CAMPAIGN: ‘R.K. Narayan is only one of many’

GOURI SATYA writes: Seeing churumuri’s campaign to get Mysore’s best known writer his due in his centenary year, I turn nostalgic, as I am reminded of the good old Mysore.

 R.K.Narayan was a frequent visitor to the house of ‘Paachu Meshtru’ (Prof. Parthasarathy). Pachu Meshtru, if my memory is correct, was Narayan’s uncle. He lived on College Road, the road leading to the famous Maharaja’s College of those days which was once famous for its musicians and teachers.

Pachu Meshtru was a retired teacher, a tall and friendly person and a good cricket commentator, and a must for all the cricket matches played on the famous Maharaja’s College grounds. 

One day, I and my friend and colleague Krishna Vattam met R.K. Narayan on the Krishna Vilasa Road near the Sitarama Temple, then called the ‘Shila’ Rama Mandira.

I think it was a Sunday afternoon in the 1960s or early '70s. RKN was walking towards Rama Vilasa Road. We spent some time talking about Mysore. Krishna Vilasa Road was a beautiful road then, shaded with well-grown neem trees on either side of the Agrahara Road.

I think he lived somewhere near College Road, before he shifted to Lakshmipuram. He was residing at the corner house, opposite the church on the Vani Vilasa Road, which now bears the name of Mahatma Gandhi today, thanks to the ignorance of our local political bigwigs about our famous Mysore Maharani. While passing that way, we would see him often walking leisurely on that road. 

From there, he moved over to Gokulam, near Vivekananda Road. I think his brother, R.K. Srinivasan also resided in the same place. I met him at this house for some reporting work, when I was the reporter for the Times of India

It was always interesting to listen to R.K.Narayan. He spoke in his own inimitable style, Kannada with a Tamil accent. The Tamil accented Kannada, the two languages over which we are crossing swords today, is something unique to the Tamil-speaking Brahmins of Mysore.

Narayan was one among them, who added a sort of grace to the way he spoke.

A mention has been made that Narayan has not given life to some of the personalities whom he knew.

I find ‘Pachu Meshtru’ and our famous dramatist Sampath of the City Press on Hanumantha Rao Street, near Gandhi Square, alive in his famous works. These and a few other personalities come back to life in his works. They may not appear distinctly, but those who knew these leading personalities can clearly identify them in Narayan’s works.

Even his famous work Guide has a resemblance to Mysore and its background as a tourist centre. Almost all his works breathe the air of Mysore and Mysoreans. 

One of his early books was a guide book on Mysore, a copy of which he had presented to my father, G.L. Swamy. He gave that copy to my father when he dropped in one day to my father’s famous ‘Tourist Bureau’ at Lansdowne Buildings.

Narayan used to come to my father’s office at this place or later at Jagan Mohan Palace Road, to which we had shifted, whenever he passed that way and spent some time talking to my dad.  

Incidentally, Narayan started his career as a journalist, a writer for the then famous Madras Mail. Therefore, he was in touch with the local journalists. 

Unfortunately, I have lost that copy from my dad’s collection of books, though I have preserved the rest carefully. But, what still I remember from that book is the excellent description of the sunrise seen from the famous Kukkarahalli Lake.

Like many other famous personalities of Mysore, Narayan was also talking his morning walk on this famous tank-bund road. Even today, the sunrise and sunset on the western sky of Mysore is as beautiful as narrated by Narayan.

Our civic fathers may not know who this R.K.Narayan is, let alone his works. Even if they know, they may not remember him and his works.

When one takes a look at the names they have given to some of the roads and circles in the city, I am happy that they do not know personalities like Narayan, short-story writer Ananda, famous economist Prof. M.H. Gopal, Prof Yamunacharya, Prof. Hiriyanna, Prof. Shama Sastry and a host of other distinguished personalities of Mysore of the 1950s and ‘60s.

You remember what a Corporator did to the street sign put up in memory of the Kannada literary giant Prof. D.L. Narasimhachar in Saraswathipuram a few years ago?!