Born in 1906, R.K. Narayan was brought up in a country struggling to gain independence. ‘The M.C.C.’, an excerpt taken from the larger novel Swami and Friends by Narayan, was published in 1935, a time when Anti-British sentiments were at their height, engaging Indians from every corner of the country. In fact, Narayan himself was quoted as saying, “growing up in the first half of the twentieth century in India one couldn’t but be swept away by the rising tide of the nationalist movement,” (p. 202, Alam). The 1930’s were a time where “all that a writer could write about became inescapably political,” (p. 179, Alam). The first part of a trilogy, the semi-autobiographical Swami and Friends was Narayan’s first published work. The excerpt covers Swami and his friends’ attempts at starting their own cricket team, and the comical twist of events that follows. Through the excerpt, Narayan offers his quiet critique of colonialism mainly through clever use of humour and comedy, as well as bringing to the fore the concept of ‘colonial modernity’.
Narayan’s simple, unpretentious narrative style serves to contrast with, and thus highlight, numerous amusing over-dramatizations of events taking place in the chapter. Using the simplistic views of his child-protagonists, Narayan exaggerates various occurrences in the story, casting them in a laughable, almost farcical light. From the very beginning of the chapter, Rajam’s musings that he forgave Swami for his sins and political activities is an over-the-top way of describing the reasons for their fight. Similarly the line, “Rajam had not spoken to him since the day when his political doings became known,” (p. 72, MIL) adds as an example of the pettiness and immaturity of the boys. The Pea, too, is described as being “a man of a hundred worries now,” (p. 73, MIL) an amusing exaggeration in attempting to describe Swami’s feelings at losing his old group of friends. Upon receiving the reply from Messrs Binns, the children’s failure to comprehend the meaning of certain words lead them to feel ridiculed by Binns, claiming they “had written nothing in their previous letter to warrant such expressions as ‘obliged’, ‘remit’ & ‘25%’,” (p. 81) again a heavy over-dramatization. The final scenes in the excerpt are resplendent with hyperbolic expressions, representing the children’s emotions. For example, once they realize the Pea fails to bring the wickets, “a cloud descended upon the gathering,” (p. 82) symbolic of the sadness they were experiencing. Moreover, this exaggerated imagery is described again as an idea is seen as a ray of light being cast.
As shown through the characters Swami and Rajam, Narayan manages to articulate the thought-processes and sensitivities of children in a light yet effective manner. The children, in their naivety and innocence, both serve to be enjoyable vessels for humour in the chapter, displaying an almost unconscious irony in them, in that what they perceive to be so in a situation often is the opposite of the true happenings. The children’s triviality is on display when their friend Somu who failed to advance to the next year, was “automatically excluded from the group, the law being inexorable in that respect,” (p. 73, MIL). After expressing his apprehension about playing cricket for the first time, Swami finally comes to the simplistic conclusion that “probably (Jack) Hobbs was too shy and sceptical before he took the bat and swung it,” (p. 74, MIL) somewhat oblivious to the rationalization that confidence comes through practice.
Also, there lies an innocent honesty in the children which also serves to add humour to situations. Examples of this honesty are when Swami and Rajam are cutting out pictures of cricket players, though Swami “secretly did not very much care for those pictures, as there was something monotonous about them. He sometimes thought that the same picture was pasted in every page of the album,” (p. 74, MIL). Swami, though not fully able...
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