Waiting for the Mahatma Sriram is twenty. As a mark of his coming of age his grandmother allows his the pass-book to his savigns in the local bank, but Sriram is growing up in other ways, too, and an enchanting and unpredictable girl leads him into the entourage of Mahatma Gandhi.
These are the opening events in R K Narayan’s novel. It is the finest thing he has yet achieved, and his story of the triumphs and tragedies of a raw young zealot in the service of Gandhi is distinguished for its warmth, its humour, its lack of sentimentality and the stamp of absolute truth.
Sriram’s evolution into manhood is, for him, strange and bewildering process. Bharati, the girl he worship, is witty, infuriating, capable and, wonder of wonders, condescending to the moonstruck Sriram. Her first loyalty though, is to the Mahatma, a saint blessed with disconcerting common sense, a man whose tragedy is tat he is so much greater than his followers. Most of them accept his ideas enthusiastically, and without realizing it, pervert them to suit their coarser personalities. Sriram is inspired by Gandhi, but he is too easily influenced by glamorous patriots of the type of Jagadish, a terrorist.
It is a tale of remarkable insight into the upsrge of Indian nationalism as witnessed through the eyes and hearts of Sriram and Waiting for the Mahatma
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
R.K. Narayan, in full Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan, original name Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayanswami, (born October 10, 1906, Madras [Chennai], India—died May 13, 2001, Madras), one of the finest Indian authors of his generation writing in English.
Reared by his grandmother, Narayan completed his education in 1930 and briefly worked as a teacher before deciding to devote himself to writing. His first novel, Swami and Friends (1935), is an episodic narrative recounting the adventures of a group of schoolboys. That book and much of Narayan’s later works are set in the fictitious South Indian town of Malgudi. Narayan typically portrays the peculiarities of human relationships and the ironies of Indian daily life, in which modern urban existence clashes with ancient tradition. His style is graceful, marked by genial humour, elegance, and simplicity.
Among the best-received of Narayan’s 34 novels are The English Teacher (1945), Waiting for the Mahatma (1955), The Guide (1958), The Man-Eater of Malgudi (1961), The Vendor of Sweets (1967), and A Tiger for Malgudi (1983). Narayan also wrote a number of short stories; collections include Lawley Road (1956), A Horse and Two Goats and Other Stories (1970), Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories (1985), and The Grandmother’s Tale (1993). In addition to works of nonfiction (chiefly memoirs), he also published shortened modern prose versions of two Indian epics, The Ramayana (1972) and The Mahabharata (1978).