Friday, May 05, 2006

Memories of Malgudi

“Some great man once said that it is so simple to be happy but it is so difficult to be simple” said a brimming Rajesh Khanna in the Hindi feature “Bawarchi”. This line, despite its antique factor has remained with me for all the years I have convinced myself I am growing up. And with each passing day the truth behind this statement becomes more apparent to me. If as a child I liked the way this line sounded, then as an adult looking at the door with the number 30 written on it, I have made it a part of my being.

Circa 1986 and simple things ruled the television in India. An age where being innocent was not a choice but an attribute. An age where the larger and complex seeming worries of the world could wait. An age which validated us as regular folk. Simple folk. As I browsed in between the lines that Arundhati Roy had jotted for “The God of Small Things” I kept getting constantly reminded of the one simple thing that I could never forget. The one simple thing put so eloquently that it almost guided me into the person I am today. In a day and age where television is frowned at and kids in school are made to celebrate “TV Turn Off” weeks, I could not help but reflect back upon the kind of television that shaped me as an individual.

If I regard all the timeless classics I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, the one series that sticks out like a gentle reminder of life itself is the late Sh.R K Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’ which was brought to life by the late Kannada actor/director/genius Shankar Nag. The two names that have become synonymous to me with being simple yet powerful. The two souls that have given me so many memorable moments on print and celluloid.

R K Narayan has been a part of me almost all my life. I am still fascinated at the ease with which this man managed to craft the rhythm of the life in his stories. His creation – the town called Malgudi. Just the mention of that name spells magic as far as viewers of Nag’s ‘Malgudi Days’ are concerned. As I sat watching some episodes from the DVD pack of this gem a couple of days back it was as if I was watching myself in them. Each scene brought back an essence that I have almost forgotten in the high-tech, fast-paced and stress-happy world we live in. Values that have shaped us as Indians. Ideals that we seem to have put somewhere at the back of a dusty old room. My mind kept dusting off those old piles of memories as the characters spoke to me in a profound yet simple way.

I was probably 10 years old when the ‘Malgudi Days’ was first aired. I still have vague recollections of being extremely excited about the stories in them since they always contained an immensely surprising element at the end of each tale. If some of them ended on a sad and depressing note, then others were quick to have us rollicking in laughter at the wit they effortlessly presented. If on the one hand the tune “ta na na na na na na na…..” became a folklore of sorts, then on the other Sh. R K Laxman’s cartoons flashed by like pleasant electric poles from a fast moving train.

A whole new perspective arose. A new dimension emerged. A new light shone. Draped in the practicality we are so used to, it hid within the simple nothings of life that are everything. It transformed into the words that stay behind long after an enriching conversation. It became a song. It was now a poem. Watching the series on the door step of the number 30, I had an awakening of sorts that would not have been possible back when I was 10. The journeys I have been a part of in the last two decades have had bits and pieces of Malgudi in me at all times. Any town. Anyhow. Anywhere. They all are representations of the society we live in. It probably has taken me two decades to realize that but I am glad that I have. Malgudi, as I now realize, was not just a television series. It was a collection tales that taught us how to empathize. An attribute, I am sure, that is fast losing its worth in today's dog-eat-dog society.

Today I watch tireless viewers watching stories of infidelity and loathsomeness over and over again without a blink. Today I watch sad narrations of “reality” the way the series makers see it. Today I am a part of a culture that celebrates hate and animosity. I feel sad for them since they do not know what they are encouraging. They probably never will. I feel sad for myself since classics like ‘Malgudi Days’, R K Narayan and our dear Shankar are now part of history. But then again, I am glad I was lucky enough to be a part of it when they were moving shadows in our lives and that makes me happy.

It is true indeed. Being happy is very simple yet being simple was never harder.

Here is to another simple day. Here is to another memory for Malgudi. Cheers!

10 reflections:

Ravi said...

