Many a town in south India might lay claim to having been the inspiration for author R K Narayan’s ‘Malgudi’. But in the contest to form a kinship with the celebrated Malgudi, two names come close, Bengaluru and Mysuru. It is said that Malgudi was coined by the author after combining the first and last few letters of two prominent old areas of Bengaluru—Malleswaram (Mal) and Basavanagudi (Gudi).
Ever since I grew acquainted with my husband’s home town Krishnarajnagara or K R Nagar for short and the 40km distance separating it from the erstwhile royal kingdom of Mysore, I grew convinced that
Narayan might have sought inspiration for his fictional town from right about here.
K R Nagar seemed to scream Malgudi ever since I first stepped foot here. For starters, river Kaveri which can be found just a few kilometres away from the town could be the river Sarayu. The ancient temple of Lord Arkeshwara (Shiva) forming a perfect backdrop and attracting devotees from far and near, could mirror the Sthala-Purana setting of many a temple in the novel.
Then, at the heart of it all is the Bazaar Road, a place that boasts shops and services of all kinds, similar to Malgudi’s bustling Market Street. Shree Tiffany’s could well be the Boardless which boasts of the best benne (butter) dosa and a place where people gather for a little chat and gossip.
Quaint occurrences like the big maidan being called the radio maidan because a long while ago, radio programs used to be aired on the ground between 6 and 8 in the evening, smacking of a very Malgudi-like flavour. If in the novel, the railway station was central to the storyline, the railway station in K R Nagar has a whiff of Malgudi with large trees bordering the now derelict station and a name plaque announcing ‘Old Railway Station’.
The Government Hospital in the town occupying a sizeable portion and having a healthy reputation probably shares the same prestige as does the Malgudi Medical Centre. A town is also about its people and the characters in Malgudi can be found lurking here as well. The best that comes to mind is the ex-radio personality-cum-astrologer-cum-temple priest who is keen to read everyone’s horoscope and suggest solutions for problems created by the stars, but cannot set things right in his own home.
Also, it’s the very air of the place—languid and laid-back that takes one back to RK’s eponymous town. The debate over Malgudi’s supposed origin might rage on, but I consider the case closed.