CAMPAIGN: Would RKN have liked a memorial?

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes: While tinkering at my study table, while engaged in a fierce Beyblade battle with my six-year-old son when I tend to forget the world at large, while brisk-walking along the pathway in the leafy park outside my home in New Delhi, I am overcome by a sense of helplessness.

The frustration is owing to my professional preoccupations and location, which has reduced me to a mere onlooker on the sidelines of this popular effort to give R.K. Narayan the modicum of veneration he deserves.

It is another matter that if the man himself were alive, he would have quietly chuckled at the campaign. The wry humour apart, he was so understated in disposition, that on occasions he seemed cold and detached. But that he was acutely sensitive and perceptive is well known.

Many years ago, while accompanying him on one of his evening strolls in Chennai, I unningly tried to entice him into returning to Mysore: to his sprawling home at Yadavagiri. To my surprise, RKN responded by saying that though he had built that house brick-by-brick, he had absolutely no affinity for it.

He told me: “You cannot be weighed down by these sentiments… One has to move on in life….’’

It was evident that by being stoic, he was grappling to come to terms with the situation. His fragile health did not permit him to leave Chennai.

However, during the course of the evening, he would let his guard down and begin with a gentle reference to any one of the numerous facets of Mysore. Sensing his mood for nostalgia, I would eagerly dwell on characters, events and locales of the City which he enlivened with his own impressions. That would complete his evening and mine too.

Today, I wonder: Do we need a monument? A road ? A circle? A park?

Or, perhaps, do we need to find a gutsy spokesperson, a passionate family member, an influential academic, an editor-friend to take up cudgels and get RKN his due place under the bright April sun. To canonize, paneygrize him for eternity in brick and mortar and paint would be a dream come true. Of course!

As someone who delicately channelized my raw teen-energies and tempered my smoldering perspectives, it would be a fulfilling moment to actually see that happen.

I recall, many years ago, a leading restaurateur requesting RKN, a strict vegetarian and teetotaler himself, for permission to name his exclusive watering-hole after ‘Malgudi’. RKN, not wanting to defile his pristine creation had politely refused.

In hindsight, it would have probably made sense for the great writer to have given in. With a bustling ‘Malgudi’ around the Kalidasa Road bend, we would have been a satiated lot.

On a more serious note, perhaps the greatest tribute to RKN’s memory is this feeling of outrage embedded in the collective consciousness of us Mysoreans today. Thanks to churumuri, Mysore’s most authentic dish, that has endured in this age of the vile Gobi “manchuri” and the veg burger. Ugh!

ALSO SEE: The New York Times obituary of R.K. Narayan