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Waiting for the Mahatma

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Sriram is twenty. As a mark of his coming of age his grandmother allows his the pass-book to his savigns in the local bank, but Sriram is growing up in other ways, too, and an enchanting and unpredictable girl leads him into the entourage of Mahatma Gandhi.

These are the opening events in R K Narayan's novel. It is the finest thing he has yet achieved, and his story of the triumphs and tragedies of a raw young zealot in the service of Gandhi is distinguished for its warmth, its humour, its lack of sentimentality and the stamp of absolute truth.

Sriram's evolution into manhood is, for him, strange and bewildering process. Bharati, the girl he worship, is witty, infuriating, capable and, wonder of wonders, condescending to the moonstruck Sriram. Her first loyalty though, is to the Mahatma, a saint blessed with disconcerting common sense, a man whose tragedy is tat he is so much greater than his followers. Most of them accept his ideas enthusiastically, and without realizing it, pervert them to suit their coarser personalities. Sriram is inspired by Gandhi, but he is too easily influenced by glamorous patriots of the type of Jagadish, a terrorist.

It is a tale of remarkable insight into the upsrge of Indian nationalism as witnessed through the eyes and hearts of Sriram and Bharati, and told with the all genius and compassion we have come to expect from R K Narayan.

256 pages, Paperback

First published October 28, 1955

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About the author

R.K. Narayan

143 books1,780 followers
R. K. Narayan is among the best known and most widely read Indian novelists who wrote in English.

R.K. Narayan was born in Madras, South India, in 1906, and educated there and at Maharaja's College in Mysore. His first novel, Swami and Friends and its successor, The Bachelor of Arts, are both set in the enchanting fictional territory of Malgudi and are only two out of the twelve novels he based there. In 1958 Narayan's work The Guide won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country's highest literary honor.

In addition to his novels, Narayan has authored five collections of short stories, including A Horse and Two Goats, Malguidi Days, and Under the Banyan Tree, two travel books, two volumes of essays, a volume of memoirs, and the re-told legends Gods, Demons and Others, The Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. In 1980 he was awarded the A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature and in 1982 he was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Most of Narayan's work, starting with his first novel Swami and Friends (1935), captures many Indian traits while retaining a unique identity of its own. He was sometimes compared to the American writer William Faulkner, whose novels were also grounded in a compassionate humanism and celebrated the humour and energy of ordinary life.

Narayan who lived till age of ninety-four, died in 2001. He wrote for more than fifty years, and published until he was eighty seven. He wrote fourteen novels, five volumes of short stories, a number of travelogues and collections of non-fiction, condensed versions of Indian epics in English, and the memoir My Days.

-Wikipedia & Amazon.co.uk

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 130 reviews
Profile Image for Sidharth Vardhan.
Author 23 books699 followers
October 30, 2017
Despite being a devoted follower of Gandhi, Sriram understands very little of Gandhi's philosophy. And it seems to be true for everyone except Gandhi's immediate circle. And there must have been little to interest a villager in national politics, leave alone abstracts concepts like independence or nonviolence. Sriram is in it mostly for his own selfish interest like most young volunteers - which in this case happens to be his love for Bharti, a young girl full of patriotism who waits on Gandhi. While everyone seems to like him, very few actually seem to understood his philosophy. His presence in novel is felt even in pages where he is absent. The very names of two main characters, Bharti and Sriram being Gandhi's two obsessions.
Profile Image for Versha.
280 reviews258 followers
July 20, 2021
I make it a point to start my year by reading a book by an Indian author and I couldn’t have asked for a better book than ‘Waiting For The Mahatma’ by R.K. Narayan. I have always enjoyed his satiric writing.

Set in the same place ‘Malgudi’, this book revolves around Sriram a young aimless boy, who is smitten by a girl named Bharthi and goes after her blindly leaving his granny and finds out that she is one of the volunteers who work for Mahatma. Sriram joins the group in a jest to impress Bharthi and his meaningless life takes a different turn from then on.

But even after finishing the book, I am not sure whether Sriram really did find his aim in life or, what all he did and went through was it just because he had no other choice? Because he was such a fickle-minded and complicated character that it was difficult to say what and how he would think in a particular situation. Sometimes he would act wisely and I would almost believe that finally there is some maturity reflecting in this character but the next moment he is the same old foolish guy, who would say or think something stupid. Having said that I really enjoyed reading this book and simultaneously got frustrated with Sriram and found myself helpless in some situations. I think that explains the beauty of R.K.Narayan’s writing. His sense of humour and his keen observation which he brings out in his simple writing is always a delight to read.

