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#Review The Painter Of Signs by R. K. Narayan

January 17, 2013

R.K.Narayan surprised me with this novel. Set during the period when the Family Control propagation came into focus, this novel can shock a person as well as realize the depth of the Indian soul. Narayan in this novel tries to go with the times & is very bold in his writing. Infact, the novel involves many themes of the 1970’s Indian scenario like birth control, Bollywood, dare devil women etc. Narayan also breaks his initial way of presenting his characters & uses a new technique which is refreshing. The tongue in cheek way in which Narayan analyses the ‘birth control’ issue is hilarious.

The author has broken down a way of thinking for us which we have to comprehend as citizens of a nation with a lot of population related issues as well as a nation which is steeped in what one would call skepticism against modern science. Also, through the eyes of the author, one realises how serious the problem of population explosion was (& is). the drastic & almost weird attempts to rid the masses of the ‘evil’ of producing more children is taken up very well by the author. He may have gone into more uncomfortable details if it were not for the fact that he was writing a novel in an India which was not yet all that fine with bold literature, though, foreign readers accepted him well. The zeal of the government workers to sterilize the whole of India may seem funny in the novel…..but the dangerous side of the way things turned out is also underlined subtly here in the story via the character of Daisy, the love of Raman who is the actual ‘painter of signs’….especially the painter of the popular Family Planning Sign, the red triangle…..we two, our two !

Raman is shown as a person rooted in sexuality & intense passion, quite opposite to his lady love whose only aim in life seems to be, the sterilization of the Indian population. the author even ventures to state the various methods involved in this process, especially forced vasectomy which became very popular during that period of time. The author seems rather preoccupied with this part of Indian history as I’ve read about a similar story related to forced sterilization in the book ‘Malgudi Days’. The author even discloses certain delicate topics in this novel which is quite commendable.

Sexuality is a main ingredient in this modern Narayan book which is presented in a very humorous way, without any hint of hesitation. The comic sexual drive of Raman for Daisy in part 2 of the novel is very comic….a novelty of the ‘Grand Old Man Of Malgudi’.

In all, the book is a great read & enjoyable to the core.

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