CAMPAIGN: What has URA done for R.K. Narayan?

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Amidst the inexorable march of Malgudi aka Mysore, where most houses used to once have jasmine vines creeping and hugging iron arches that spanned small entrance gates, like serpents in the throes of uncontrollable passion, the memory of the man himself seems to have become a wind-smothered grey!

The man who conjured up a hundred stories of life in Mysore for the world to marvel–Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayan Swami.

Simply RK Narayan to us all.

A magician who could weave a phantasmagoria of images about Malgudi that was Mysore in his times; a writer whose hallmark was a rare, delicious simplicity; a man who could bring to life the ordinary and the routine; a ‘director’ who fleshed out a myriad characters, each uniquely exciting and amusing; a dreamer who dreamt a million colourful dreams and translated them onto paper with the felicity of an painter; a painter whose canvas was Mysore and the brush, his pen!

A man who ushered in a whole new genre of English writing which the snooty west said ‘wow’ to! A man who truly put Mysore on the international map much before culture-spouting also-rans, a thousand government policies, wildlife tourism and the rest of it did.

And this very same literary colossus, in the centenary year of his birth, has been all but forgotten.

In Mysore, Narayan’s memory perhaps lies abandoned bereft of any respect, amidst the heaps of dust-covered books that line the ancient racks of the once-famous Maharaja’s College where he studied.

Or somewhere in a corner of the white bungalow which has now gone to seed that he inhabited for a long time in pristine Yadavagiri; a swarthy, wizened guard inside the gate, puffing a beedi, the only reminder to any semblance of life within.

To think even for an infinitesimal moment that there is no road or circle named after this giant of a man in our great city, no attempt, howsoever feeble, made to perpetuate his memory, to accord him the status he deserved; to show him the respect he ought to have been shown; to pay obeisance at the feet of the literary master; is a sure reminder of the mental dilapidation of the powers-that-be and the absolute unconcern for hoary history, literary or otherwise.

An indictment of their shameful disdain for literature, other than Kannada.

And should we expect anything profound to happen in our city, which seems to be full of political men and women who warm chairs vested with unbridled power, almost always wrongly used? Pathetic humans who can never go beyond casteist thoughts, nepotism, survival tactics and a pompous sense of self.

And what, just what, have the long list of professors of English who have passed through the corridors of the Maharaja’s College and also Manasagangotri, over the decades, ever done to bring pressure on the Mysore City Corporation to right the gross wrong that has been done to the incomparable R K Narayan?

Especially the one who could well go down in history as the man with the most political clout for an English professor, the famous U.R. Anantha Murthy?

What have they done to rightfully demand a promenade of permanence to the very same R.K. Narayan whose works these ‘enlightened’ teachers of English literature have held forth on for hours inside classrooms, much after the bell for recess has been sounded by the khaki wearing peon?

ps: I almost banged into a cyclist who veered without indication near the Vedanta Hemmige circle, just now. Oops, it was scary.