K Narayan’s Malgudi Novels: A Critical study of Theme and Character”, “In these charming scenes of domesticity, Narayan captures the tension which arises when older and younger generations function together, and the fragility of such relationships become evident” (Naido “R.

K Narayan’s Malgudi Novels: A Critical study of Theme and Character” 317). The author deals with the breakdown of the joint family as soon as his father dies, when Gopu decides to leave the town of Malgudi and decides to stay alone with his wife. The novel ends on a good note with Tim and Saroja back at the Kabir Street with their elders and dependant on them. We agree with Rajasverrie Naido that, “The novel ends on an optimistic note, that of reconciliation.

Nagaraj and Sita compromise their principles and adapt to accommodate Tim and Saroja whose ultra modern lifestyle has proved to be disastrous. ” We also see how the harmonium is back in the room and Nagaraj’s dream of writing the novel remains incomplete. Thus we can conclude by saying that “The world of Narayan’s short stories is, thus not only fictional, it is at the same time universal. Malgudi is confined world dimensionally but within its limited physical compass it embraces the beast of humanity”.

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