The painter of signs of R.K.Narayan

Source – own copy

R.K.Narayan was one of the first writers from India to break the british market ,he was mentored in the early days by Graham Greene ,after one of his early manuscripts was given to Greene .he won many awards and in later life spent time in the higher parliament of India for his contribution to Indian literature .

Like a  lot of Narayan’s book this book is set in  the fictional town of Malguldi ,this town in southern india the area Narayan came from ,well the painter of signs is about one of the inhabitation of the town Raman a well educate man ,whose job is to paint signs .He takes great pride with this advising his clients on style of calligraphy and colours .Now early on we find Raman is a single man and happy being a single man a well-known figure in the town as he has painted many signs . he one day is asked to do a sign by a feisty young women Daisy ,she intrigues Raman ,he gets slowly drawn tp this women and her fresh way of thinking she is a forthright women ,she runs family planning clinics ,thus needs a frequent supply of signs and chance to meet Raman as they travel to these different clinics as Raman needs to see the location before deciding on the sign as they do this they grow closer  .Eventually leading to Marriage .

“A very simple ceremony ” he did not wish to explain to her that they had resolved to do without any formality .He had explained to daisy the five kinds of marriage he had read about and they had come to the conclusion that the system called Gandharva was most suitable one for them ;that was the type of marriage one read about in classical literature .when two souls met in harmony the marriage was consummated perfectly ,and no further rite of ceremony was called for .

Raman and Daisy discussed marriages .

Narayan was a brilliant story-teller this is a simple story a couple meeting, but told with such delicacy and subtle tones ,he was very influenced by the western literature he grew up reading ,this is like those moved to India ,it has a slight humour running through it but also a feeling of the time it was written in the mid 1970’s as india was changing becoming more western Daisy shows this face and in some ways Raman is tied up with the traditions of Indian life ,but also the roles are flipped Daisy forthright confident with her self ,Raman reserved and in lots of ways Naive .I read another book many years ago set in Malgudi by Narayan ,he was included with his short stories in recent Penguin mini classics ,which was good to see as he is a writer that needs to be read ,he gives you a window into post colonial india from independence  to his death ,a country awakening shown through this colourful indian town and the people who live there .

Have you read Narayan ?

May 2011


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