Profile Image for Gorab.
664 reviews108 followers
January 3, 2017
The usual suspect of a very promising start. Only this time the latter half is also good.

Many similarities with his other works. Its like a new dish prepared using the same ingredients :)
First there is this young protagonist being idle and inheriting lots of wealth - like Talkative Man
Falls for a strong female character doing social work - Raman and Daisy from Painter of Signs
The tongue in cheek dialogues and witty replies thought in head but not spoken - Nataraj from Man Eater of Malgudi
Heavy influence of Gandhian philosophy - Jagan from Vendor of Sweets (future of Sriram from this book?)

Like his other works, there is subtle humor scattered in the form of keen observations from a day to day life.
But the differentiating factor is the profound background holding a soulful plot.
Gandhiji is not just another title character in the passive, but a vital one having some deep conversations with our protagonist.
Mixed with India's freedom struggle, this is the most realistic work by Narayan... throwing in a dash of Historical Fiction.
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Vikas Singh.
Author 4 books286 followers
August 5, 2019
Brilliant novel which is a emotional love story set in historical context. Skillfully the author weaves the ups and downs in life of young lover with the freedom movement and the teachings of Gandhi. It is definitely one of his best works. A must read.
Profile Image for Adriano Bulla.
Author 12 books128 followers
July 30, 2014
Not a review, this one, my little homage to a novel I found original and beautiful.

I remember I read it when I was in my mid twenties, on a train from Milan to that wonderful city that us Copenhagen.
Although this novel appears to be, at first sight, realistic, there is 'magic' in it. I say it in inverted commas because what I mean by it is not any sorcery, but that this novel, I strongly believe, has a soul. It breathes, it has an energy going through it, in waves, from beginning to end. I can't quite put my finger on it, unlike other styles, I have not worked out its secrets; this soul is there, yet I have never been able to find how it was created by Narayan. And what did I expect from a novel on the Great Soul. What better way to talk about Mahatmaji than by breathing a bit of his immense soul into the words of the novel?

Waiting for the Mahatma may still (and probably always will) be a mystery to me, but it a mystery I love and don't wish to solve, rather I feel this mystery has been solving me ever since I read it, like being touched by the Spirit of Light. One of may favourites ever.
199 reviews148 followers
October 18, 2012
Shashi Tharoor in his book Bookless in Baghdad wrote about the simplicity of Narayan's writing.

On the death of R.K., he said he had a mixed feeling because he always found Narayan's English too bland and 'grammatically incorrect' for anyone's taste. He called R.K. a man who never wanted to learn and lived a negligent life.

Narayan would have himself partially agreed with Tharoor. He never wanted to influence his writing from anyone else's and thus never read any other author's work(strange in itself).

He wanted his writing to be for the mango people and that's why all his stories are set in the rural. His protagonists are farmers or vendors and even idlers. His story is woven with the emotions of a man with simple desires and even simpler tastes.

This is a simple story from the kitty of the Narayan. This is the one which established Narayan in my mind as an author of the masses. The characters couldn't be more identifiable with the common man.

A man with an aimless life found a shred of hope which we call purpose. While pursuing that 'purpose' he encounters emotional and physical turmoils which he is too pampered and handicapped to handle.

The pleasure the reader gets is in the way the man's life and characters slowly unfolds with the story.

At times, one may love or hate him but will definitely root for him.

That's the beauty of this story.

Profile Image for Nayaz Riyazulla.
352 reviews56 followers
January 23, 2021
ಶ್ರೀಮಂತಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬೆಳೆದ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನಿಗೆ, ಗಾಂಧಿ ಪಾಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವಯಂ ಸೇವಕಿಯಾಗಿ ಕಾರ್ಯ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿರುವ ಭಾರತಿಯಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಪ್ರೇಮದ ಅಂಕುರವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ.. ಆದರೆ ಭಾರತಿ ಮಹಾತ್ಮಾರ ಒಪ್ಪಿಗೆ ಇಲ್ಲದೆ ಪ್ರೇಮವನ್ನು ಒಪ್ಪಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ ಎಂಬ ಮಾತನಾಡುತ್ತಾಳೆ... ಅಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ ಕಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯುವ ಏರು ಪೇರು ಒಂದು ಆತ್ಮೀಯ ಪಯಣ.

