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R.K. Narayan was born in Madras in 1906 and educated there and at Maharaja’s College at Mysore. He was awarded the A.C. Benson medal by Royal Society of Literature and was made and Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1989 he was made a member of the Rajya Sabha. In 2000 the Government of India conferred on him the Padma Vibhushan.
He died in May 2001.
He was a celebrated author who wrote amazing fiction. His short stories and novels are set in enchanting fictional territories of Malgudi (which is a town near Madras, presently called Chennai. This is what the stories and novels say. Whether or not Malgudi is a real place I honestly don’t know. My best guess is that there exists a place called Malgudi and all his characters are inspired by real people of that town).
W.S. Swaminathan alias Swami is the central character of Narayan’s this novel. Swami is a very popular character among children. Narayan’s first novel Swami and Friends started the adventures of this young chap. This can be called an extension of that novel. But Malgudi Schooldays is a very interesting and extremely enjoyable novel. You can live you early schooldays with this novel.
There is practically no specific story line of this novel. But that is not necessary as this novel tells us about the adventures of Swami and his friends in the town called Malgudi.
The author talks about the burden of school work that Swami has to face and how his life becomes morose because of that. The author also talks about his various adventures, getting out of one school and then another. Founding MCC (Malgudi Cricket Club) and running away from home.
These things are discussed in the other section.
Let us know something about the characters.
The main ones are – Swami’s Father, Mother, Grandmother and his friends.
His father is a very strict and rigid person who always keeps on chanting on raga – that of studying hard. He also leaves no opportunity to tell Swami what a worthless kid he is and thrashes his demand by declaring it unfair.
His mother and grand mother are easy going and can be depended upon when the trouble arrives or when his father becomes fanatic with studies and verbal assault.
His friends are Somu – the monitor, Mani – the mighty good for nothing, Sankar – the most brilliant guy in the class, Samuel – the pea (because of his size). Another friend joins him in the middle of session named Rajam who is the son of police superintendent.
The Adventures of Swami and his friend
There are 25 chapters in 255 pages in the novel. 1st three chapters introduce you Swami and his friends and his family. And then starts the tussle between the powerful Mani and new comer Rajam who refuses to accept the authority of Mani.
Next 5 chapters tell you more closely about the home of Swami and a new sibling that is just born. After that the examinations start and the school breaks up. As soon as the school breaks up the trio of Mani, Swami and Rajam starts to enjoy their holidays until Swami’s father makes him study in his well deserved free time.
These things continue and in chapter 15 the MCC is founded. Swami tries to share his cricketing stories with is Granny but cricket is too good for her. A very funny episode happens where Rajam the captain of the MCC sends a letter of request to a sports shop in Madras and when the letter is answered by the shop they are not able to comprehend what it means to say. It is really funny.
In the mean while Swami leaves his old school (Albert Mission School) because of some differences in opinions with the headmaster. Read about these differences and the way, in which Swami leaves his school, these things are really funny and insightful. He joins Board High School and finds out that it is worst then Albert because the homework is just too much and there are drill classes after 4:30 pm when the school ends.
The captain of MCC, Rajam has set up a match and Swami is the key bowler of the team. But Swami can not manage evening practice due to drill classes. He somehow tries to find a way to avoid the drill classes but can not manage to do it for more than one day. He says the doctor to give his a fake medical certificate. Doctor instead says that he will go and talk to the headmaster. Somehow the headmaster finds out what Swami is upto. He slanders Swami in front of whole class and as he picks up his cane to give Swami his share of cuts, Swami ran out of school and actually ran away.
He nearly escaped death and missed the cricket match.
Rajam’s father was transferred to some other place and he was leaving the next day to match. Mani and Swami went to meet his at the station and Swami gifted a book to Rajam.
With departure of Rajam and a lot cricket match to the credit of Malgudi Cricket Club (MCC), the story ends.
Malgudi Schooldays is an immensely enjoyable and very good read. It is a small 255 page novel without fine print. So it can be finished in a 2 to 3 hours easily by a regular reader. The people not very regular with reading can also manage it in 3 days easily.
The characters of this novel are ordinary people living around us. We meet them and see them in our everyday life so it is very easy to connect. Every person has gone through the drills of study and exams and cane cuts and punishments in school so it is very easy to connect with Swami.
This book tells about a child’s fantasies and how the education system is killing it. That, in my view, is the essence of this book. It is one of those books which are written from a point of view of a child, his desperations to do something exciting and how the education system is immobilizing his plans to do it. This book tells in very simple way by narrating the story of Swami that a child must be given the opportunity to observe, learn and innovate and then ask question so that learning can become fun. The sarcasm on the education system and pressing parents is great to read.
All in all, it is makes for a very fine read, very enjoyable and insightful read and definitely a small one (but that is not an issue of course).
P.S. If you enjoy this book I suggest you read Swami and Friends too, which was the first novel of Mr. Narayan. This novel is actually written on the same line as Swami and Friends.
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