Wednesday, August 17, 2005

B.A. - Bachelor of Arts

Since last time, I read 3 books... each different in its own way...

1. B.A. - Bachelor of Arts by R.K.Narayan :

This really connects me to the India my grand parents lived in. Most of the customs and situations happen even today in my village. Things have changed but not by much.

The story (if there is one) is set in pre-independent India in Malgudi (which is almost real Mysore + Coimbatore + Chennai) where our hero - Chandran finishes his graduation and is forced into this world. In India even today, arranged marriages are a norm. It serves as a Insurance cover for those who are hopeful of finding a perfect soul mate themselves but (for some reason) not able to. Chandran likes a girl without knowing pretty much anything about the girl. The most daring thing he can imagine to do is ask his parents to "arrange" his marriage with that beautiful girl he names her Lakshmi. However, the ever notorious horoscope does not permit him that privilege. I find it hard not to wonder how many times I have heard of this episode...

There is an episode where Chandran’s mother cribs about somebody stealing the flowers from her garden… My mother does that. To catch the thief Chandran’s father stays guard from 4AM one day. My father did that once. Finally when mother learns that a sadhu was stealing flowers only to be offered to God, she forgives him… goes a step further by approving of him stealing for a noble cause… just like my mother… I could not relate to any other episode in the book more than this.

Time is one thing people of that era had in plenty... Chandran spends some years of his life reading books... and doing nothing else... can any body do it now?? He wanders into a aimless journey and lives on the streets for almost an year and nobody thinks it’s awkward or disrespectful... In fact it is the contrary.

Students of that age were devoid of any peer pressure. Narayan himself completed his degree in the second attempt (so I read). Chandran proclaimed that he would go to London for studies and become a professor to who ever listened… finally did nothing of that sorts… but no shame… no guilt… Where had that society gone??

Narayan has very vividly described India in 1930 without mentioning any thing about the political turmoil of the time. Its both good and bad… good because his story line is not contaminated… bad because, it makes it a complete fiction even though you can relate to it.

Chandran, his friends, his obsession with Lakshmi, his younger brother, his family values are all timeless… Some things have changed from then and now. Unfortunately they have only worsened… some where in the meanwhile India becoming independent is the only positive.

Suggestion: Definitely worth a read. Inspires you to read the rest of Malgudi series.

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