Sunday, June 22, 2014

The English TeacherThe English Teacher by R.K. Narayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even before you begin to read my review, I must confess that I'm a die-hard fan of R.K. Narayan for his poignant stories bail me out of this mundane world effortlessly. While all the authors, whom I have acquainted through their books, help me escape reality, R.K. Narayan makes it hard to go back to the real world after reading his books as readers like me suffer from the inability to comfort our souls that want to live in Malgudi and refuse to accept this sphere. Yes, so, please forgive me if you find me gushing here. But I really can't help.

I started reading R.K. Narayan a couple of years ago and I have read 'Malgudi Days', 'A Tiger for Malgudi', 'Swami and Friends', 'The Bachelor of Arts' and just finished reading 'The English Teacher'. Thanks to a lot of unexpected turns that my life took, I could buy a lot of time to read and I decided to rekindle my love for R.K. Narayan. I read 'Swami and Friends' last week and chose to finish the informal trilogy 'Swami and Friends', 'The Bachelor of Arts' and 'The English Teacher'. While I found 'Swami and Friends' and 'The Bachelor of Arts' heartwarming, humourous and insightful, I was moved by 'The English Teacher'. It was heartbreaking and after God-knows-when, tears rolled down my cheeks and landed on the book as I followed Krishna, the protagonist, who's an English teacher, as he suffered irreplaceable losses and struggled to make peace with his past.

Although many of my friends raved about this book, it didn't occur to me to google about it for after all it was R.K. Narayan's. So I read it with an open mind and was surprised when the second part of the book travelled to metaphysical and supernatural grounds. I was certainly not shocked nor disappointed by the way the story de toured as I could closely follow Krishna in his search to gulf the abyss between the past and present.

And on top of all these, it was even more harrowing to learn that 'The English Teacher' is autobiographical.

R.K. Narayan's books don't fail to touch its readers' souls and with 'The English Teacher', it goes a level deeper. When Krishna smiled, I smiled. When Krishna cried, I cried. When Krishna was engulfed by loneliness, I was lonely too. Finally when he understood 'The Law of Life', he made me appreciate the law as well. And unlike R.K. Narayan's other books that leave the readers with a sense of happiness and satisfaction, 'The English Teacher' leaves the readers with a lump in their throats that doesn't go down for a few days after finishing reading and the readers can't help but mull over and make conscious efforts to disconnect themselves from the masterpiece. Not that because it's morbid, tragic and touching. But because readers can find a 'Krishna' in themselves. Krishna's conundrums, losses, searches are strikingly ours too.

Here are a couple of my favourite quotes from the book:

"The twists and turns of fate would cease to shock us if we knew, and expected nothing more than, the barest truths and facts of life."

“I returned from the village. The house seemed unbearably dull. But I bore it. "There is no escape from loneliness and separation...." I told myself often. "Wife, child, brothers, parents, friends.... We come together only to go apart again. It is one continuous movement. They move away from us as we move away from them. The law of life can't be avoided. The law comes into operation the moment we detach ourselves from our mother's womb. All struggle and misery in life is due to our attempt to arrest this law or get away from it or in allowing ourselves to be hurt by it. The fact must be recognized. A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life. All else is false. My mother got away from her parents, my sisters from our house, I and my brother away from each other, my wife was torn away from me, my daughter is going away with my mother, my father has gone away from his father, my earliest friends - where are they? They scatter apart like the droplets of a waterspray. The law of life. No sense in battling against it...." Thus I reconciled myself to this separation with less struggle than before.”

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