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Malgudi is a fictional town located in south India in the novels and short stories of R.K. Narayan. It forms the setting for most of Narayan's works. Starting with his first novel, Swami and Friends (1935), all but one of his fifteen novels and most of his short stories take place here. Narayan has successfully portrayed Malgudi as a microcosm of India. Malgudi was created, as mentioned in Malgudi Days, by Sir Fredrick Lawley, a fictional British officer in the 19th century by combining and developing a few villages. The character of Sir Fredrick Lawley may have been based on Arthur Lawley, the Governor of Madras in 1905.
While describing how he conceptualized Malgudi, Narayan says, "Malgudi was an earth-shaking discovery for me, because I had no mind for facts and things like that, which would be necessary in writing about Malgudi or any real place."
Geography and Origins
Narayan's assertion that Malgudi is work of fiction has not deterred readers from speculating about its actual location being Coimbatore, with a river on one side and a forest on the other, and buildings and lanes similar to those of Malgudi, such as Lawley road, Variety Hall, and Bombay Anand Bhavan. Other possible 'locations' include Lalgudi situated on the banks of the river Kaveri and Yadavgiri in the erstwhile state of Mysore.
Although it is widely believed that the name Malgudi was a portmanteau of two Bangalore localities - Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi, the story is apocryphal, as most good stories are. He created the town on September 1930, on Vijayadashami, an auspicious day to start new efforts and thus chosen for him by his grandmother. As he mentioned in a later interview to his biographers Susan and N. Ram, in his mind, he first saw a railway station, and slowly the name Malgudi came to him.
Localities and Landmarks
The Sarayu River
Malgudi is located on the banks of the river Sarayu. In Swami and Friends, Swami, Mani and Rajam spend most of their evenings playing or chatting by the river. In The Guide, holy-man Raju fasts on the banks of the dry river Sarayu, praying for the rains to come. When Mahatma Gandhi visits Malgudi, the meetings and speeches are held right on the banks of river Sarayu.
Streets and Neighborhoods
Market Street is the central street of Malgudi, the location of several big shops including Bombay Anand Bhavan and Truth Printing Works. Kabir Street is the residence of the elite of Malgudi, while Lawley Extension is a new upcoming lane housing the rich and the influential. Ellaman Street, home to the oil-mongers, is the last street and beyond it lies the river Sarayu. Other streets include Grove Street, Kalighat Lane and Vinayak Mudali Street.
Palace Talkies was built in 1935 to replace the old Variety Hall. Albert Mission School and Albert Mission College are the more popular educational institutions. There are also the board school and the town elementary schools.
Malgudi has a small railway station which in many episodes, is central to the storyline.The main hospital of Malgudi is Malgudi Medical Centre (MMC). The statue of Sir Fredrick, seated on a horse, forms another major landmark. Another important place is The Boardless, a small restaurant without any board. Boardless is a centre of discussion for current events in Malgudi.
While describing how he conceptualised Malgudi, Narayan says,
"Malgudi was an earth-shaking discovery for me, because I had no mind for facts and things like that, which would be necessary in writing about Malgudi or any real place. I first pictured not my town but just the railway station, which was a small platform with a banyan tree, a station master, and two trains a day, one coming and one going. On Vijayadasami I sat down and wrote the first sentence about my town: The train had just arrived in Malgudi Station."
Various critics compare Narayan's Malgudi with Thomas Hardy's Wessex or William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. It was a town created from his own experiences, his childhood, his upbringing. The people in it were people he met every day. He thus created a place which every Indian could relate to. A place, where, in the words of Graham Greene (from the introduction to The Financial Expert), you could go "into those loved and shabby streets and see with excitement and a certainty of pleasure a stranger approaching past the bank, the cinema, the hair cutting saloon, a stranger who will greet us, we know, with some unexpected and revealing phrase that will open the door to yet another human existence."
In contemporary culture
"Malgudi Days" a 1986 Indian television series directed by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag, based on the eponymous works of R.K. Narayan was mostly shot near Agumbe in Shimoga District, Karnataka. Some episodes, however, were also shot at Bengaluru and Devarayanadurga in Tumakuru District, Karnataka.
The concept of Malgudi as an "idyllic spot located in South India" seems to have taken root in popular imagination. Some restaurants offering South Indian fare go by the name or extensions of "Malgudi." The Shyam Group operates Malgudi restaurants in Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad , . A restaurant named "Malgudi Junction" is located in Kolkata .
- Narayan, R.K. (1956). Lawley Road and other stories. Madras: Orient Paperbacks. ISBN 0882530623.
- Parvathi, M. "R. K. Narayan's Malgudi - an imaginative and alive landscape" (PDF). ISSN (Print): 2328-3734, ISSN (Online): 2328-3696, ISSN (CD-ROM): 2328-3688: 1.
- Khatri, Chote Lal. R.K. Narayan: Reflections and Re-evaluation. India: Sarup & Sons. p. 3. ISBN 9788176257138.
- Narayan, R.K (2000). Memories of Malgudi. Chennai: Penguin India. ISBN 9780141002453.
- Parija, Kapileshwar (2001). "Short stories of R.K. Narayan: themes and conventions". Renaissance Publications: 60. ISBN 81-86790-31-4.
- Prasad 2003, p. 40.