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Swami and Friends: Nostalgia of School Days Re-lived

August 1, 2017 | By

The book is an imaginative memoir of a 10-year old from his perspective. The naivety of thoughts in children makes it a more compelling read.

Title: Swami and Friends
Author: R.K Narayan
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Productivity and Quality Publishing

Synopsis of the book…

For all those who were born in 80s and have studied in a school with stringent convent norms, this book is a pure delight. Even the first chapter reminds me of long hallway like classrooms with fireplaces in one of their walls, tidy students who want to realize the expectations of their parents, and hawk-eyed teachers which often detonated even on the smallest error of students. The author describes the activities of Swami and his whole gang of friends in simple, yet illustrious prose. The book is an imaginative memoir of a 10-year old from his perspective. The naivety of thoughts in children makes it a more compelling read.

The book begins with a lecture of a teacher at Albert Mission School speaking about the greatness of Jesus and questioning the leelas of lord Krishna. Swami being a child could not control his rage at this and fired a question back at his teacher that if Jesus was that great, why he was crucified. I couldn’t help smiling at this innocent argument of a 10-year old. He lives in a conventional household (that resembles most of ours) with his disciplined father, pampering and always complaining mother, affectionate grandmother, and newly born sibling.

Swami’s grandmother is the only escape when his father’s quest to remain punctual and sincere towards his studies gets overbearing. Swami’s father constantly pesters him to either work at home or to study and not to stay idle even during vacations yet worries about him when he doesn’t come home till late. The father’s character is alluring with his muted love for Swami and reminded me of my own father who never wanted us to be idle during vacations.

swami and friends

Child actor Manjunath as Swami (center) in the Doordarshan TV serial Malgudi Days (Pic: Google Image Search)

The central characters of the book are Swami’s friends which included, Somu, the most-studious and overtly obedient student of class; Mani, physically strong good-for-nothing bully of the class; Sankar, the most brilliant and calm student of class; and Samuel, the smallest-in-size creature of class known as ‘Pea’. Almost all four of them were present in everyone’s class. The rich tapestry of adventures of these friends makes me long for my school friends.

Things take a dramatic turn when a fine school-boy (possibly an all-rounder) takes admission in Albert Mission School. Swami adores him like his fan but never confesses this openly because of Mani’s dislike for Rajam. Mani initially dislikes him because he is tall and strong like him and is not afraid of his intimidating personality. However, the enmity among them dissolves and transforms into a strong bond. Swami remains in awe of his new friend and tells tales of Rajam’s virtues to his grandmother who often doses off in between.

The book personifies the famous saying by Sudarshan Fakir that says,

‘Ye daulat bhii le lo, ye shoharat bhii le lo
Bhale chhiin lo mujhase merii javaanii
Magar mujhko lautado Bachpan ka Sawaan vo kagaz ki kashti who barish ka pani’.

That nostalgic feeling of childhood innocence is revitalized as you browse a page after another, an incident after incident and a chapter after chapter. What follows next is the series of events involving their moments of togetherness, exams, forming of cricket team by Rajam, bunking of the class by Swami for cricket practice, his ousting from school, running from home, and his eventual differences with Rajam.

The book also portrays that how a young mind is influenced extensively by the company of friends, political events around the vicinity, and the unusual pressure from parents. How does Rajam befriends Mani and Swami? Why was Swami rusticated from school? Why Swami leaves his house? Will Swami and Rajam meet again?

To get the answers of all these questions, you should read the alluring and unfathomable adventures of Swami and Friends.

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Gunjan Joshi is a Delhi based Editor who loves to explore every facet of art and literature. A nature-lover and an avid bibliophile, she loves classics in every form. A perfect weekend evening for her is smelling the waft of a classic hardback in her bed followed by a classic movie.
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