I rarely read fiction. But then there are a few authors, whose work is almost irresistable. They explain the complexity of life and its various flavours through their characters which make me refect upon my own life. I had read R K Narayan’s short stories lessons in high school and had been fond of his short story collection – Malgudi Days. My love for his style of writing increased considerably, when I happened to visit his house in Mysore. Now turned into a heritage museum, one can visit it and look out of the same window where R K Narayan might have found inspiration for his many works. R K Narayan is one of the most enjoyed Indian authors in fiction. His most celebrated work – Malgudi Days has been adapted into a television series in kannada (my native toungue) – by the late actor and director – Shankar Nag. I have grown up watching the series and reading R K Narayan’s book. Hence R K Narayan has played a significan role in shaping my taste for fiction. The Financial Expert by R K Narayan is one such, enjoyable and relatable novel. One will find important life lessons and observations that one can bear in mind when dealing with the two most important things in one’s life – money and people.
The book showcases the behoviour of people around money. It explains the hard realities of life through the lens of its various characters. Money is a resource, something that we as humans invented to grow our influence over each other. Money grows when invested in the right avenues. We grow when we invest money. We all win when we borrow money from other people and invest that into our various endevours and see it bear fruit. However, money can also be a divider, dividing people into the haves and the have nots. It can become an elusive object, something to be pursued. The love of money and money alone can end up destroying the joy and happiness that it was designed to bring. Money spoils man if it is allowed to do so; it breeds greed and makes people do unfair things. The book brings out such facts about money in a very relatable and enjoyable way. The characters in the story are all very relatable and I am sure we deal with such people in our day to day lives. The story of the book is fairly simple and strikes the right cords. The book is a page turner and one can finish it in a few days. It does not drag, but makes you drop it and refect upon the story.
The story revolves around the life of Margiyya, the prothagonist. Margiyya is a financial expert, he sits with his box containing his pen, ink pot and loan application forms under a banyan tree opposite the co-operative society. He advices the different people of the town to borrow money from the co-operative society. He charges them for writing out their forms and then loans out this money to earn interest. He is poor, ambitious and hard working. He has a rocky relationship with the Secretary and others’ working at the co-operative society. They are all annoyed with him since he educates the town folk about the various by-laws which prevent them from asking for bribes. The story takes a turn when his spolit son drops his accounts book into the gutters in a spirit of play. The book contains the accounts of the pople who have borrowed money from him. Now, that the book is gone, most of them are unwilling to pay back their dues to him. How does Margiyya handle such adversities ? What are the fears, dielemmas and anxiety that he goes through ? Will he be able to figure out a way out of his troubles and be able to make and lend money again? The book reflects various facets of humanity while answering such questions in a series of amusing events.
Margiyya meets a man called Dr. Paul which changes the course of his life. This meeting makes him incredibly wealthy in a short course of time. Now Marrgiyya is able to afford himself a luxurious lifestyle. He is able to put his son Balu into a good English medium school and is also able to identify himself as a respectable person in society as one who donates his money generously. Balu is treated well in school as he is now the son of a wealthy man. Wealth acquired over a short span of time rarely lasts. Or such wealth which is acquired through immoral means has a greater price to pay. Balu gets pampered with all the nice things in life, which makes him lazy and arrogant. He falls back in studies and has frequent fights with his father over his low grades. He threatens to run away from his house if confronted about his grades. When he ends up failing his tenth grade exams repeatedly, he decides to run away from the house.
Margiyya finds him and brings him back home with compassion. He finds him a suitable girl and gets him married, in the hopes of making his son responsible. Will that effort pay off ? Will Balu become responsible and lead a respectable life? Or will he fall victim to bad company and alcohol abuse ? What are the emotions that go though the minds of a man who always had it easy ? These questions have interesting and thought provoking answers in the book. Money is a good thing to have, but one must know to manage it when it comes in excess. It is fairly hard to generate wealth for oneself, managing and growing it for the future generation is a different task overall. The book opens the mind of the reader on topics such as these.
The play of various characters in the book is very vividly described. It all fits together to make for a very interesting story. The sentiments of the people around money are captured with precision. Feelings of anger, resentment, hatred, revenge, greed and panic is shown in a humorous and relatable manner making the book a very enjoyable read. The book does a very good job in keeping the reader entertained and curious. It never bores the reader or makes the reader to lose his attention. One will be able to understand the attitudes and behaviour of people under various circumstances. We hardly learn about money and people in schools and colleges, but then, we need this knowledge in our day to day lives. The book is a good case study to understand these two topics. It also helps us in understanding the dark side of money and people. The greed, the intoxication and the pains that excess can bring to us are vividly described in the book. Money can only buy us comforts and experiences. It can never buy is peace and happiness.
The Financial Expert by R K Narayan is a good book to read and enjoy. It teaches, entertains and helps the reader to reflect upon life. I would recommend it to anybody. Even a beginner can read and appreciate this book as his first novel. Please do read this book and enjoy a fine piece of Indian literature in English.
Happy Reading !