This bittersweet novel is as fresh and charming today as it was when originally published. Telling the story of Raman, a conscientious sign-painter, who is trying to lead a rational life, the novel is filled with busy neighborhood life and gossip, the alternating rhythms and sounds of the city from morning till night, and the pungent smells and tantalizing flavors of home cooking, as Narayan portrays everyday life in Malgudi. The city is growing and
changing, as its inhabitants try to carve out some individual successes within the juggernaut of “progress.” Raman, a college graduate, brings a sense of professionalism to his sign-painting, taking pride in his calligraphy and trying to create exactly the right sign, artistically, for each client. Living with his aged aunt, a devout, traditional woman whose days are spent running the house and tending to her nephew’s
needs and whose evenings are spent at the temple listening to the old stories and praying, Raman prefers a rational approach to life, avoiding the explanations of life’s mysteries which religion provides. As he begins to write his aunt’s biography, which she is dictating, with all its portents and interventions by deities, Raman asks, “How could the Age of Reason be established if people were like this?” For his own life, he
believes that “ultimately he can evolve a scheme for doing without money,” and that he can “get away from sex thoughts,” which he believes are “too much everywhere.” Then he meets Daisy. A young woman devoted to improving the lives of women and the standard of living of the country through strict family planning, Daisy becomes his biggest customer, commissioning signs for all the family planning
clinics she helps establish through the city and outlying rural areas. Accompanying her so he can select exactly the right location and style for the signs that are needed in the countryside, he finds himself totally bewitched by this liberated and high-minded young woman....