Friday, June 5, 2009

Swami and Friends

I finished reading Swami and Friends a couple of days back. It’s the first novel written by R K Narayan and tells the story of Swaminathan, a 9-10 year old boy. It is also the first of the trilogy of novels written by R K Narayan, the other two in the series being ‘The Bachelor of Arts’ and ‘The English Teacher’. 

Throughout the book, the author has tried to tell the reactions, feelings and emotions of Swami towards various events which take place in the life of little and innocent Swami. And the most beautiful part of the narration is the fact that almost all of us go through similar experiences and react in more or less the same way as Swami does.

Like all of us, Swami is also reluctant to study and considers it a burden. But out of the fear of his father and beating by school masters, he has to sit on his study table everyday and finish his homework. Similarly, there are many instances when Swami talks to his friends in the class trying to hide himself from the eyes of the teacher. Exams are the times which give dreadful nights to him and his friends. Apart from all this, there are many other incidences which remind us of our childhood like making new friends, Swami’s efforts to go out with friends during afternoons when the school is closed or pleading before his parents, granny, and friends to get six pies to buy a cycle rim, formation of a cricket team among the friends and challenging other such teams. There are other instances of fight between friends and using ‘names’ for one another too. There are instances depicting a child’s fear, emotional outrage and jealousy with other classmates as well.

There is one incidence where Swami gets fed-up with his school and tries to run away from his home and family so that he doesn’t have to attend any school. And in the process of running away from home, Swami gets lost in the forest and regrets his decision. The incidence really depicts how we, when young, used to think that we are capable enough to live without the love and care our parents.

Like many other R K Narayan novels, Swami and Friends also has a rich taste of motherly love. This is depicted through the unconditional love of Swaminathan’s mother and granny for him. Both his mother and his granny are restless when Swami doesn’t return home from school one day. But like most of the Indian fathers, Swami’s father too has been shown as a strict person who wants to keep his child in discipline all the time.

Unlike most of the writings of R K Narayan, this novel doesn’t have any special reference to the theme of ‘man-woman relationship’. The only such relationship in the novel exists between Swami’s parents and there also, it’s a typical Indian husband-wife relation where the wife only concerns herself with the household affairs and taking care of the new born baby and the husband is assigned the work of earning money and looking into outside matters.

There is only one instance showing religious sentiments. This is when Mr. Ebenezar, the scripture teacher praises his religion Christianity and condemns Hinduism and Lord Krishna. This infuriates Swami’s father and he writes a letter to the head-master complaining about the teacher.

There are many other instances which in some way or other take us back to our childhoods and tickle us with those beautiful memories.

All in all, a must read for everyone.

The book can be download from:



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