R. K. Narayan (1966-2001) was an Indian writer and a novelist. He was one of the renowned authors of the early Indian literature in English like and . He was also a short story writer, essayist, journalist, critic, memoirist and an editor. He majorly wrote fiction, non-fiction, mythology. His first published work was a book review of Development of Maritime Laws of 17th-Century England. His first novel was ‘Swami and Friends’ (1935) and his last work was Grandmother’s Tale (1923). His written works include the themes like myths, tradition and modernity, ancient India, and women position in society. R. K. Narayan died on 13 May 2001.
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami was born on Wednesday, 10 October 1906 (age 94 years; at the time of death) in Madras, British India. While living with his grandmother, R. K. Narayan attended several schools in Madras like Lutheran Mission School in Purasawalkam, C.R.C. High School, and Christian College High School. After completing high school, Narayan could not pass the university entrance examination and spent a year at home reading and writing. In 1926, he successfully passed the examination and enrolled in the B.A. program in English at Maharaja College, Mysore. After his father’s death in 1937, he held a job as a school teacher for a short period of time. He was aware of the value of education and criticized the educational system that colonialism had put. In his novel ‘The English Teacher’ he talked about the education and system and stated that-
This education has reduced us to a nation of morons; we were strangers to our own culture and camp followers of another culture, feeding on leavings and garbage . . . What about our own roots? . . . I am up against the system, the whole method and approach of a system of education which makes us morons, cultural morons, but efficient clerks for all your business and administration offices.”
R.K.Narayan was born in a Tamil Brahmin family.
Parents & Siblings
His father was a school headmaster, and due to his frequent transfers in his job, R. K. Narayan was sent to his maternal grandmother, Parvati who taught him arithmetic, mythology, and Sanskrit. In 1937, R. K. Narayan’s father died. R. K. Narayan was second among the sons. He had five brothers and two sisters. His youngest brother Laxman became a cartoonist, and Ramachandran his younger brother became an editor at Gemini Studios.
Wife & Children
During his visit to his sister’s house in Coimbatore, R. K. Narayan fell in love with a 15-year-old girl, Rajam. Narayan married her in 1934. Unfortunately, in 1939 Rajam died of typhoid. R. K. Narayan and Rajam had a daughter named Hema.
In 1930, R. K. Narayan wrote his first novel, ‘Swami and Friends’, which first was rejected by several publishers, but with this book, R. K. Narayan created Malgudi which gained alot of appriciation by readers. He became a reporter for a Madras-based paper, The Justice, which was dedicated to the rights of non-Brahmins. R. K. Narayan’s next novel was The Bachelor of Arts (1937). His third novel, The Dark Room (1938) was based on a theme of domestic disharmony. His perspective of seeing the world was unique. He once said in his book ‘The Guide”-
In a world where we are accustomed to rivalries over possession, authority, and borders, and people clashing over the issue, “Ours,” or “Mine, not yours,” it is rather strange to find two people debating whose the kingdom is not, and asserting: “Yours, not mine.”
R.K. Narayan, in his book ‘Malgudi Days’ said that-
We are a flawed, weak species, he gently reminds us in these pages, focusing his attention, clearly and without sentiment, on those who will stoop low, those who will stop at nothing. What makes us care for such frequently pathetic characters is that they, like most of the rest of us, are strivers, driven by hopes for a slightly better life.”
- Swami and Friends (1935, Hamish Hamilton)
- The Bachelor of Arts (1937, Thomas Nelson)
- The Dark Room (1938, Eyre)
- The English Teacher (1945, Eyre)
- Mr. Sampath (1948, Eyre)
- The Financial Expert (1952, Methuen)
- Waiting for the Mahatma (1955, Methuen)
- The Guide (1958, Methuen)
- The Man-Eater of Malgudi (1961, Viking)
- The Vendor of Sweets (1967, The Bodley Head)
- The Painter of Signs (1977, Heinemann)
- A Tiger for Malgudi (1983, Heinemann)
- Talkative Man (1986, Heinemann)
- The World of Nagaraj (1990, Heinemann)
- Next Sunday (1960, Indian Thought Publications)
- My Dateless Diary (1960, Indian Thought Publications)
- Reluctant Guru (1974, Orient Paperbacks)
- The Emerald Route (1980, Indian Thought Publications)
- A Writer’s Nightmare (1988, Penguin Books)
- A Story-Teller’s World (1989, Penguin Books)
- The Writerly Life (2001, Penguin Books India)
- Gods, Demons and Others (1964, Viking)
- The Ramayana (1972, Chatto & Windus)
- Malgudi Days (1942, Indian Thought Publications)
- An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories (1947, Indian Thought Publications)
- Lawley Road and Other Stories (1956, Indian Thought Publications)
- A Horse and Two Goats (1970)
- Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories (1985)
- In 1960, R. K. Narayan won the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book The Guide (1958). Later a film starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman was made over this book for which R. K. Narayan received the Filmfare Award for the best story.
- In 1964, R. K. Narayan was awarded the Padma Bhushan during the Republic Day.
- In 1980, he received the AC Benson Medal by the British Royal Society of Literature.
- In 1986, R. K. Narayan was honoured by Rajyotsava Prashasti from Government of Karnataka.
- In 2000, he was awarded with the Padma Vibhushan.
On 13 May 2001, he died of cardio-respiratory failure at the age of 94 in Chennai.
- In 1982, R. K. Narayan was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
- On R. K. Narayan’s 108th birthday in 2014, Google served a memorial by featuring a doodle of him with a copy of Malgudi Days.
- In 2016, R. K. Narayan’s house which was built in 1952 in Yadavagiri, Mysuru, was converted to a museum in the honour of R. K. Narayan.
- R. K. Narayan was once nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
- At the age of twelve, R. K. Narayan participated in a pro-independence march.