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The English Teacher

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Krishna the central character of the novel is an English teacher at the same college he attended as an under graduate student. Krishna's wife Susila is with her parents, some miles away as she had recently given birth to their daughter Leela. (It is an Indian custom that a pregnant mother should stay with her own mother, and the midwife still takes precedence over a hospital, a doctor or nurse). When the story opens we see a very nervous and anxious Krishna expecting the arrival of his wife and daughter to Malgudi where he is an English Teacher in the Albert Mission College. His visions of the misfortunes that would befall on mother and child on their train journey are almost comical to the point of being preposterous.

However, as the days go by Krishna learns that his love for his wife and child surpasses everything he imagined previously. The early years of marital bliss and the deep bond that develops between the husband and wife becomes the center of Krishna's life. He feels Leela, his daughter completes his perfect world. But as all good things must come to an end, so does his, with the mysterious ailment that comes over Susila. In the days before antibiotics were discovered, it was not until late that a proper diagnosis was made as to the exact nature of the ailment, which they later learned was typhoid. After a long period of illness she finally dies bringing nothing but sorrow and misery to Krishna. His grief was boundless and infinite; Krishna almost sank to the depths of melancholy and desolation. He then decided to put all his love and zest for life to bringing up his daughter who in her innocence did not know or question about her mother. He became both mother and father to the child and did not wish his parents to bring her up. Although eventually after a period of time relents and decides that the best course of action is for his parents to bring up Leela.

Events take an unexpected turn when he is able to 'communicate' with his dead wife through a medium. This brings him solace and he lives to 'communicate' with her during the weekly 'sittings' as he calls them. It is unknown why Narayan included an episode such as this, full of the fantastic, to an otherwise 'believable' story. However it is a known fact that he was obsessed by the thought of communicating with his own wife, in his misery. This puzzles the reader, especially the Western reader, who is brought up with a solid disbelief of anything from the nether world. Though to the Indian reader, and most importantly to Narayan, who actually experienced this tragedy and wrote after it, the communication between his dead wife and himself was nothing out of the ordinary, but a means of achieving solace and reconciling life and death as we see at the end of the novel.

From a man dependent on his wife and daughter for happiness, and later the medium he becomes self-reliant and realizes that happiness- or in his case peace of mind and equanimity comes from within. He strives to achieve this sense of peace, very unlike the effervescent one he experienced with his wife and daughter, through meditation and 'withdrawing from adult world and adult work into the world of children.' But this serenity, the 'inner peace' that so eludes him at first comes to him when he least expects it, in the middle of the night when he has given up everything - cleansed himself of all worldly possessions, his wife, his daughter, a good income in the form of a respected job and salary. He truly transcends life and death when he is finally able to communicate with Susila his wife, and now his mentor. Narayan explains it thus: "The boundaries of our personalities suddenly dissolved. It was a moment of rare, immutable joy - a moment for which one feels grateful for Life and Death.

While literary critics argue about the exact nature of this 'meeting' stating that it is real, unreal, unbelievable & dreamlike; it is more appropriate to view in terms of Krishna's inner self-development. He has finally reached that stage of self-reliance, where he is able to be whole by himself, to find happiness within, where he believes his dearest wife, his companion in life, is with him always.

As in all of Narayan's novels, colonial rule plays a main role in The English Teacher as well. The name of the novel itself signifies, the influence of the unwelcome British ruler.

The first part of the novel is light-hearted and humorous with the recounting of Krishna's early marriage life with



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