ಇದು ಸುಮಾರು 1935 ರಿಂದ 1948ರ ಕಾಲಘಟ್ಟದಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯುವ ಕಾದಂಬರಿ... ಪ್ರೇಮ ಕಥೆ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ಒಂದು ಎಳೆಯಷ್ಟೇ, ಗಾಂಧಿಯ ತತ್ವಗಳು, ಅವರ ಅಹಿಂಸಾವಾದದ ಹಾದಿ ಮತ್ತು ಭಾರತೀಯರು ಅದನ್ನು ಸ್ವೀಕರಿಸಿದ ಬಗೆ, ಕಥೆಯ ಬಹು ಮುಖ್ಯ ಎಳೆ..

ಕೆಲ ಭಾಗ ನೀರಸವೆನ್ನಿಸುತ್ತದೆ, ಕೆಲ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು ಕಥೆಗೆ ಪೂರಕವಿಲ್ಲದ್ದಿದ್ದರೂ ತುರುಕಿದ್ದಾರೆ ಎನ್ನಿಸುತ್ತದೆ... ಆದರೆ, ಇವೆಲ್ಲ ನ್ಯೂನ್ಯತೆಗಳನ್ನು ಮೀರಿ ಕಥೆಯ ಕೊನೆಯ ಭಾಗ ಬಹು ಎತ್ತರವಾಗಿ ನಿಲ್ಲುತ್ತದೆ.
62 reviews7 followers
November 10, 2011
I think it took a great deal of real courage to write and publish Waiting for Mahatma in 1955. The novel, set largely in his fictional city of Malgudi India, begins around 1939 and ends in 1947, just before the partitioning of India.

Waiting for Mahatma centers on a young man named Sriram who lives with his grandmother. He is in love with and wants to marry a young woman who is involved with Mahatma Gandhi's movement to achieve Indian independence and this draws him into becoming active himself.

Big news comes to Malgudi. Ghandi is coming for a speaking engagement. The town leaders are thrown into a frenzy of planning. It is decided that Ghandi will stay in the mansion of the wealthiest man in Malgudi. When Ghandi arrives, he decides that instead he wishes to stay in the home of a street sweeper. This produces great turmoil and debate but there is no going against the word of Ghandi, at least publically. One of the very interesting things in the novel was seeing that not every one revered Ghandi even though everyone is supposed to. Sriram's grandmother saw him just as someone who would get her grandson in trouble, and she was sure right on that. Others thought he was working behind the scenes with the British to get himself made the Emperor of India. It was a bit amazing and shocking when Ghandi appears as a character in the novel. Narayan makes seem human and more than human. Just the few speeches he makes show an almost transhuman wisdom. For example he told the Indians for them to become independent with their hearts full of bitterness to each other was worse than staying under the British. Narayan lets us feel we know a little bit like what it must have felt like to be in Ghand's presence.

There is just a huge amount in this novel. Reading it for sure deepened my meager understand of Indian history. Sriram ends up in prison and we endure this time with him. When he gets out of prison he does not know if WWII is over or if India has become independent (the time of his release is early 1947). Narayan ends the novel (he is brilliant at ending his fictions-not an easy thing to do) in just a shocking event that took so much sheer nerve to include in his book.

This novel is beautifully written. I was interested in and liked all the central characters. Maybe the character of the girl friend of Sriham could be a bit more filled out but maybe not. The grandmother is just a marvel. You can tell she is just one step away from calling Ghadhi a pompous fraud but she always catches herself.

This is a really good novel. I totally endorse it for all and see it as must reading for those into literature about the era of the British Raj and the struggle for Indian Indepence. Narayan brings cosmic events down to the streets and homes of Malgudi in a brilliant and loving fashion.
Profile Image for Cristina C..
66 reviews25 followers
March 25, 2016
I have really enjoyed the book.

I have to admit that at the beginning I did not know very well where it was leading, but I ended up enjoying it a lot. However, it may be difficult to understand or enjoy if you expect a typical plot with an introduction phase, a conflict, development and resolution. It is not that the book lacks it, it is that, under my point of view, it is more focused on characters's feelings and in historical events rather than in the plot itself. The plot, in fact, is a quite simple one. Easy to follow, typical, nothing essentially original, but because the weight relies on the other points I have mentioned before.

