The Guide is written by R.K. Narayan, an Indian author. It is written in English and was published in 1958. R. K. Narayan has authored many stories of which some have films and even television soaps. The Guide has been made into a Hindi film. His stories connect to the Indian reader instantly as it is simple and about ordinary people. He was fortunate to have a brother R .K. Laxman who gave life to his stories with his illustrations. Many of his stories happen in a fictional town called Malgudi. The Guide is also based in this town and another village calledMangala. This novel brought R. K. Narayan SahityaAcademi Award in 1960, which is India’s National Academy of Letters. The Guide is a story of Raju who transforms from a Railway Raju, a guide to Mahatma Raju.
Raju, born in Malgudi takes his father’s shop in the railway station and acts as a guide to the tourists who come there. On one such occasion Rosie and Marco come to the town and Raju becomes their guide. Rosie is a dancer but gets no encouragement from Marco. Raju takes Rosie to the snake dance and she also dances there. Raju praises Rosie all the time about her dancing and both become very close. Eventually Rosie leaves Marcos and lives with Raju and pursues her dancing. She changes her name to Nalini. His relatives don’t approve of this relationship, but he sticks on to it and becomes rich as a manager to her programmes. With money coming in plenty he resorts to cheating even Nalini and forges her signature. He is jailed. The rest of the story is about Raju the Mahatma.
Once out of the jail he does not want to go back to Malgudi fearing gossips and taunts. So he goes to a village called Mangala and sits under a tree near the statue of a god. He sits cross-legged. This posture gave him a look of a Sadhu and one Velan addresses him as one. In his heart Raju wants to disclose the truth but he does not and on Velan’s insistence he solves a problem. Velan’s sister was refusing to get married. Once Raju spoke to her she agreed. Raju had really nothing to do with the decision as the girl had seen sense and decided to agree for the marriage. But Velan and then later all the people in that village assigned divine powers to Raju, now called Swamiji. From small personal problems it reaches to community problem. All along Raju is scared that he would be caught but he does not disclose his true identity.
Rains had failed the village and there was unrest in the village. Raju tells Velan’s brother that he would not eat food till they become good. Now Velan’s brother was not smart enough and told the villagers “the swami, swami does not want food anymore because . . . It does not rain”. At this point The villagers decide that the swami was going to fast for rain. Now he is elevated to the place of Mahatma. Raju who till then was doing his act for some food and attention suddenly decided to do something for the village. Five days into the penance he decides to do it with his heart and soul. So without any thought of food or stomach he prays sincerely at the end of which it starts to rain. “Velan, it’s raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up my legs—”, saying this, he sags down and the story ends here, leaving the actual end to the imagination of the reader.
Cheating and Hypocrisy are the predominant themes of the story. As a guide Raju was never keen on giving the correct information to the tourists. He changed his narration according to the needs and moods of the tourist. “. . . If an innocent man happened to be at hand, i let myself go freely. ….. If i felt fatigued or bored with the person i was conducting, i sometimes knocked the whole glamour out….”. He followed this with Marco first and then Nalini. Since being dishonest came easily to him, he did not find it difficult to play the role of a swami in his life after the jail. He even “grew a beard and long hair to fall on his nape” to enhance his ‘spiritual status’.
There was a good side for him. As a guide he never wanted anything for his own, he always played to the interest of the tourists. Only with Nalini he became very selfish. Initially he loved her but soon became very money mined and cheated Nalini emotionally and monetarily. Now as a swami he did not want to cheat the people but when he understood that he would get a meal without working for it he played the game. Also the title was given to him; he did not take it on his own to cheat people. The situation was thrust on him.
BalaramGupta in his work ‘A study of Raju’ calls Raju “a classical example of a counterfeit guru, a hypocrite masquerading as a saint, a sinner in saffron” ……, “a sinner is a sinner is a sinner”. While Mary Beatinawrites “from the beginning of his career, Raju is an accommodator”. Whether he is masquerading as a saint or an accommodator, he achieved his integration finally. As long as Raju was driven by mundane things like money, love, shelter and food he was a hypocrite. But when he sheds his interest in mundane things his actions and penance is that of a true saint. In the Hindu school of thought there is an analogy. For instance if garlic is put into a container for many days the smell of garlic rubs into the container and even when something else is put into it the smell of garlic lingers. Maybe in the same way we should see Raju, the Swami title was forced on and even when he lived that life falsely the fragrance of it was rubbing on to him and his final changeover was quick easy and real.