The daily life of the Indians, the ethnicity of the land and indeed the superstitions and values of India gains a contour in the remarkable novel "The Guide". It is the story of a tourist guide Raju, who happens to be the central character of the novel. The development of the character of Raju, as a travel guide justifies the title. Although started in a rather loose way the story carries a deep significance of sheer realisms. R.K. Narayan, quite consciously, in his novel "The Guide" echoes the mores and tradition of the Indian society amidst his literal symbolisms.
R. K. Narayan is a huge name in the field of short stories in world literature. Several stalwarts in this field also endorse him. W. Somerset Maugham was one of the famous authors who admired R.K.`s writings. He was so impressed by Narayan that he also wrote to R.K. and had intended to meet him. Natwar Singh was a good friend and great admirer of R.K.
R. K. Narayan was also very close to E. M. Forster during his Cambridge days and provided R. K. an introduction. During the period 1985-1991, R.K. was a nominated Member of the Rajya Sabha
. Narayan`s main admirer was Graham Greene. He greatly helped R. K. in publishing his book in Britain. But in their lifetime they met only once in the year of 1964. Greene came to know about R. K. when he saw the manuscript of `Swami and Friends`. Since then he was very impressed of him. R. K. Narayan also minimized his name on Greene`s request. After his wife`s death Graham wrote a letter to R. K., which affects his life in a great manner. The writer`s book `The guide` was written in the hotel Carlton, California. This is one of the author`s most critically acclaimed stories. While he was writing the story Narayan had to leave New York at a very short notice as he was not having subpoena. He revised the script later and `The Guide` opens Broadway in March 1968. He also won the Sahitya Akademi Awards
for this novel.
`The Guide` begins as a comic look at the life of a rogue, but develops into something different in its progression. In a fairly compact and concise manner the book conveys the numerous aspects of the day-to-day lives of India people. The different culture systems, the superstitions and values of the people of a small town named Malgudi serve as a reflection on Indian society altogether.
`The Guide` is set at the background of Malgudi, R. K. Narayan`s make-believe place in southern India. The novel is told through a series of flashbacks. Raju is the hero of the story who grows up near a railway station and eventually becomes a shopkeeper. Later he becomes a resourceful tourist guide. He meets Rosie and her husband. Rosie is a beautiful dancer. Her husband Marco is a scholar and anthropologist and is more interested in his research than in his young wife Rosie. As the progresses the guide falls in love with Rosie and starts to live with her. He losses all his money and inspires Rosie to start dancing. He becomes his manager. But he cannot forget his habit and one day caught red handedly while forging Rosie`s signature to sell one of her necklaces. He stays in jail for two years. After returning from imprisonment he decides not to go to Malgudi. He goes to a village named Vellan where the people take him wrongly as a spiritual guide. They start offering him food and some comforts. Raju enjoys the whole process. The irony of the story is a drought that occurs in the village. Raju takes 12-day fast on people request. After many days of his fasting in one fine morning when he goes to the riverside for his daily rituals his legs sag down and he feels it is raining in the hillside. The ending of the novel is a bit confusing as it leaves an unfinished end of Raju`s death or end of drought.
Being published by The Bodley Head Ltd, Viking adult, Penguin USA, signet P2862, Heinemann, etc. `The Guide` describes the transformation of a protagonist from a tourist guide to a spiritual guide.