R. K. Narayan
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Narayanaswami, or R. K. Narayan, is one of the most celebrated Indian novelists writing in English. This master storyteller was born on October 10, 1906 in Madras or present day Chennai.
R. K. Narayan earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mysore and went to the United States in 1956 at the invitation of the Rockefeller Foundation. His literary career began with his short stories, which appeared in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper. He began to work as the Mysore correspondent of ‘Justice’, a Madras-based newspaper. When he could not get his first novel ‘Swami and Friends’ published, a mutual friend showed the draft to Graham Greene who agreed to arrange for its publication.
He won numerous awards and adulation during his lifetime. These include the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1958, the Padma Bhushan in 1964, the AC Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature in 1980, besides the Padma Vibhushan in 2000. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1989. This great storyteller passed away on May 13, 2001 at the age of 94. Narayan played an exceptional role in making India accessible to the outside world through literature.
Most of his stories were set in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi. His works captured the essence of ordinary life. His first novel ‘Swami and Friends’ was published in 1935. Besides novels, he wrote short stories, travelogues, condensed versions of Indian epics in English and his memoir.
Born to a schoolteacher father, he took the name R. K. Narayan at the suggestion of his close friend and another great author, Graham Greene. He learnt Tamil and English in school. He did his initial studies at the residence of his grandmother and eventually moved to Mysore with his parents, when his father got appointed as headmaster of the Maharaja’s High School in Mysore.