The English Teacher
The story of human sensitivities narrated so intimately, reviews Muhammad Kamran Shamshad.
Before reading ‘The English Teacher’ written by R. K. Narayan, I read the abridged version of ‘Malgudi Days’ in order to get the rhythm over his novels.
The former was published in 1945, preceding ‘Swami and Friends’ and ‘The Bachelor of Arts’ and ‘Dark Room’ respectively.
If he enjoys the bachelorhood in ‘The Bachelor of Arts’, here in ‘The English Teacher’ he is completely bound by responsibilities. The latter one contains eight chapters. The said novel being semi-autobiographical in content is also woven skillfully with tragedy and patches of smile. It also mentions how the teachers were/are doing their job. Narayan studied in English language and made career out of this education.
The characters are factional set in his legendary fictional place—Malgudi. Krishna, the central character of Narayan's novel undertakes an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual journey during the course of 200 odd pages.
Krishna teaches in the same school in which he studied himself. He makes sure that at the end of the day he jots down his experiences. Watching the dawn slowly paving way to hot summer days gives him joy. Being a teacher who is critical of his own performance he views others through the same prism. He feels sad that students consider the words of teacher as pearls while latter dawdle over unnecessary things like marking attendance.
The crux of the story is the transformation of successful Krishna into a reclusive person. All this happens from Susila's unpredictability. When they go to look at the house we could not possibly predict that she would go for a walk on her own, get stuck in a contaminated lavatory, and then become ill, confining her to bed for weeks. Throughout the entire course of her illness, Krishna constantly tries to keep an optimistic view about Susila's illness, keeping his hopes up by thinking that her illness would soon be cured. However, Susila succumbs and passes away leaving him shattered. You cannot help but feel the protagonist’s pain when his wife dies. In fact, there is one whole page in the book that describes what Krishna feels on his way to the cremation ground (what he feels is numbness). Narayan demonstrates how his wife’s death casts cloud over the protagonist’s life by writing: ‘I’m blind, dumb and dazed’.
The protagonist’s life thereafter is in pieces as he finds that with Susila his loveliest part of life has gone. Depressed, saddened, Krishna becomes a person with a soul gone astray; a hardened receptacle of condolence and sympathy, when one day he receives a letter. What is in that letter? Is Susila still alive? What follows is a series of (un)believable supernatural accounts, communicating with his wife, which will hook the reader till the climax. Is the protagonist really communicating with his wife even after her death? At the end we see him resigning his post, beginning work at a nursery school. Does Krishna become successful as a single parent? For all these answers, you have to read the book.
But one more thing I’d like to write in my review is that Narayan has marvelously presented how much a person gets affected when his dearest one leaves him by writing “Nothing will make him worry or interested hereafter.” How a person starts believing the supernatural thins and slowly gets involved into it. He also demonstrates that a person (lover) will have a desire to be surrounded by everything belonging to the departed. He also makes a point that it is not necessary for the loved ones to be together physically but they can communicate mentally even if they walk separate ways.
The most prominent character in the novel, after Krishnan and his family, is the headmaster of Leela's school. He is a champion of childhood, having devoted his life to children since receiving the prediction that he would die, and believes they are 'angels', 'the real gods on earth', and employs what he calls 'The Leave Alone System' in his school.
The characterization is brilliant. All the characters in the book are so wonderfully fleshed out and presented in such a crystalline manner, that each of them leaves a lasting effect. Be it the excess of emotions that Krishna goes through or the helplessness of Susila in her last days, Leela’s innocence as a child–the way she interprets. Every character is extremely well-carved out. Scores of other characters like Leela’s headmaster, Krishna’s and Susila’s parents register an equally deep impact on the reader’s mind.
This story is not actually about an English teacher, it about a very sensitive human being who loves and believes whoever or whatever he loves. It says how one plans, dreams and how it becomes meaningless when things come to an end. Do catch up with this book.
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Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Apr 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Apr 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 20 Apr 2010 00:00:00 IST
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