I find it somewhat strange how our recent, planned-at-the-last-minute trip to Mysore turned into a sort of exploration into the life of Indian writer RK Narayan. Just a little way into the trip, purely by chance, we stopped for breakfast at a restaurant reminiscent of RK’s Malgudi Days. Once we reached Mysore, we realised that the author’s house was a few paces’ walk away from where we were staying! And then, as we explored Mysore, we began to discover that almost every place we visited had some or the other connections with RK. Spooky, but I am glad this happened. Otherwise, I might never have gotten around to visiting RK Narayan’s house and knowing the author a little better.
RK Narayan, best known for his book Malgudi Days, especially the unforgettable character of Swami, lived for some part of his life in Yadavgiri, Mysore. The two-storey house stayed in a state of neglect for quite a few years, after everyone from the author’s family moved away from it, one after the other.
The house was just about to be razed down, in 2011, when a group of people recognised the immense value that it held and started a protest against the bulldozing. More and more people went on to join the protest, the media took notice, and then, a decision was taken to not destroy the house, but to restore it to its former glory and make it into a museum showcasing paraphernalia from RK Narayan’s life and times (October 10, 1906 to May 13, 2001). Sad that places like this are considered to be of no value, and that people have to fight for its restoration, but at least, the restoration happened! And, it is a very well-done restoration, too. Today, the house has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, with fans of the author visiting so as to get a peek into the life of their favourite author for a brief while.
Personally, I am not a big fan of the author. I rather enjoyed watching Swami in the TV version of Malgudi Days – and that is the face I remember when I think of Swami. As for the author’s books, I found them quite dry and dull. But then, the lives of authors and the way they find inspiration for their stories always intrigues me, and for that reason, I loved visiting this place.
Apparently, RK Narayan came from an affluent Tamilian household, and his house is testimony to his family’s financial status. It is quite spacious, well ventilated, airy and full of light. We saw pictures of this very same house in its sad state of disrepair, and judging by that, the restoration team has done a wonderful, wonderful job.
One room in the house is devoted to black-and-white photographs from the author’s life – the school he went to, one of him as a little boy with his parents, one with his wife, one of him with his wife and daughter, and so on. On display are also the various degrees that the author was awarded and the awards he received, including the prestigious Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. In bits and pieces, a number of placards tell the story of RK Narayan’s life, rather tragic if you ask me, with him going against his family and society to marry the girl he loved, only for her to pass away just a short while into their marriage, and then, later with his daughter also passing away before him.
Another room in the house has built-in-the-wall bookshelves that hold the books the author has read, during his lifetime, as well as the many different ones he has written. Quotes by the author, at different times in his life and from his books, also adorn the walls.
Stills from the TV serials and movies that have been made out of his books are also displayed.
I simply loved what once was the author’s study, with huge windows letting in the sunlight and a table in the centre, where, I am guessing, he used to sit and read.
The original kitchen, bathroom and storeroom in the house have also been retained, just as they were all those years ago. There definitely was an air of old-worldiness surrounding these rooms, and I could not help but imagine how the author and his family would have gone around their daily chores in this house.
Another room in the house exhibits the clothes and glasses that RK wore during his lifetime, all lovingly preserved. There are photographs of him wearing these very same clothes and glasses. Apparently, the author was a very simple man who didn’t believe in hoarding possessions, and his simple belongings reflect that, as well as the times he lived in.
The husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the author’s house, leisurely going through each and every thing on display, and trying to piece together what his life might have been like. If you are a book lover and love peeking into the lives of authors, I would highly recommend a visit to this place, irrespective of whether you are an RK Narayan fan or not.
The house remains open to the public on all days of the week, from 10 AM to 5 PM. There are no entry fees. All you are expected to do, at the end of your visit, is enter your comments/suggestions into a guest book placed at the reception.
Do check out my other posts about Mysore!