That was a good read. It so happened that after reading this post, I was thinking of some of the episodes of Malgudi Days and how much we miss such classics. And my email alerted me of an email for a person I had not known - Manjunath Nayekar. I did not bother to open it then.

When I read the email, it was about the BMIC background for publication in the website. I made some research on the Internet about the BMIC project when I found that Manjunath Nayaker was none other than our Master Manjunath (Swami) of Malgudi Days, who is the now the Senior Manager (PR & Liason) of NICE. This was one character I loved in the serial and was overjoyed when the email was from Manju, that too when I was thinking of the serial the day before. can we call this coincidence of Psychic... i dont know. But thank you for taking to those good old days. cheers.

Akshay said...

True Sashi! The modern serials seem to be teaching us only about hate and strife filled with a sense ostentatious existence.. Simplicity has been simply banished from the life.. and the "ta na na ta na nana naa.." is probably a part of history now!

Anonymous said...

Dear Shashi,

Really after going thru ur words, it took back me to the malgudi days and back to my childhood. How nice those days were, we enjoyed this classic serial. How simple and honest were those actors. You could feel each and every word they uttered. There was no overacting, they were so simple and wonderful. The direction was so good, really Mr Nag has animated whole R K's dream into reality. And Swamy's acting is so nice so cute really it touches the heart. This is very rare to see nowdays. Thanks for posting ur valuable words. Let us any other RK, Nag and swamy will come in the future to extend the old Malgudi days to the new Malgudi days.

Thanks for ur article.

prashant said...


I took up learning flute just a couple of weeks ago and having learnt to play "SaReGaMa..." on it, the very next thing which I wanted to play was Malgudi Days'Taa na na... Can't tell you how desperately I am searching internet for the right notes of this tune, and that's how I hit on your blog.

Those good old Malgudi Days occupy a special corner in our hearts, and will always. Even decades after, it hardly takes any effort to correctly hum "Taa na na..." And, the serial itself was something which this generation will miss. I wonder if they ever get to watch such classics where simple stories were told emphatically and yet left permanent marks of ethical lessons in our hearts.

How I wish today's nonsensical TV serial producers / directors could get inspired from such classics than making us watch the unwatchables.

"Koi Lauta De Mere Bitey Hue Din..."

Prashant, Delhi

ShaK said...


Thank you Ravi. I did know that actually since I noticed him on television. So yes - he was definitely part of something quite amazing.


ShaK said...


Indeed! I stopped watching TV more than a year ago. Nothing there that could come even miles near to the marvel that Malgudi Days was - both the book and the series.

Thanks for stopping by!


ShaK said...


Thank you friend. Those days were indeed one of the best ones given the shower of sleaze that has taken over the tube today. Its a shame that kids these days might never know what it means to be simple yet intelligent. Intelligence these days is becoming more synonymous to smart-Alec tongue-in-cheek attitudes. A sad proposition.

Thanks for your words.


ShaK said...


Well said, brother! And good luck with your search. I hope you do get a chance to find the notes and learn to play them well. Malgudi Days is a classic that isn't bound by time. Its lessons are timeless as are the characters who made it great. Its indeed a pain to watch today's mind numbing soap operas that cater only hatred, deciet and everything else that is making our society so shallow and brain dead. Hope that better days come in. :)

All the best!



Krishna said...

Greeting from Goa!

I stumbled upon your blog while searching for the setting of the last scene of the movie, "Magadheera".

Boy, am I glad! I've spent the past hour reading your posts, and when I finished reading this one, I felt like 'joining-in'.

But now that I have started, I don't know what to put in here (which is typical of me!).

Would like to just tell that it's been at least 8 years since I saw any of the crap that they dish-out on TV these days.

Having said that, let me look for my collection of "Malgudi Days". Would love to go back in time, for a change.

Cheers! :)

Teesra said...

Nice article. Shankar Nag was the greatest actor Kannada film industry ever produced.