R.K. Narayan happens to be my favourite author because most of his stories are timeless and make for a light reading at the end of a heavy work day. He is undoubtedly the widest read author in India, right from high school kids to retired grandparents. Clearly, this reflects the versatility and greatness of the man who is able to satisfy such a wide age parity.
As, I was browsing through books at my favourite book store, my eyes were stuck on a red coloured book decorated with floral motifs and a tiger and a sage on the cover. I almost replaced the book on the stand when my eyes caught a glimpse of R.K. Narayan's name. Without any hesitation, I purchased "A Tiger for Malgudi" written by R.K. Narayan in 1983 and published by Indian Thought Publications.
This book review might be slightly biased (difficult to dispassionate when you are reviewing your favourite author) but you have nothing to lose reading a book that spans less than 200 pages and costs just Rs. 95/- and is written by one of the greatest authors of India.
"A Tiger for Malgudi" is the story of the life of a tiger. The tiger is the narrator and protagonist of the story, probably one of the very few stories where an animal is the narrator.
The story begins with an old and dying tiger recollecting it's carefree cub days with it's mother and siblings. As it grew into a ferocious tiger, it moved and hunted independently. As it started ageing, it came across a human habitation in a forest and made easy pickings of the livestock. Tired of losing their livelihood to the tiger, the villagers contact a circus ringmaster to trap the tiger. The ringmaster vows to make the tiger a star attraction in his circus and begins inflicting torture on the poor creature. The feline breaks under the pressure and kills the trainer in a freak accident and walks out unchallenged into Malgudi where the circus is camping. The sight of a tiger strolling through the town causes a lot of commotion in the town and this is depicted comically through the eyes of the tiger. Finally, a wise sage comes to the rescue of the town and controls the tiger through his mystical powers. The animal is captivated by his new master's sparkling eyes and follows him devoutly to the hills. Here the master enlightens the tiger and brings about a change of heart in the tiger. The tiger spends the rest of it's life loyal to it's master in penance.
R.K. Narayan intricately draws parallels to the stages of life of a man and tiger and beautifully depicts our life through the eyes of a tiger. Nothing very fancy but a simple story with comical elements and a vivid description of human life and emotions through the eyes of an animal. On the whole, a great book for a weekday reading and a treasurable gift.