Reluctant Guru

Reluctant Guru
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Rating: 4.0/5

Author: R.K. Narayan

Paperback: 173 pages

Publisher: Orient Paperbacks

Publication Date: 1974

Language: English

Genre: Essays

ISBN-10: 0882537296

ISBN-13: 978-0882537290


Reluctant Guru is a book by R.K. Narayan published in 1974 by Orient Paperbacks. The Reluctant Guru is none other than Narayan himself, exposed to the American campus crowds, a throng of people who think of India as the fabulous land of snake charmers, yoga, mysticism, philosophy, poetry and fakirs.

The book consists entirely of discursive essays; all fourty of them, some of which were his weekly contributions to The Hindu. Some of the essays relate to the topic of his American stay, describing with his characteristic irony, the expectations of Americans that he would show them the key to the spiritual life of Indians. The episodes following and the observations are equally witty, often hilarious.


Narayan who always desired to write discursive essays serves himself the same with this piece of literature. The title essay “Reluctant Guru” reveals his reluctance to play the all-knowing at a Mid-Western University in America before the students and faculty and his evasive answers.

The campus encounter, related with innocent humour in matchless prose, opens the pace of the book of essays which clearly see Narayan at his best. As Javaid Qazi, a student at the University of Missouri who features in Narayan’s essay, points out:

“In those days there was a terrible Guru-need across the land and anyone who could mouth a few appropriate phrases could take up the role easily”

With Reluctant Guru, the readers have expected Narayan to uphold an image of a preacher, or a role model or a Guru- something he is very uncomfortable with! Narayan confesses:

“I felt myself in the same situation as Raju, the hero of ‘Guide’ who was mistaken for a saint and began to wonder at some point himself if a sudden effulgence had begun to show on his face.”

The ultimate viewpoint that can be said about this book is that Narayan is very responsive to the changes around him and create his own theories guided by that. His language is vivid, lucid and very transparent.

About the Author:

R. K. Narayan was born in Madras, South India, and educated there and at Maharaja’s College in Mysore. His first novel Swami and Friends (1935) and its successor The Bachelor of Arts (1937) are both set in the enchanting fictional territory of Malgudi. Other ‘Malgudi’ novels are The Dark Room (1938), The English Teacher (1945), Mr. Sampath (1949), The Financial Expert (1952), The Man Eater of Malgudi (1961), The Vendor of Sweets (1967), The Painter of Signs (1977), A Tiger for Malgudi (1983), and Talkative Man (1986). His novel The Guide (1958) won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country’s highest literary honour. He was awarded in 1980 the A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature and in 1981 he was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. As well as five collections of short stories, A Horse and Two Goats, An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories, Lawley Road, Under the Banyan Tree and Malgudi Days, he has published a travel book, The Emerald Route, three collections of essays, A Writer’s Nightmare, Next Sunday and Reluctant Guru, three books on the Indian epics, and a volume of memoirs, My Days.