RK Narayan best-known for Swami and Friends was born on October 10, 1906. He was born in former Madras and modern-day Chennai. His father was a school headmaster and moved about a lot; therefore he was raised by his grandmother Parvathi. She nicknamed him Kunjappa and he was popularly addressed by this nickname by the members of his family. He went to study in several schools and spent most of his time reading Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, PG Wodehouse, and Thomas Hardy. He got into trouble when he participated in a pro-independence march; his family was neutral about politics and India’s independence.
RK Narayan moved to Mysore to join his parents where he began to write. He studied at the Maharaja College of Mysore and took a job as a school teacher. He left it to realize that he would turn to writing for the rest of his life. His first piece of published writing was titled ‘Development of Maritime Laws of 17th-Century England’. He wrote for English newspapers and magazines. Although he lived on a paltry income, his friends and family respected him and he published his first novel: Swami and Friends. Thus the fictitious town of Malgudi came into being. This book was rejected by several publishers until Narayan sent it to his friend and popular author Graham Greene. Other books such as The Bachelor of Arts, The English Teacher, The Financial Expert, Waiting for the Mahatma, and The Guide were published. The Financial Expert was acknowledged as one of the most original works in 1951 while he won the Sahitya Akademi Award for The Guide. The Guide was also made into a movie and presented on Broadway. He was compared to William Faulkner for his depiction of real-life characters in everyday life while also being compared to Guy de Maupassant with regard to his narrative style in presenting short stories. He was conferred the AC Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature and the Padma Vibhushan. He was also nominated as Member to the Rajya Sabha.
Narayan fell in love with Rajam and went ahead to marry her despite financial and zodiac hurdles. Shortly after the marriage, he worked for a newspaper titled The Justice. He wrote about the shame involved in being caned in the class, the emotional drain in brides and grooms with horoscope matching, and the subjugation of women in marriages. The death of his wife immensely aggrieved him and his daughter became the center of his attention. The grief served the inspiration for his book, The English Teacher. He also worked on a journal, Indian Thought. Then he started his own publishing venture, Indian Thought Publications which earned him a voracious readership from New York to Moscow. His writings were published for the first time in the States by the Michigan State University Press.
In 1961, The Man Eater of Malgudi was published. It earned him a lot of accolade and he traveled across Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne. After the publication of The Vendor of Sweets, he earned his first honorary doctorate from the University of Leeds. He lived the last of his days being involved in agriculture and interacting with people. He wrote The World of Nagraj and Grandmother’s Tale, the last of his books. He breathed his last on May 13, 2001 at Chennai.