The charm of the main characters –under my point of view– is that both are complementary to one another. What one lacks the other has it; so even though you may not feel fully identified with one of them, you will inevitably feel identified with parts of each one –in my case I feel closer to Bharati.
Furthermore, we learn the reality of the country, the history of India through the characters's eyes, which makes it much more appealing than reading a history book. I loved understanding a little part of Indian history and culture 'from within'.

It leads me to write about the language. It is very simple and easy to follow, it is written in a very plain style, but Narayan includes a lot of Indian vocabulary mostly related to food, Indian cultural figures and untranslatable concepts –such as 'ahimsa', which I personally loved– and though it forces you to make a little research or go to the end of the book to check the glossary, I think it gives the whole work a sense of authenticity. It makes it more 'Indian-like', it is like tasting the culture with the tip of your tongue –specially when they talk about food... Yummy!

However, what I loved the most was the representation of the figure of Gandhi. There are a lot of Gandhi related books but the treatment of the Mahatma is that of a historical figure usually romanticized or idealized. However, in "Waiting for the Mahatma" Gandhi is one more character. He is shown as a human being. As someone who feels and has real acquaintances and that cares for the people around and his granddaughter and everyone around him –not just as a flawless spiritual leader. I think that perceiving Gandhi as a human being rather than 'just' as a cultural figure definitely was what made me love the book in the end.

To sum up: the characters, the subtle introduction of the historical context and the treatment of the figure of Gandhi made me fall in love with the book.

I highly recommend 'Waiting for the Mahatma' if you are looking for –or just curious about– a light book about the independence in India and Gandhi.
Profile Image for Madhulika Liddle.
Author 13 books419 followers
August 9, 2022
Sriram has been brought up by his sole living relative, his grandmother, who both pampers him and bosses him. When he turns twenty, Sriram finally gets his own passbook and access to what is a sizeable income for a young man in a small town. It is while he's faffing around Malgudi, trying to find ways to amuse himself, that Sriram meets Bharati, an orphaned girl who has been brought up by Mahatma Gandhi and is one of his dearest confidants. Sriram is so infatuated by Bharati that, driven by her fervour and his desire to impress her, he also joins Gandhiji's army of non-violent activists, though without very little idea of what he is expected to do, or how... all Sriram really wants is to be able to somehow persuade Bharati to marry him.

RK Narayan is one of those writers whose work I always find immensely easy reading: short, succinct sentences, an easy humour at times - but so much depth, so deep an understanding of human nature. That understanding of human nature, that subtle wit, is there here too, as Sriram walks the tightrope between the home and the world, Granny and Bharati, Gandhi's non-violence and his own occasional yearnings to take matters into his own hands. The depiction of small town Tamilnadu is superb, as is that of the India of the war years, and just after. Tensions of caste, of loyalist versus Gandhian, of South versus North: all of these come through subtly but impactfully in this book.

And the ending: I could see that coming, that waiting for the Mahatma finally reaching its culmination. At a historic moment, and so brilliantly immortalized by Narayan: understated, non-melodramatic, cut off at just the right moment.
Profile Image for Vaidya.
235 reviews56 followers
March 31, 2014
Easily among RKN's best works, right up there with Swami and Friends and The Painter of Signs. RKN has always specialized in absurdity, the very commonality of the common man that shines through in the most profound or historic of moments. And when that gets applied to something as 'serious' as the freedom struggle, what you get is a masterpiece.

