21 October, 2020

Swami And Friends

He might have grudged visitors his famous coffee, but generosity pervaded his writing and spirit

Swami And Friends
A living writer, noted R.K. Narayan, unlike a dead writer who’ll stay conveniently still while you’re analysing him, "is like a live lobster on your plate". But even in death, Narayan remains a live lobster: just when you think you have him pinned down, he jumps up at you in yet another avatar. Who was the real Narayan? A bespectacled bore who roamed around Mysore bazaars in trademark white veshti, exchanging inanities with shopkeepers, or a scintillating conversationalist who loved nothing better than to engage in a stimulating discussion with anyone, regardless of class or age, on anything? A skinflint who grudged visitors a cup of his famous coffee, or someone who advanced loans to any acquaintance in need? A writer content to dwell in an ambling small town, live on curd-rice, or a no-drink-no-meat cosmopolitan who revelled in the nightlife of New York and Hollywood? An eccentric who communicated with the dead, saw ghosts and lived in fear of thieves and burglars, or "a citizen of the world" who took a lively interest in politics and civic administration? His friends say he...


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