K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > The Guide

The Guide by R.K. Narayan
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Dec 03, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: india, classics, 1001-core
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Read from July 17 to 22, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Those of you who think that Indian novels are always about sadness and despair of poor people, must think again. This book, The Guide by R. K. Narayan is funny. Unlike let's say, The God of Small Things or The Inheritance of Loss, this book will not make you squirt some tears from your eyes. Rather, when you close the book, you'll be happy yet mesmerized by its beauty.

It's beauty is not really in the narration or innovative storytelling. The novel's beauty is its ability to show you the traditional Indian way of storytelling that is not really different from the not-too-old stories here in the Philippines. The story is about a tourist guide Raju who gets convicted for a crime of forgery. On his way back home after two years in prison, he is mistaken for a holy man. Then he becomes like a God-like symbol and ends up fasting for the rain to come to Malgudi. This reminded me of a scene in the Ishmael Bernal's masterpiece 1984 movie, Himala where provincial people are asking Elsa, the fake faith healer, to rain. The Oscar-nominated 2001 film Lagaan also has that scene and so the barrio folks go out from their huts and palaces and wait for the rain to come
and when the rain finally comes, they all dance merrily.

In the middle of the story is a flashback to Raju's life prior to being incarcerated. He is a tourist guide (that reminded me of Slumdog Millionaire) but he cheats his customers. Then comes his love affair with a dancer Rosie who is married to Marco who ridicules her dancing. Rosie falls in love with Raju because he supports her passion and so they live together and she becomes a star. Raju lives on her money and he gets involved in a crime so he gets imprisoned.

I used to have a boss, a regional manager of supply chain, who has a wife that studied traditional Indian dancing in the university. So, I know how important is dancing in that country. It is one of the highest expression of artistry so while reading the book, I could emphatise with Rosie whose passion is dancing yet her husband does not appreciate him. Her walking away from him to live in with Raju seems like a justified move because of this. So, she dances and dances until she becomes rich. However, she still keeps the picture of her husband Marco in her wallet. This again is quite the same with her in the Philippines. Since our country is predominantly Catholic, there is no divorce and we are told to believe that what God put together let no man put asunder. So, in Rosie's eyes, Marco and not Raju, is still her husband.

The use of shifting timeline as the scenes are presented back and forth makes up for the simple story. It is a light classic book, but classic nevertheless. It is similar to Rabindarath Tagore's The Home and the World because they both have marital conflict as their main course. However, Narayan has superstitious beliefs (religion) and art (dancing) as his side dishes while Tagore has social status and politics. So this Narayan's book is much lighter and even funnier than that of the Nobel laureate's.

Overall, nice book. Not sure if it will stick with me though. There are just too many other memorable Indian books that have refused to leave my mind and probably decided to stay there forever.
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10/08/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Kedar (new)

Kedar Nice review, KD. Just wanted to share that there is a lovely movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059246/) based on this book and do check it if you get a chance. Guess what, TIL that there is an English version of this movie made in collaboration with Pearl S. Buck and directed by Ted Danielewski!

message 2: by K.D. (last edited Jul 23, 2012 12:20AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

K.D. Absolutely Coming from an Indian national, your compliment is much appreciated by me, Kedar. Thank you so much.

Shovelmonkey1 Definitely putting this on my to read list after your review. Thanks.

K.D. Absolutely You're most welcome, Shovel. You don't know how happy I am whenever you like my review. :) Let's keep on reading the 1001 books and compare notes. I always read your review before I tackle a 1001 book. Your opinions on books are one of those that I find always sensible and honest.

message 5: by Aisyahawang (new)

Aisyahawang Is it possible that 'The Ruined Nest'by Tagore is written to reform society, and 'The Guide' by R K Narayan is merely to delight the reader?

Arpit You wrote that Rosie fell in love with Raju. I'm still confused about it because never showed any feelings towards Raju, but only towards her passion.

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