Books, Learning, Lists, Reviews

R.K. Narayan’s The Guide: From Wonderful Books to Movies

Another day, another revived post, another brushing off dust from the archives here. This time, it is my thoughts on R.K. Narayan’s The Guide. A wonderful book that helped make a great movie. I loved the movie but the book edged out as the winner in that book vs movie battle!

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The Book: R.K. Narayan’s The Guide

Book Info

R.K. Narayan's The Guide book cover with a drawing of the side profile of a man walking between two halves - from red fires to gentle flowers

Title: The Guide
Author: R. K. Narayan
Length: 226 pages
Genre: Classic Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Source: My personal copy

Description: Formerly India’s most corrupt tourist guide, Raju—just released from prison—seeks refuge in an abandoned temple. Mistaken for a holy man, he plays the part and succeeds so well that God himself intervenes to put Raju’s newfound sanctity to the test. Narayan’s most celebrated novel, The Guide won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country’s highest literary honor.

My Thoughts

First Thoughts

R.K.Narayan is definitely one of my favorite Indian authors. If I had to choose one book among his as my favorite, it would be very difficult. Choose between The Guide, Malgudi Days, The English Teacher (among others)? Each one of them is wonderful! And each one tells very different stories while at the same retaining a common thread in the setting – the wonderful town of Malgudi, in the sheer beauty of simplicity in writing, and in the keep-reading-till-you-are-done storytelling.

The Movie

I saw the Hindi movie – Guide (starring the evergreen Dev Anand and the doe-eyed Waheeda Rehman) – way before I read the book. Raju was endearingly and charmingly portrayed by Anand (as is his forte) while Rehman’s Rosie effortlessly captured audiences with her grace and her dances. I recall a few tears as I watched the movie and remember asking many ‘why’ questions when I watched the movie as an older teenager the second or third time. Since the earlier times I had watched the movie, I had simply enjoyed the songs and the sweet romance, and of course, watching Anand play his Raju role.

The movie was definitely a classic and I loved it but I have to say – I loved the book more!!! This is one of those instances where the movie came pretty close and as they reached the end, then Narayan’s book, well, definitely won the race.

And the Book Itself

Narayan’s The Guide tells the story of Raju and Rosie. Raju – the central character in this story – is a likable rogue – a tourist guide who through a series of events in his life, ends up as a spiritual guide.

Through the course of the story, he is a guide in many ways. He guides tourists expertly knowing what they want before they themselves do; he meets and falls in love with the married Rosie whom he guides towards him; lets himself be guided by greed and status symbols; and finally, completely by chance, ends up being a spiritual guide to a whole village(s).

Can Raju become what people think he is? Can he don the role of the spiritual guide? What of Rosie? And of their love?

Final Thoughts

Narayan’s story telling is simple on the surface with lots of depth underneath. I love how he neither romanticizes or heroizes his characters nor does he disparage them. He simply lets them be; and that simplicity is what lends beauty and and power to his writing.

In Summary

R.K. Narayan’s The Guide (and any of his other books) is simply a wonderful addition to any bookshelf.

[May 2021 update: This review was written as part of a reading challenge – the South Asian Challenge (the blog hosting it is now defunct, unfortunately)]

Get It Here

Amazon  || Barnes and Noble || Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound 

Wondrous Words

Words are, in my opinion, always wonderful and wondrous and so many other ‘wonder’ words! They awe me, leave me wondering and wonderstruck, and well, you get the gist. One of the things I love about ebooks is the ability to highlight and bookmark things; words, phrases, sentences, and even whole pages for future reference.

[May 2021 Update: Kathy over at Bermudaonion’s Weblog used to host Wondrous Words Wednesday; and it is now hosted over at ElzaReads; I decided to relink these words over there again. But I also wanted to make some effort other than just reformatting the original post and words! So I have added a couple of new words from books I read recently]

The Words Themselves

From Cutting for Stone (and from the original 2011 post)

‘Cutting for Stone’ by Abraham Varghese. This book is a dictionary hiding in a stupendous story. As I read the book, Verghese’s mastery with words never failed to astound me. Even years later, I cannot forget that feeling of ‘wow’ as I turned the pages.

  • eidetic : ei·det·ic adj. [PSYCHOLOGY] relating to or denoting mental images having unusual vividness and detail, as if actually visible. ¦ n. a person able to form or recall eidetic images.

She was reminded how often she took Shiva’s eidetic gift for granted. She knew he could draw the page he was reciting from, reproduce it on a blank piece of paper, beginning and ending each line just as it was on the original, down to the punctuation, the page number, and the staple marks and photocopy smudges.

  • aliquot: al·i·quot n. a portion of a larger whole, esp. a sample taken for chemical analysis or other treatment. (also aliquot part or portion) [MATHEMATICS] a quantity that can be divided into another an integral number of times. ¦ v. [trans.] (usu. be aliquoted) divide (a whole) into aliquots; take aliquots from (a whole). late 16th cent.: from French aliquote, from Latin aliquot ‘some, so many’, from alius ‘one of two’ + quot ‘how many’.

In the kitchen, I took out my dinner, which was a foil packet labeled FRIDAY in my handwriting; it was the last of what I had cooked, frozen, and packed in aliquots many weekends ago.

From Various Recent Reads

  • Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo syndrome (TTS). A weakening of the heart’s left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, usually as the result of severe emotional or physical stress. It is more common in postmenopausal women. The term “takotsubo” comes from the Japanese word takotsubo “octopus trap”, because the left ventricle of the heart takes on a shape resembling an octopus trap when affected by this condition. [wikipedia]

Word source: From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon. Usage from the book:

Hers is “To become the premier physician-scientist working in the realm of gender-based medicine, and specifically, takotsubo cardiomyopathy, as it affects women.”

  • juddered (verb), (especially of something mechanical) shake and vibrate rapidly and with force

Word source: Ten Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon. Usage from the book:

The boat juddered to a stop the tremors rolling through its body and hers. Pinky shrieked and tried, unsuccessfully, to grab the side.

  • tetchy (adjective). bad-tempered and irritable

Word source: Loretta Chase’s Vixen in Velvet. Usage from the book:

“He’s tetchier these days because of Marcelline,” she said.

  • embonpoint (noun), the plump or fleshy part of a person’s body, in particular a woman’s bosom

Word source: Loretta Chase’s Vixen in Velvet. Usage from the book:

She’d designed the stays to support her ladyship’s generous embonpoint.

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read Narayan’s The Guide or any other of his books? Or any of the other mentioned books within the Wondrous Words section?

9 thoughts on “R.K. Narayan’s The Guide: From Wonderful Books to Movies

  1. Vidya, this book sounds fascinating. It also sounds like it has Hollywood potential. Hmmm–who would produce it? When there is a movie made from a book, I always read the book first– there’s usually more detail and depth there. Thanks for an interesting read!

  2. I have never seen this movie nor reading this book, and I found that it has a very interesting story.
    Like others, I preferred to read a book wherein I can go back and read the complete story again and again.

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