What a wonderful little gem this book is. Set in 1930’s south-India, the book tells us about the adventures of 10-year old Swaminathan and his group of friends. The book transports us back in time on two levels: one is to a semi-rural setting almost a century ago; and two, to the simpler times of one’s childhood.
Not only is life simple in the little town of Malgudi, but there is also the additional charm of the little things which look big and complex to a 10 year old. And yet, the magic of the book lies in the fact that it doesn’t seem dated at all.
It would be wrong to assume this is just a book about a little boy’s school adventures. Even if that were all that this book described, it would still make you smile at the naughtiness and curious thoughts that rush about the minds of a little schoolboy. This book, however, also appeals to us because it gives us a glimpse of the slow rumblings at the start of the Indian independence movement as felt in a little town. There are pages in the book when I winced at the action, but that is attributable to how well those scenes were written.
The bigger picture, however, will always be about Swami and the world of imagination that he builds in his head. It is amazing how well Narayan captures the demons that shout warnings in the ears of a little child, magnifying all his troubles to an almost insurmountable challenge. But then, where there are challenges, there are friends. And Swami has a faithful group of friends (some of whom are top notch rascals) whose mischiefs will endear them to you.
Read this book to remind yourself of the simpler times that you once knew so well.
P. S. For all you cricket lovers out there, look out for when Swami and his friends ambitiously form the MCC, the Malgudi Cricket Club.
Title: Swami and Friends
Author: R. K. Narayan
First Published: 1935
Number of Pages: 212
Price: (Paperback) Rs. 108 (Amazon.in)
My rating: 4 out of 5
(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)