Nagaraj was sitting on the pyol, spending the evening as usual looking at the coconut trees with crows retiring for the night. Before repairing to the trees they assembled on the roof of the tall house in the opposite row. Scores of them flew down and perched like schoolchildren under the supervision of a convent sister. The crows argued a lot among themselves and hopped and shifted about before dispersing. Nagaraj always felt a fascination for this evening activity of the crows, and wished he knew the language of birds as did the kings of folklore. The crows probably have a leader who allots them treetops for the night and they argue and debate about it before coming to a decision. The leader would probably be saying, “Don’t you see the sky is reddening? Hurry up, darkness will soon be upon us, and remember we are not human being who light lamps for their night life…”
RK Narayan’s characters pay attention to beautiful, little things in life. That is one of the reasons why I adore his books. The World of Nagaraj, just like every other book of RK Narayan, is replete with such people. They find the extra-ordinaries in the ordinaries.
The World of Nagaraj, as the title suggests, revolves around Nagaraj. The man in his 50’s harbours a dream — to write a book on the great sage Narada. He talks to people from all walks of life in Malgudi to collect material for his book. Much to his dismay, nobody knows about Narada well.
Just when he is disheartened about his book, his nephew Tim chooses to live with Nagaraj and his wife. Nagaraj, who is a creature of habits and who derives immense pleasure from leading slow, relaxed life, is forced to look after his mischievous nephew. Nagaraj’s life begins to be eventful.
Tim marries a singer. The young girl practises Hindi songs every morning, when Nagaraj tries hard to write on his book. The man cannot confront. He cannot tell the girl that she must stop practising awful songs during his time. Because of his inability to communicate and confront, he loses his peace of mind.
Besides becoming eventful, Nagaraj’s life loses its rhythm. Everything goes haywire. He has to discipline Tim, prove to his brother that he didn’t let Tim go astray, ask Tim’s wife to be quiet during his writing hours, and manage to write his book on Narada.
Many a time, I was reminded of PG Wodehouse’s stories. Nagaraj is reminiscent of Bertie Wooster. His wife Sita rescues him often, quite like Jeeves. And the plot becomes thicker and thicker, just like in Wodehouse’s book.
Unlike Wodehouse’s stories, everything doesn’t end well in The World of Nagaraj. But the mood of the book doesn’t change. It stays true to its theme till the end, even when Nagaraj gets mired in more responsibilities.
The World of Nagaraj is for the readers, who like slow, funny, and warm books.