I thought of reading R. K. Narayan’s “The Bachelor of Arts” as it was prescribed for GAQ exam at the Sri Jayawardenepura University. I had the privilege of reading its Sinhala translation as well.
The Bachelor of Arts is the second book of a trilogy that began with Swami and Friends and ended with The English Teacher. It is again set in Malgudi, the fictional town Narayan invented for his novels.
The protagonist of the novel is Chandran. The novel describes about his college life, love life and sufferings due to lost love and subsequent life as a hermit in rural India. When you keep on reading the novel you feel like it is your own story. The novel is that close to you. Hustles and bustles of the college life and how you try to win attention and be appreciated by the teachers, how you feel when you transit from an adolescent to an adult, how you manage your family ties are described by Narayan exceptionally well making it everyone’s story.
The ways Chandran “falls” in love with his dream girl is interesting. He sees a girl by the riverbank and instantly falls in love with her but she never knows about it. He thinks the girl also loves him and behaves in a manner to make him happy and comfortable. He dreams about marrying her and living a happy life with her. He regularly goes to a boutique simply because the boy at the boutique has similar eyes to his dream girl. Haven’t we done similar things in our teen ages?
Unfortunately his proposal is rejected by the girl’s parents due to mismatching of the two’s horoscopes. Chandran is heartbroken. He leaves the family to become a hermit. After some time, after realizing how foolish it is to leave the family and lose interest in worldly pleasures, he returns home and takes up a job as a newsagent.
Still he can’t take the girl out of his head and suffers. Later he falls in love with Susila, whom his father introduces him through a proposal and decides to marry her. He sees some radiance in Susila that was not with the former girl.