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Malgudi Daze

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RK Narayan’s house in Mysore is nearly demolished

The house from which RK Narayan churned out his best works was almost demolished recently. On Teacher’s Day, in the laidback Yadavgiri area of Mysore, residents were aghast to see men with pickaxes breaking down the two-storeyed structure. The present owners had decided to raze it to build an apartment complex. The residents immediately called senior officials of the Mysore City Corporation, who stopped the demolition, but by then the bungalow had lost a parapet wall, a sit-out and some doors and windows.

Deputy Mayor MJ Ravikumar had then promised that the structure would not be demolished and the property would serve as a living link to Narayan’s fictional world of Malgudi town, thought to be derived from his experience of living in Mysore. The house has since been declared a heritage monument.

When Narayan died in May 2001 at the ripe old age of 94, the then Karnataka Governor, TN Chaturvedi, had proposed that the bungalow be maintained as a heritage site. But, after the Governor changed, the idea too slipped out of people’s minds. The 9,600 sq ft plot on which the cream-plastered house stands was then sold by the author’s grandchildren to a builder.

The spacious bungalow, built in 1951, remained unoccupied till 1966 as Narayan continued to stay with his joint family. He, however, visited the house every day to write. Churumuri, a popular blog that links all things Mysorean, describes the house thus: ‘The idiosyncratic touch is a semi-circular extension at the south end of the house, like the apse of a church. On the upper floor of this, lit by eight windows with cross-staved metal grilles, he had his writing room.’ It quotes the author as having said that he had to curtain the windows “so that my eyes might fall on nothing more attractive than a grey drape, and thus I managed to write a thousand words a day”.

Of late, there have been other efforts to keep Narayan’s legacy alive. One suggestion is to rename the Bangalore-Mysore inter-city express train Malgudi Express. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has even sought the Prime Minister’s intervention on this matter. Meanwhile, fans of the author have revived efforts to put up a statue or memorial of the author.