Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bachelor of Arts

Author: RK Narayan

Chandran is a worried man; his role as a prime mover against history is a difficult one, more so since he is a student of  History. He manages it, just to attract further responsibilities in his final year of Bachelor of Arts degree.

With the exams looming, Chandran somehow manages to waste his time promenading the banks of river Sarayu, roaming around with his friend Ramu, charting a time table for his study plan, then making changes to it according to his new responsibilities at college, and then making further changes to catch an early morning flower thief.

The thief turns out to be a Sadhu, an early riser who thought disturbing anyone so early in the morning is far sinner than picking up flowers without their knowledge. He has no worries, and he is left off after Chandran's mother makes it clear that flowers are for God's worship and it doesn't matter how it reached God.

The hard worker Chandran is, he manages to complete his exams without further problems. At twenty two, his life takes a turn on one of his usual walk on the banks of river Sarayu. Cupid strikes him, and he immediately conveys his marriage proposal to his father. The girl, a fifteen year old is unaware, though her age is over the marriageable age in a pre-independent India.

His father makes arrangement through a broker, and it turns out that their horoscopes doesn't match. Horoscopes, dowry, caste, status are some of the few obstacles in any Indian marriage. Chandran is adamant, for he could not think of anything but the girl, and does everything in his power to convince the girl. The societal limitations in a village preventing him from meeting her privately any cost. Chandran's loves fizzles out, the girl never meets him even once, and soon is happily married to her relative.

Soon after the girl's marriage , Chandran leaves to Madras for a change. He does not meet their uncle, but settles in a lodge in Egmore, and roams around Broadway with an acquaintance . After a confrontation with a whore, he leaves Madras to anywhere the train will carry him. He decides to become a Sadhu, for he is too scared to attempt suicide and far scared to live further with his lost love.

He roams around villages without a shirt, eating and sleeping on charity, and the wonderful land that India is, he becomes a Sadhu of the highest order, fed and pampered by a village which hadn't been visited by a holy man in the recent past. After enjoying for a brief period, Chandran began to feel awkward, and often guilty of cheating the villagers. What is he going to do ? Attempt suicide ? Runaway from the village? Or return to Malgudi where his lost love would haunt him forever.

It is not in anyway a moving story, but as with all R.K.Narayan books, it is more about people and their petty problems. What happens if we were to chose to become a Sadhu for every problem we face, after all 'being a Sadhu is not so easy as it sounds' says RKN. Wonderful read.

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