Given the task of painting 'Quit India' on village walls, he obsesses that the "Q" takes more paint, reducing the tail, ending up with Ouit India.
The villagers asked: 'How long ought this to be on our wall, sir?'
'Till it takes effect'.
'What does it say, sir?'
'It is "Quit"- meaning that the British must leave our country.'
'What will happen, sir, if they leave? Who will rule the country?'
'We will rule it ourselves.'
'Will Mahatmaji become our emperor, sir?'
'Why not?' he said, shaping the letters, with his back turned to them. He taught the school children to cry 'Quit India' in a chorus. They gleefully obeyed him. Their teacher came and expostulated: 'What is this you are doing, sir, you are spoiling them!'
'By teaching them seditious behaviour. The police will be after us soon. Do you want us to end in jail?'
'Yes, why not? When more important persons than you are already there.' The crowd jeered at the teacher. The boys were ever ready to seize an opportunity to jeer him. But the old man was more tough than he looked. He put on his spectacles and looked Sriram up and down.
The boys cried: 'Oh, the master is looking through his spectacles, oh! oh!' They laughed and cried: 'Quit India'.
The teacher pushed his way through and cried: 'Add if possible one "e" before "t"; what we need in this country is not a "Quit" programme, but a "Quiet India" Why don't you write that?'
Sriram finished his job writing. He had borrowed the ladder from someone. He turned and said to the teacher: 'Please do something more useful than standing there and talking, master. Please see that this ladder is returned to its owner, I forget his name, and you will have done your bit to free our country.'

It is moments like these that define the narrative. When asked to go on disguise after he turns a terrorist unknown to himself, with the entire police force looking for him, he laments that his scalp would have to be shaved and remembers how difficult it was to convince his grandmother to give up his tuft and how he escaped from the greedy barber with his Dhoti intact after paying him only 6 annas, that too after much haggling.

In a way, this is almost Catch-22 written on the Indian Independence movement. The humor is spot on, but tends to be dark. There is the bully in prison who threatens people to join in his Bhajans or otherwise... The same bully who killed the owner of the house he had broken into, because, the man left him no choice ('He was sitting on me, what else could I've done?!'). The terrorist who uses Sriram to get things done. 'For some reason I can't avoid obeying him.'

In parallel, there is the story of his love to Bharathi and how everything he does is a way to get her. The whole absurdity of his struggle for India's freedom is built around his sole aim to end up with Bharathi, and everything he does is guided only towards that end.

RKN stays clear of the politics of the time, concentrating on the common man and Sriram's struggles with himself as he's pushed to become someone else to get Bharathi. Gandhi is a prominent character who has dialogues of his own, but RKN stops short of judging him. But then, does he ever judge any of his characters? In a way, Gandhi gets Malgudi'ed, reduced to being human while being seen through the eyes of the common man - Sriram. Only at the very end RKN gives him a touch of divinity and bestows greatness on him and he does it without a grudge.

Definitely a must-read this. But like Catch-22, it does drag at times in the middle.
Profile Image for Somdutta.
146 reviews
October 21, 2020
R.K Narayan takes us to a place called Malgudi which is a fictional town, familiar to readers of his stories.This is a love story which takes place at the time when Mahatma Gandhi was one of the key players in leading India's struggle for freedom. Sriram, gets in to India's freedom struggle because he wants to be around Bharati and less because of his love for his country. Before meeting Bharati he led an idle life, without any aims, taken care by his grandmother. He decides to leave his grandmother without saying a word about his plans.Sriram did as told by Bharati to write Quit India on the walls of the huts and buildings in different villages, before she surrendered herself to the police and later being misled by Jagdish, to disrupt the British plans, through violent means. He loved Bharati so much that the thought that he would see her one day at the end of all these ordeals and that they would be united after receiving Bapu's blessings, made him live a solitary life and carry out disruptionist acts . Bharati reigned his mind even during the time he spent in jail . The death of Sriram's grandmother before he returns to Malgudi to visit her followed by her showing signs of life just as he set her to fire on the pyre takes the reader through a whirlwind of emotions. The story has a bitter ending with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and a successful ending with Sriram and Bharati having received Bapu's blessings to get married.
Profile Image for Aditi.
37 reviews28 followers
June 21, 2020
3.5 stars. I did like the story and the backdrop of Indian independence, Sriram and his boyish ways that finally find a channel through Bharti. But for me the book dragged in a couple of places. This does not take away from the fact that it was a good book but I preferred The Guide (also by Narayan) more to this.
Profile Image for Heramb.
Author 5 books15 followers
March 8, 2017
An amazing insight into Indian freedom movement through a tale of love. A book where you would love and hate to read the ending.
Profile Image for Mira.
154 reviews19 followers
April 11, 2020
I've finally finished it! Phew...

