though the flavor of the SEASON is buzzing with Harry Potter Mania, still I am glued up reading R.K. Narayan’s First Novel “Swami and friends” (which was published in 1935) so enthusiastically
Even my parents were not born at that time, but theINNOCENCE that I find in this book makes is itrefreshingly different from what we have nowadays.
Yes, as I kid I too loved to read about magic, mystery, adventures, and detective stuff. There are plenty of books which can take u totally to a different imaginative realm but to narrate about a young school boy’s formative years, his complex emotions, his fears, his day-to day routines, his circle of friends and the care-free life he enjoys ----brings out the BRILLIANCE of R.K.Narayan. Written humorously, “Swami” ---the young protagonist shines through this novel.
R.K. Narayan’s fictitious town Malgudi with the backdrop of Sarayu River, has the Ultimate Indian essence that captures the adventures of Swami and his Friends!!!! Since it was written before Independence, Narayan carefully manages to the weave the English influence on the characters.
W.S.Swaminathan, of First Form A, Albert Mission School is basically a very average student and has a laid back attitude towards studies. Apart from his regular friends like SOMU, SHANKAR, SAMUEL a.k.a PEA, and his best buddy is the good-for-nothing MANI.
MANI is a big bully who often carries a pair of wooden clubs, monopolizes theLAST BENCH, never brings books or does homework & sleeps bravely in the class. Swami is proud to have his friendship.
RAJAM, the son of police superintendent, is the new student in the First A. He is the only boy in the class to be neatly dressed, speaks every good English like a “European” and equally good in his studies.
Swami likes to spend his time with Mani and Rajam. Since Swami is so much in awe of Rajam and follows him everywhere, he earns the name as “The Tail” of Rajam from other classmates.
At home, he shares his day’s stories with his agile grandmother. She is always in her own world but somehow tries to pay attention to Swami’s tales.
His father W.T.Srinivasan, lawyer by profession, is very strict man. He expects Swami to conform to the daily routine of studying harder instead of loitering with his street-smart friends, much to the dismal of Swami. He always outwits his mother who is v busy in taking care of his newborn brother.
Swami finds most of the lectures boring. Vedanayakam--the class teacher& also Head Master, canes him for doing arithmetic sums wrong. He of course has soft corner for his History teacherPillai who is very kind man.
But only in the Scripture Class of Ebenezar, Swami can’t stand the FANATIC MAN. Ebenezar, the Scripture Master who often praises the holiness of Jesus but also spews venom against Hindu Gods. He calls Krishnaas the ARCH-SCOUNDREL for stealing the butter and dancing with girls. Being Vegetarian and Brahmin, Swami dares to ask the Sir why was JESUS eating Flesh and Wine ??? Soon he finds himself to be pinched on the left ear!
As the exams approach, Mani finds a way to bribe the clerk by giving him fresh brinjals to leak the question paper and passes it on to Swami. When Swami opens his Atlas, instead of reading the contours, he wonders,“how did the mapmakers find out what the shape of the country was ?” His crazy imaginations distract him from studying the topic. Finally he finishes his answer-paper much earlier than others and is happy to enjoy the vacations.
Since the freedom struggle is at peak and the campaign for Boycott of English goods is on, there are morchas and hartals all over Malgudi, refraining the students from attending the school. Swami being an unobserved atomin that crowd too manages to fling stones at the Head Master’s room resulting in broken panes. Only the next day, he is horrified when the H.M. knows about his crazy antics and canes him severely. Swami unable to bear the pain runs away from...
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