The English Teacher is the third of the trilogy that began with Swami and Friends, and The Bachelor of Arts. This novel dedicated to Narayan's wife Rajam is not only autobiographical but also poignant in its intensity of feeling. The story is a series of experiences in Krishna's life - some joyful, some sorrowful; and his journey towards achieving inner peace and self-development, in the traditional Indian sense. About the Author
Rasipuram, Krishnaswami Narayanaswami, or R K Narayan as he is widely known was born during the British colonial rule in India. In his obituary Barbara Crosette writes about Narayan and Malgudi thus: 'In the 1930's, he (RK Narayan) created a town in South India that he called Malgudi and populated it with characters who could be fussy, tricky, harmlessly rebellious or philosophical - but who were always believable. Mr. Narayan would return again and again to Malgudi in many of his 34 novels and hundreds of short stories. His books accurately portray an India that hovers between the unchangingly rural and the newly industrial and that is still filled with individualistic, often eccentric personalities that recall his imagined universe.'
This novel is however more autobiographical than others. It recounts Narayan's own happy days with his wife Rajam, who died after contracting typhoid. They had only 5 short years before she passed away. He sincerely and truly loved her, and after her demise Narayan plunged into a period of 'darkness' and was obsessed by the thought of communicating with her. One of the glaring facts that meets the reader's eye is the restrain with which the married couple express their love so unlike the demonstrative love that is seen today both in real life and the media. Dialogues
Krishna the central character of the novel is an English teacher at the same college he attended as an under graduate student. Krishna's wife Susila is with her parents, some miles away as she had recently given birth to their daughter Leela. (It is an Indian custom that a pregnant mother should stay with her own mother, and the midwife still takes precedence over a hospital, a doctor or nurse). When the story opens we see a very nervous and anxious Krishna expecting the arrival of his wife and daughter to Malgudi where he is an English Teacher in the Albert Mission College. His visions of the misfortunes that would befall on mother and child on their train journey are almost comical to the point of being preposterous.
However, as the days go by Krishna learns that his love for his wife and child surpasses everything he imagined previously. The early years of marital bliss and the deep bond that develops between the husband and wife becomes the center of Krishna's life. He feels Leela, his daughter completes his perfect world. But as all good things must come to an end, so does his, with the mysterious ailment that comes over Susila. In the days before antibiotics were discovered, it was not until late that a proper diagnosis was made as to the exact nature of the ailment, which they later learned was typhoid. After a long period of illness she finally dies bringing nothing but sorrow and misery to Krishna. His grief was boundless and infinite; Krishna almost sank to the depths of melancholy and desolation. He then decided to put all his love and zest for life to bringing up his daughter who in her innocence did not know or question about her mother. He became both mother and father to the child and did not wish his parents to bring her up. Although eventually after a period of time relents and decides that the best course of action is for his parents to bring up Leela.
Events take an unexpected turn when he is able to 'communicate' with his dead wife through a medium. This brings him solace and he lives to 'communicate' with her during the weekly 'sittings' as he calls them. It is unknown why Narayan included an episode such as this, full of the fantastic, to an...