‘ The English Teacher ‘ is a novel by R.K.Narayan, one of the best Indian writers in English. Thanks to the TV revolution and Malgudi Days, RKN needs no introduction even to a non-book reader. I have been reading his books since my childhood. But, i never felt like reviewing his book here in this site or anywhere. But this particular book had such an impact on my heart that it became an irrestible temptation to write about it. ‘ English Teacher ‘ is not certainly the best of his works, but it certainly is the most touching book of all.
In saying ‘of all’, i only mean ‘of all those i have read’. To begin with, what prompted me to read this book was RKN’s revelation in this autobiography – MyDays that EnglishTeacher was based on his personal experiences. Life, Death and Life after death ….. is all this book is about. However, dont imagine from these words of mine that it is didactical book full of obscure philosophies for us to understand.
It is in the ubiquitous RKN style – simple yet comprehensive. RKN has this wonderful ability of describing life as it is. We can see the characters movins around us. We can see them talking to each other, but they cant see us!! Ok, enough of my admiration for RKN … which is the precise reason why i dont feel like writing about his books : He dominates the book when I write about it!
Coming to the story, it is the story of Krishnan,an english teacher and his wife – their relationship. Frankly speaking, i never understood why this is named so. For the fact that Krishnan is an English Teacher is not that improtant i believe. It would not have made any difference even if he were a Tamil teacher or a Maths/Science/Social teacher. But, may be because RKN was a English lecturer for a while, this book is based on his personal experience and the story proceeds in first person -its named so.
Ok, Krishnan and his wife are a happily married couple. The story begins with Krishnan’s life in the hostel of his college, where he spent the whole of student life and now, working as a lecturer at the same place. The college atmosphere, the peon’s character, the students, talks between lecturers and principal …. everything takes us in to that Albert Mission College and shows us around the place. Krishnan decides to bring his wife to his place from his parents’.
He is pretty excited about it and prepares everything here for her arrival. She arrives. He is all smiles seeing her. He loves her a lot as is obvious from his behavior. He admires her a lot too. They both have a wonderful married life. Their child – leela is there too and on the whole, it was a happy family. Krishnan’s relationship with Leela – the description was so full of life that i was actually visualising it … and it also brought to me back my days @ Leela’s age. Good old childhood days !!! This is again one probable reason that i liked the book – At various stages of the book, i was actually seeing myself in Krishnan’s thoughts. It was so near to life for me.
On one fateful day, Krishnan and his wife Susila go out in search of a house to buy. Since that evening, a gloomy cloud casts its spell on their house. Whatever happened on that day when Susila complained of a slight illness, she never recovered ever since. Krishnan is very much worried and does everything he can to save her. After prolonged illness, she dies. Krishnan now seriously feels like dying but restrains.
As days pass on without anything happening, Krishnan gets a strange letter and here begins this some what hard to believe part of the story – about life after death. It becomes a regular affair for Krishnan to converse with his wife through a medium – a friend. The story ends with finally Krishnan being able to visualise his wife by himself without the help of that medium.
On looking at the story line, one cant help but wonder: what is there in this? That was precisely the reason why I never felt like reading this book. But, on reading, i understood i was wrong. The relationship between the couple is wonderfully potrayed. Krishnan’s psyche is brilliantly and so lively potrayed that it makes us enter Krishnan’s shoes …. in flesh and blood, in soul too.
Krishnan cries – we cry. Krishnan is elated, we are elated. Krishnan is hurt .. we are. such it the way it went. May be because this is a real experience for RKN. Frankly, this book is unputdownable. One night, I was desparately trying to sleep after reading the book…but couldnt, because thoughts about Krishnan’s mental stress kept crossing my mind and I was myself feeling his pain.
The next night, I was feeling terribly sleepy, eyes closing….but i was battling with the blurred vision to read more of this book …. unable to contain myself. This book literally took charge of my emotions and commanded them. Ofcourse, again, it need not be the case with anybody who reads the book. Constantly, i was seeing parellels with the events in lives of Krishnan and Me. This was the reason for my experience with this book.
On the whole, at any rate, this is a touching book to read. It might tend to become a bit dramatical towards second half which infact it is but it never makes us feel it for RKN makes it look so real and ‘story next door’ :)) It is a sort of journey of a person through life, death and after.
Note: posted @Telugupeople.com on April 1,2006