Okay, there's nothing much to say about the novel. Narayan's style was admittedly amusing, but the pacing was slow and I was extremely bored of the whole thing. I hated Siriram and his rape-y thoughts. At some point, I blinked and suddenly Baharty was in love with him, which came out of nowhere!
Anyway, none of the characters was sympathetic. I didn't feel invested in any of them.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure if I didn't have this on my grad school reading list, I'd never have picked it up. So maybe I'm a little bit baised after all.

The 2-star rating is purely for Narayan's style.
Profile Image for Pritam Chattopadhyay.
1,855 reviews165 followers
March 4, 2022
Though Mahatma Gandhi figures in this novel quite frequently, this is not a political novel.

The plot recounts the love-story of Sriram and Bharati against the background of the political life of India during the years which immediately preceded the independence of the country in 1947.

Sriram, a youngman of twenty, lost his parents at an early age.

He was looked after by his grandmother who deposited over thirty-eight thousand rupees for her pampered and good-for-nothing grandson out of the pension of his father.

Bharati is the daughter of a patriot who died at the hands of a policeman. She was adopted by the Local Sevak Sangh and was brought up and educated on Gandhian principles. She is a true follower and devotee of Gandhi.

Sriram meets Bharati when one day she approaches him for the contribution to the fund which is being collected for the reception of Mahatma Gandhi in Malgudi.

Driven by his love for her, he joins Gandhi’s group of followers of which she is a member. He accompanies the Mahatma in his tour of poverty-stricken villages and acquires firsthand knowledge of the miserable condition of the poor peasants who are suffering from the scarcity and hardships caused by the Second World War and are also the victims of the ruthlessness of the profiteers and hoarders.

When the historic movement of 1942 breaks out and Gandhi is arrested, he retires to a deserted temple on the slope of Mempi Hill to escape the police.

From here, he carries on the propaganda of the “Quit India” movement. He meets Jagdish, a terrorist and a zealous national worker.

He joins his new friend in his terrorist activities and helps him first in noting down the messages and speeches of Subhas Bose from Tokyo and Berlin and circulating cyclostyled copies of them among the Indian soldiers and afterwards in over-turning and derailing trains, cutting telegraph wires, setting fire to the records in law courts, exploding crude bombs, and indulging in such other acts of aggression.

The result is he is arrested and sent to jail.

On being released from jail after independence, he goes to meet Bharati in Delhi where she is staying with Mahatma Gandhi in Birla Bhavan. He begs her to marry him and when she gives her consent, goes to Mahatmaji for his approval.

Mahatmaji endorses their matrimony and gives his blessings to them. In the beginning he guarantees to be present on the occasion of their marriage, but on a mystifying premonition expresses his indisposition to do so.

After an epigrammatic talk with Mahatmaji, Sriram and Bharati accompany him to the prayer ground in Birla Bhavan and witness the appalling scene of his murder.

The novel is amazing for its characterisation and its study of life’s modest ironies.

Profile Image for Ashita Thakur.
128 reviews27 followers
May 30, 2015
Waiting for the Mahatma was in some words, a gamble. But then again, Narayan has often chosen difficult subjects, what with infidelity in the Guide and misplaced patriotism in this particular novel.

You can almost imagine Sri Ram as a walking talking entity in today's political scenario. Sri Ram would be a man-boy who is busy updating his status on Facebook from 'At the movies' to 'having lunch at KFC with mah buddiez' and wondering whether he should buy an iPhone 6 or the latest Nexus. Everything changes when he sees a girl who is the manifestation of all things amazing- working with an NGO, theatre on the side and a hot body with a pretty face to top it off. But our Sri doesn't know 2 cents about all this NGO business-- so what, he can try. Oh yes.

In the book, Sri Ram is not patriotic. He is lazy, unambitious and unconcerned with the affairs of the world. He has never thought about anything more significant than what to waste his inheritance on. He is unconcerned with the freedom struggle that is sweeping the nation, until he sets his eyes on Bharati who works with Mahatma Gandhi. Who is this Mahatma dude? What does he even want? Why is my 'bae' so fond of him? Why is this skinny man clad only in a dhoti so influential and awe inspiring? Screw it, imma make a move- Yasss she wants it. Oh No, she went to jail. Oh no, I am a semi terrorist. Oh no, I am in jail. Such are his woes.

R K Narayan's books are known for their humanism and realistic touch. Though this book was force....prescribed reading in college and I had to read it 3 times because I couldn't really get into it (no one likes to read books that they are forced to read. C'mon), I cannot deny the sheer simplicity and reality of this work.

