The English Teacher by RK Narayan.
The life of an English teacher in a small South Indian town is probably as mundane as it sounds. But, if this is a character out of an RK Narayan book, one can expect it to become interesting along the way.
Krishnan recently became a professor in the same college he studied at. He lives in the same hostel and manages a communal living alongside fellow college teachers. He appears to be an individual who doesn’t prefer change and needs to be pushed. This is evident in how he continues to live in the hostel after getting married or becoming a father. He only starts to look for a house after his father-in-law insists on taking his wife to the city from their village.
The story is about how Krishnan builds a home and a life with his wife (Susila) and their daughter (Leela) until tragedy strikes. The aftermath of it and how his life shapes up to be, form the second half of this book.
RK Narayan, as always, has crafted characters that appear distinct and yet authentic to their core. The personalities that help move the story forward bring forth their struggles. Be it the teachers who work alongside Krishnan, the local doctor, or the headmaster he befriends later, further the growth of our main protagonist.
There is a mythical slash spiritual side to the story towards the book’s latter half. Slightly odd at first, but the author makes it appear believable.
The relationship dynamics of a newly married couple (Krishnan and Susila) and their brewing romance and silly fights make you feel the writer is allowing the reader to enjoy its simplicity. Even the protagonist’s relationship with his parents, in-laws, and even his daughter has a relatable echo.
The emotional turmoil isn’t melodramatic but is portrayed as-a-matter-of-fact. Ensuring the characters are true to what they are. This is a common theme among RK Narayan’s characters. The consistent truth of the character.
Overall, I loved the book. Of all the books from RK Narayan, this one is up there alongside The Guide for me. Give this a read if you want to read anything by an Indian author. Reading him always makes me feel how criminally underrated he still is.