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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

A piece of Malgudi amid poll hubbub: R.K. Narayan’s House stands untouched by the election bustle around it

At D14, Vivekananda Road, Yadavagiri — where the signboard simply says 'R.K. Narayan’s House' — the general tranquillity is broken only when candidates visit the neighbourhood to wave, greet and beg for votes

K.M. Rakesh Mysore Published 28.04.24, 07:09 AM
The house built by RK Narayan and where he lived and worked in Yadavagiri, Mysuru. It is now called R.K.Narayan’s House, a state-owned museum where memorabilia including his personal belongings and books are on display.

The house built by RK Narayan and where he lived and worked in Yadavagiri, Mysuru. It is now called R.K.Narayan’s House, a state-owned museum where memorabilia including his personal belongings and books are on display. Pictures by K.M. Rakesh

The white, two-storey house in the serene, leafy surroundings of upscale Yadavagiri stands untouched by the election bustle around it.

Much like the idyllic village of Malgudi that its former occupant created that remained insulated forever from the rough and tumble of the outside world.

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At D14, Vivekananda Road, Yadavagiri — where the signboard simply says “R.K. Narayan’s House” — the general tranquillity is broken only when candidates visit the neighbourhood to wave, greet and beg for votes.

RK Narayan, author

RK Narayan, author

Time was when this address in Mysuru City received bagfuls of snail mail every day from the fans of R.K. Narayan (1906-2001), the property’s then owner.

The author, among the best Indian writers in English whose admirers included EM Foster and Graham Greene, wrote several books during his years in this house, from 1966 till the 1990s.

He met visitors and enjoy­ed the view from his first-floor bay window and the balcony, people who knew him say.

Nobody lives there now. The current owners — the civic authorities — have turned it into a museum of sorts, open to the public every day from 10am to 5pm, except for Tuesdays.

The study on the first floor from where RK Narayan worked on his books. He had a study table facing the bay window that gave a wide view of the nature around him, which is said to have inspired his writings.

The study on the first floor from where RK Narayan worked on his books. He had a study table facing the bay window that gave a wide view of the nature around him, which is said to have inspired his writings.

Kanthamma, the lone security guard in her blue uniform, had no idea of the house’s provenance when she was hired a few months ago.

“Only after I started working here did I realise how big a man it belonged to,” she told The Telegraph on April 21. Mysuru voted on April 26.

With no visitors until lunch hour, Kanthamma was struggling to keep herself from dozing off when she sprang to life at the arrival of this correspondent.

The 120ftx80ft property, built by Narayan in 1951, was saved from the wrecking ball in September 2011 when the then BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa intervened following a huge uproar.

The property had been inherited by the author’s daughter Hema and, after her death, by her children Minni and Srinivasan. They sold it to a builder with a master plan for an apartment.

The builder had stripped off the wooden doors and window frames and almost entirely demolished the sunshades before then law minister Suresh Kumar stepped in and got a stop order. He then initiated moves to buy the property at the market rate from the builder.

Some of the books from the personal collection of R.K Narayan displayed at the facility in Mysuru.

Some of the books from the personal collection of R.K Narayan displayed at the facility in Mysuru.

Nearly five years later, the Mysuru City Corporati­on restored the structure, attracting book lovers, tourists and students.

Narayan lived at his family home in nearby Lakshmipuram before moving to the Yadavagiri house in 1966. Failing health forced him to shift to his daughter’s place in Chennai in the early 1990s. He passed away in Chennai on May 13, 2001, aged 94.

As you enter the compound today, you can see the spot where Narayan used to park his Morris Minor and Mercedes-Benz.

The corporation has succeeded in collecting memora­bilia such as Narayan’s
certificates, awards, Padma Vibhushan citation, books, suits, shirts and spectacles.

All of them are displayed in glass cases. One of the cases has a bunch of stills from
the shooting locations of Malgudi Days — the immensely popular 1980s Doordarshan serial based on his eponymous book.

Kanthamma was not aw­are of any of this, but she has picked up a lot on the author simply by listening to visitors’ accounts of their meetings with Narayan or their experience reading his work.

“Now I know life is abo­ut much more than just working and eating to survive,” the middle-aged Kanthamma said philosophically.

She knows the world outside is no Malgudi.

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