VAZHIKÂTTI: Translation of R.K. Narayan's The Guide; Translation by Sachidanandan Puzhankara; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 125.
The celebrated writer R.K. Narayan's novel, The Guide, is set in Malgudi. It is the story of Raju, portrayed (in flashback) as a dual central character — tourist guide and a saint who lived in an abandoned temple. Raju is jailed for criminal activity and, when released, he feels ashamed to return to Malgudi and, instead, goes to a spot adjacent to a temple situated near a stream.
Mistaking him for a saint, Velan spreads the word around in the village about the ‘holy man', and the simple, gullible villagers start venerating him and vying with one another to make food ‘offerings' to him.
Raju, the tourist guide, had inherited a shop near Malgudi railway station and was doing good business. He takes a fascination for taking tourists around the historical and natural spots in Malgudi and the areas surrounding it. He becomes infatuated with Rosie, a dancer and wife of Marco, a wealthy man who has an obsessive interest in archaeological sites. Rosie is abandoned by her husband and Raju brings her home, earning the wrath of his mother and relatives. He is hauled up for forging Rosie's signature and imprisoned. After release, he becomes a totally transformed person, from a sinner to one who is disciplined, careful, and empathetic.
The novelist narrates the story in the first person and third person. In the climax, Raju undertakes a fast to invoke the rain gods during drought and collapses after 12 days. The best feature of the original is its simple, fluent and direct narration and high readability, which the translator has managed sustain to a large extent.