<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
It was a sultry summer day in 1986. School being shut down and Doordarshan the old dinosaur leading a nocturnal existence, we kids were bored to death with absolutely nothing to do in the daytime. The sun beat down mercilessly from morning to dusk. Having been strictly warned not to go out and roam, I listlessly spent my time indoors rolling marbles or worse playing wall-cricket, an exercise which resulted in sweaty palms besides pandemonium in the household.
Unable to put up with the disillusionment of this 8 year old and his teen siblings, Amma asked us to go to her school library and see if we could get some books just to give her some peace for a couple of days.
Even though the library was closed down for auditing all summer, the exasperated librarian understood Amma's plight when she saw us. We were visiting her for the nth time that summer. We returned with shabby looking copies of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Narayan's The Man Eater of Malgudi
They looked pretty disgusting to me, emanating the sombre smell of library books . Neither book had an illustration anywhere, not even on the cover.
I crawled through the first few pages, nearly gave up after hitting road blocks in the form of words like "sordid", "bounties", "deference", "taxidermist". I wondered how names like Nataraj, Vasu, Babu, Muthu could fit in such a setting. Yet the mirage of finding some reference to a tiger and its exploits kept me going for a few pages, until I finally gave up.
6 months later, in the loneliness of the Half Yearly holidays, I finally ploughed through to the end. Although I was none the wiser and understood nothing(other than the fact that the book often spoke about an elephant which was by no means a man-eater), reading through to the last line of a book gave me an irrational satisfaction.
As Malgudi Days followed on TV, The Hindu would publish the story in each episode prior to the telecast. I was immensely piqued by the character of the Talkative Man. What was the rationale for introducing such a character? Who was he? He seemed a lot like the Vetaal who pops in at the end of many an intriguing tale, with his obnoxious million-dollar question.
After twenty years, most of Narayan's books adorn my bookshelf, initially purchased by painfully saving money during college days(the temptation to possess was nurtured by atleast 3-4 weeks of reading them on the sly in Landmark! I did compensate them more than enough with my bulk purchases on rare cricket and music books - they could have royally bilked me if only they had shed their avarice and given meagre discounts atleast :) ) and later on through remorseless splurging after entering the software industry. Although it's a decade and more since I stopped reading fiction, Narayan's lively style of presenting the mundane still makes me invest a quick 2-3 hours and blaze through one of his works.