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Notes from a writer’s desk

Arguably one of India’s most prolific English language fictional writers and best novelists, R.

Notes from a writer’s desk

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Rashmi Gopal Rao

Arguably one of India’s most prolific English language fictional writers and best novelists, R. K. Narayan is best known and synonymous with the fictional town of Malgudi that he immortalised through his books. Replete with deceptive simplicity and subtle humour, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami aka R.K. Narayan’s stories dealt with topics that were socially relevant at that time and situations that were inspired by everyday life. Thoroughly enjoyable, his books and characters like Swami and his friends are bound to bring a smile on your face.

  R K Narayan spent a large part of his life in Mysore until he moved to Chennai in 1990 where he lived until his death in 2001. Built in 1952, his house in Yadavgiri has been converted into a museum. The two-storeyed building, which is now under the ownership of Mysuru City Corporation (MCC), is a treasure house of photos, articles, memorabilia and belongings of the great author.

The museum, which is a haven for his admirers and litterateurs, was set up with the help of his grand-daughter Bhuvaneshwari. A visit to the museum is a wonderful way to relive the legacy of R. K. Narayan. The white walls and red oxide flooring have been refurbished by the MCC and the ground floor has several pieces of furniture, including chairs, tables, bed and desks that have been used by the author. Several rooms have been filled with his belongings like his clothes, spectacles, medals, awards and certificates. There is a plethora of detailed displays pertaining to his list of awards, honorary doctorate degrees and complete body of work.

The collection of photographs depicting the life and times of the playwright is insightful. This is accompanied by informative details on his early days, start of his innings as an author and his growth into one of India’s all-time favourite authors. There are many shelves that house his personal collection of books. One can find the titles, genre of books and dictionary that were read and used by R K Narayan. Other highlights of the museum are the displays of the Rs 5 stamp released in the honour of the author and details of Khushwant Singh’s interaction with R K Narayan. 

Given that R K Narayan is intrinsically associated with Malgudi, an idyllic fictitious town that was the setting for some of his most famous books like Malgudi Days and Swami and Friends, a big chunk of the museum is dedicated to this aspect. This was later adapted into a television series and there are several interesting anecdotes and pictures that depict the making of this iconic TV series.

Preserving the legacy of one of the country’s best authors, the museum is a wonderful initiative on the part of the MCC to develop his house thus, when it was on the brink of demolition by a real estate builder who had purchased the property. Thanks to public protests and the efforts of the MCC, what stands here today is a piece of literary history and heritage well preserved for generations to see and imbibe instead of probably an apartment complex.

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