The unconcernedness of Sri Ram with politics, his curiosity on the weirdness of the freedom movement, his inability to actually give a rat's ass about the movement, his love (infatuation?) for Bharati, the impact of Gandhi's magnetic charm and the terrorist dude's sly words on Sri Ram are all so natural that one does not question the realism of the story.

R K Narayan does make his characters as real as the sweat bead sliding down Bharati's waist. (No, this is not a real quote from the novel, but its not too far from it either)
Profile Image for David.
227 reviews32 followers
April 21, 2017
While I enjoyed this book, and appreciate the concept of an Indian story told in English, I wasn't moved that much. The story centers on a boy named Sriram, who has fallen in love with a girl, Bharati. But she won't agree to be with him until they receive Mahatma Ghandi's blessing. When the story begins, he is living with his grandmother in relative luxury. Then Ghandi comes to town, bringing with him a group of "volunteers," including Bharati. Sriram is quickly taken by her, and agrees to join Ghandi's camp and dedicate himself to a new life. Political turmoil falls upon India, as they are taken over by the English. Ghandi and his followers speak out against the British and are jailed. After several years they are released and reunite.

I definitely liked this one, and will probably check out more by Narayan. Hopefully they will be a little more accessible to me.
Profile Image for Rishi Prakash.
352 reviews24 followers
August 21, 2013
Another super story by the great man. "Waiting for the Mahatma" is another realistic novel set during the freedom struggle days. He comes out with a story which depicts another side of our freedom struggle movement and its impact on the lives of numerous Indian people.

The best aspect of this novel is the simplicity of we the Indians prior to gaining independence. The long and hard fought freedom struggle which alters the lives of different people like Sriram(main protagonist) makes one feel about the numerous citizens who were forced to abandon their families for their country. It really makes you "Live" those difficult times where there were several emotions playing out every single day and you had to judge your priority every day which was never easy.

And the magic of our "Mahatma" has been aptly captured here so read it just to get a real feel through Narayan's common man.
Profile Image for Marva.
62 reviews18 followers
February 13, 2016
Highly humorous and hilarious. The book treats "Mahatma" very much differently from the contemporary novels, as "character" not a symbol. The life of the lazy, wealthy Sriram is interesting in the sense, he is a rare choice for being a protagonist - Gandhi Follower(?) in a novel of the times. One among the best of RK Narayan.
Profile Image for Biswajit Roy.
4 reviews
June 6, 2015
This is one of those book that one can cherish all there life once he or she has read it.The emotions in this book are so grounded in a period of time,so honest and innocent that you feel like transported to that era,those events.
Profile Image for Sachin.
64 reviews1 follower
June 16, 2010
an innocent and touching love story proffered with great humour and realism
30 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2012
Definitely one of my favorite books. Simple prose and subtle humor. A book that is as likely to induce a gentle smile as a silent tear.

