Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Vendor of Sweets

Title: The Vendor of Sweets
Author: R. K. Narayan

Set in the familiar, fictitious town of Malgudi, with its air of gossip, and a waft of Indian flavours, the Vendor of Sweets is the tale of Jagan, an elderly sweet vendor who apart from his sweet shop has dedicated his life to reading the Gita. Jagan is a hardworking and humble man who was inspired greatly by Mahatma Gandhi and his principles, and tries to put to practice these core principles of the Gita and Gandhi. His wife Ambika had died early in life, and the responsibility of bringing up their son Mali came to rest solely on him. 

Jagan has an overflowing and unrequited love for his son Mali, who does not care what his father feels. Jagan worked hard, saved money and enrolled Mali in a reputed college, only for Mali to quit college and head to America in order to pursue a course of creative writing. Jagan, though not entirely convinced about Mali’s need to go to America to start writing, supports Mali and accepts his decisions with a happy and open heart. Through the years that Mali lives in America, Jagan gets numerous letters with descriptions of the places there. As a proud father, Jagan reads out the letters to all who meet him, and flaunts about his son’s capabilities, until one day when Mali returns home with a westernized look, a grand business plan, and a half American, half Korean girl claiming to be his wife. 

The crux of the story from here is how Jagan breaks his misconceptions, and how Jagan realises that a “foreigner” may be much better than his own son, and how finally he sheds the anxiety and the blind love that tied him to his son. It is a beautiful story of a conservative man, who after several attempts and failure to connect and bond with his son understands that the material world cannot provide the happiness that his heart seeks. 

With this underlying concept wrapped in relatable humour, Narayan once again brings us closer to his land and its people, transporting us into the heart of Malgudi.

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