Legendary English Novelist of our City: R.K. Narayan as a Mind-Changer !
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Legendary English Novelist of our City: R.K. Narayan as a Mind-Changer !

By R. S. Krishnaswamy

My uncle R. K. Narayan (RKN) was a legendary Mind-Changer (MC).  He can be called a “legendary mind-changer” because on every decision thought of, he changed his mind in a jiffy. The decision was never executed. He must have changed his decision-making on issues hundreds of times but in this story I would like to quote only a few instances where I was mostly present.

At the outset, let me accept that his MC abilities were constantly questioned and criticised by most of the people. However, he was of the opinion that “I made my mind and I will change my mind.”  For him his MC was a birth right and he utilised it repeatedly!  Just a few instances are given below:

  • RKN was appointed as an English teacher in Channapatna High School (before I was born). He reported to his duty and changed his mind within 4 hours and came back to Mysore stating he cannot accept the concept of time-table of classes. Later, it became clear to me that his mind-changing was mainly because after Channapatna he never had a job. So in his entire life he never worked under a boss.
  • He was staying with me at Delhi during a visit and we were invited for breakfast by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. I drove him to the PM’s residence where the South Indian breakfast was a fantastic success and RKN loved it. However, when Mrs. Gandhi asked him about the breakfast, he firmly said “the South Indian breakfast was excellent but your cook doesn’t know how to make coffee.”  Mrs. Gandhi immediately shouted “Nair” (we don’t know what happened to poor Nair).

Immediately after the breakfast, the PM invited him in her car and said we will now drive down to PM’s Office where I have asked Delhi’s literary people to assemble.

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The moment she said it, I knew RKN would change his mind because he hated formal meeting of literary bigwigs.  He told Mrs. Gandhi that he has missed that day’s walk (he was a legendary walker) and would come directly walking to the PM’s Office at 10.30 and asked me to take my car and go straight to my Office.

Hereafter, he enjoyed a fantastic walk along Rajpath looking at the trees and the beauty of December Delhi and spoke to whomever he could converse with in English (he never spoke Hindi just like me).  In other words, he wanted a common get-together with ordinary people.  He landed at PM’s Office at 11.30 am.  The meeting had been delayed and cancelled. RKN loved the situation.  However, it had only two people, Mrs. Gandhi and H. Y. Sharada Prasad (Press Secretary to the Prime Minister)!

Indira Gandhi with H. Y. Sharada Prasad.

  • He got a letter from actor Dev Anand from California stating that they will be in Mysore in 10 days time to talk about making the movie ‘Guide.’ Dev never waited for an answer but landed at Yadavagiri house in Mysore, accompanied by his brother Vijay Anand and friend Yash Johar (father of the present famous Director Karan Johar).

I successfully solved the problem since I worshipped Dev Anand as an actor.  I went to Raju Hotel and fetched Set Dosas for the whole group. After breakfast, Dev made a request of drawing out a contract etc., and gave a huge cheque to RKN who accepted the cheque but postponed the contract signing stating that they will have to decide on the shooting locale for the movie.

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RKN though partly agreeable for shooting at Nanjangud for Malgudi, when he later discovered that the location is going to be Udaipur, he almost changed his mind to return the cheque.  But Dev Anand was an equally legendary talker. He came down from Mumbai and convinced RKN to sign along the dotted lines and the movie was created and became an absolute sensation.

A couple of months later, after release of the movie, RKN disagreed about the way the movie was made, again and changed his mind and wrote a scathing article in the ‘LIFE’ magazine’ called “The Misguided Guide” which was a fantastic piece of writing but it was too late as Dev and Guide had succeeded already.

  • RKN always wanted his close relatives and friends to build a house first before settling down in life and had openly said that he will not encourage and be friendly with anybody who remained without making efforts to build four walls of a house for themselves.

He was particularly virulent on me for not having built a house even when I was 50 years old !! Two days later he suddenly called me to his Yadavagiri residence late in the night, looked at me kindly and handed over a cheque addressed to Deepa Housing Society for Rs.60,000 (he had made his own enquiries with his builders at Mysore).  I gifted the site years later to my son Chetan Krishnaswamy.

These are some of the anecdotes of this legendary MC R.K. Narayan who always felt changing one’s mind on an issue is a human birth-right.

August 1, 2018

4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Legendary English Novelist of our City: R.K. Narayan as a Mind-Changer !”

  1. Vinay says:

    Great anecdotes about R K Narayan. It’s great to know that he had some lovely people around him – all the time. Great man, miss him a lot!

  2. thethreewisemen says:

    Mrs Gandhi invited him probably because Sharada Prasad was a student at Maharaja’s College Mysore, and as a Mysorean knew RKN well.. Not surprising!!

    • thethreewisemen says:

      To add to the above, what was this South India Breakfast? It was known that Mrs Gandhi often had South Indian food, thanks to the influence of Mr Seshan who worked for Nehru and later for Mrs Gandhi.

  3. Thethreewisemen says:

    “He got a letter from actor Dev Anand from California stating that they will be in Mysore in 10 days time to talk about making the movie ‘Guide.’ Dev never waited for an answer but landed at Yadavagiri house in Mysore, accompanied by his brother Vijay Anand and friend Yash Johar (father of the present famous Director Karan Johar).
    I successfully solved the problem since I worshipped Dev Anand as an actor. I went to Raju Hotel and fetched Set Dosas for the whole group”
    Really, by the time, he took that huge dosa parcel from Raju Hotel to Yadavagiri house- a good distance to travel even by car, the Set Dosas which are eaten when they are hot would have gone stale and cold! Still, Dev Anand and his associates ate them, it appears!!
    It is not unique to RKN, not to be scathing about the movie made from his novel. Even the great Frederick Forsyth complained about the movies made from his novels, and that included the blockbusters like the Day of the Jackal, which is still watched with awe and admiration.

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