Author 3 books93 followers
January 23, 2018
‘Waiting for Mahatama’ is interesting novel that explores the human condition and one may find the humour, sad, joy anxious and principles in the journey of Sriram’s life. Most of Narayan’s novels have characters that are financially sound and whose basic needs are met. But what they lack is warmth and care. Often they are attracted by women and in pursuit find their worth, purpose and actualize their potential. It is also an assumption that person who does not have daily means to survive may not spend time in reading a book which for most is activity of leisure.
The novel will probably connect with readers who seek belonging either through marriage or being part of a commune. Sriram who lives aimlessly in leisure and suddenly his life is out of control and comfort zone when he is allured to simplicity and authenticity in Bharti. He follows Gandhiji but his pursuits are self interested and the work for cause makes him feel respected and worthy.
One feels the affection in Narayan’s world towards Gandhiji which he rightfully deserves. The affection with which Gandhiji speaks to another is reassuring and blessing. His compassion for another and for marginalized makes one search their own souls and ask pertinent questions in life. The hymn ‘Raghu pati Raghav Raja Ram’ is beautiful.
I found the novel to be captivating.
3 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2019
Sriram lives with his Grandma in the fictional town of Malgudi. He remains oblivious of the world and his grandma treats him as a child. On his 20th birthday, his grandma makes him the signatory of his father’s pension account. This makes him feel like an adult and his encounter with Bharati added fuel to the fire. Suddenly he feels like a grown up man and falls in love with Bharati. From now on his actions are directed towards getting closer to the girl. As he follows her, he explores life and the world. Becomes a volunteer for Gandhiji’s Quit India movement and follower of Mahatma Gandhi, without knowing much about Gandhiji’s principles. Learns things as he works. While Bharati and Gandhiji courted jail, he gets into anti-British extremist groups. After serving a period of time in jail, finally he is freed and reunited with Bharati. The novel ends with their reunion.
The novel sets in pre-independent India and throws light on common man’s notion towards independence, the economic sluggishness post independence, communal violence following partition and some awkward social customs and prejudices prevalent during the time.
87 reviews1 follower
February 9, 2021
While reading this I've been thinking quite a bit about Sriram, the protagonist, who picks up a few key words and throws them around without really understanding them. Reading this now, in a time when India seems to be going through formative events again and being faced with someone like Sriram is an eerie coincidence to say the least. Other than that, there is quite a bit to unpack in the novel: the figure of Gandhi, his relationship with the women and the idea of nationhood, large idealistic concepts and their connection to people-or well the eternal debate surrounding theory and practice.
Profile Image for Pratheeksha (nirvana_reads).
79 reviews5 followers
August 10, 2020
R.K Narayan's 'Waiting for the Mahatma' is the story of a young man called Sriram who gets involved in Gandhi's Quit India movement. Before anyone starts thinking of Sriram as a freedom fighter, I want to make one thing clear- he is in the movement for the sake of a girl called Bharati, who is in Gandhi's innermost circle. Though he is inspired by the Mahatma, he gets distracted and struggles to understand his life's purpose.
The story gives a remarkable insight into the upsurge of Indian nationalism. Here, Charkha(spinning wheel) becomes the symbol of self-reliance, the Ramayana becomes the symbol of righteousness and the Gita becomes the way of life. Through Sriram, R.K Narayan wittily reminds us how a few things haven't changed in our country. He gets involved in the movement with a selfish motive, which is to impress Bharati. But in the process he fails to understand Gandhian principle of non-violence. People had no clear idea about Gandhian philosophy then and he is one of the most misunderstood freedom fighters even now. Narayan also touches upon the theme of untouchability brilliantly and his usual subtle humour is present in this work too.
I won't call it a page turner because there is nothing like suspense or action here. But, definitely mystery plays a role. And that mystery is nothing but Indianness. Hasn't India always been a mystery to the world? If you pick up this book to read, I assure you that it won't bore you a bit because Narayan's Malgudi can never be a boring place!
26 reviews37 followers
November 10, 2018
Loved the story and RK Narayan's incredible blend of fiction and history! Like any typical Malgudi tale, the novel is set in the quaint South Indian town with simple people going about their daily business. RKN cleverly named the protagonists of the novel as Bharati and Sriram- referring to the two main occupations of Gandhi. True to the indication, the plot revolves around Gandhi and the Indian Freedom Struggle from Quit India Movement until Independence.

The biggest takeaway from the book is a window into a commoner's perception of various national events, their participation and their expectations from it. Usually, we read about Gandhi, Freedom Struggle, erstwhile politics, movements, Hindu-Muslim riots etc in a macroscopic narrative.
Sriram is infatuated with Bharati and wants to marry her. Bharati has been brought up by Gandhi and worships him. Ipso facto, Sriram goes on doing things she would approve of or Gandhi would approve of , in order to impress her. From prison to North Indian villages, from personal to political, Sriram follows everything to the last dot, never really understanding or agreeing with Gandhi but being overwhelmed by the national phenomenon the Mahatma is. Gandhi is a central character in the novel and his pressing influence is felt even in the parts where he is absent. His choices and decisions like wearing hand spun Khadi, living in a slum, travelling third class, fasting, praying, non violence, insisting that women rather die than surrender their honour to anyone else, his speeches, his directions to the public, his community work, his political meetings with the British and the Indian leaders: all find a way into the ingenious story weaved by RKN. Prisoners, an ailing grandmother, activists, journalists, villagers, the sweetshop owner, the local bank manager, Bharati and Sriram along with many other characters are a reflection of various sections of society of a difficult time gone by.

Undoubtedly, it's one of Narayan's best works. One gets a closer look into what it must have been to live in the 1940s India: the ecstasies and the lament of it all.
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