Leela’s Friend Summary by R K Narayan
V S Naipal, the Nobel laureate writer of Indian origin called R K Narayan as ‘The master of small things.’ He wants to mean that through his creation RK Narayan tells about the lives of common men and everyday affairs. The famous collection of his short stories ‘Malgudi Days’ offers the readers slices of this common man’s life and humdrum everyday affairs. These are changed into pieces of sparkling literary gems by the magic-touch of a master craftsman.
DETACHMENT-THE HALLMARK OF CREATION
What makes RK Narayan distinct from his illustrious contemporaries, like Mulk Raj Anand, Khuswant Sing and Anita Desai is his unique objectivity and detachment as a narrator. He is never didactic. He does not show any political, social or religious leanings in his writings. With the objectivity of a movie camera he peeps into the life of his characters. Readers understand his conveying message only after their completion of reading.
RK NARAYAN’S SHORT STORIES RICH AND VARIED PAGEANT OF HUMANITY
‘Malgudi Days’ the collection of short stories is like a collage on the lives of different individuals, living in an imaginary town called Malgudi, situated somewhere in South India. These people belong to different walks of life from wayside astrologer, teen-aged street vendor to trainer of tigers in a circus. Deep insight into the characters, gentle humour and easy-flowing language have contributed into making these individual short stories a unified whole-a rich pageant of human existence with its myriad shades of emotion, joys, sorrows, fear, love and hatred, all wrapped in a all-pervasive empathy for man.
LEELA’S FRIEND— A STUDY IN CONFLICTING WORLDS
‘Leela’s Friend’ is a simple story of an ill-fated childlabour who has few friends in a hostile world. Through this apparently unassuming story of a non-descript boy RK Rarayan has presented several conflicting worlds that exist in social and mental plane.
There is a distinct hint of class-exploitation and class-conflict in the story ‘Leela’s Friend’. Sidda belongs to the poorer section of the society and he has to depend on middle class people like Mr Sivasanker for his survival. There is enough hint about the exploitation of this unfortunate boy by Mr Sivasanker’s family. The list of his duties is long but his remuneration is meagre. From the words of Leela we come to know that Sidda was not allowed to sit on a chair or sleep inside the room.
CONFLICT OF CLASS
CONFLICTING WORLD OF GROWN-UPS AND CHILDREN
Leela is a little girl and as a child she does not have any difficulty in accepting Sidda and loving him whole-heartedly. But her grown-up parents not only think Sidda as an outsider but from the very beginning treat him as a commodity and treat him with suspicion. Sidda, too, as a child mingles easily with Leela. Leela vehemently tries to get Sidda freed, opposing the unwillingness wishes of his parents. Their world is different form the world of Mr Sivasanker and his wife.
CONFLICT OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Sidda is convicted of a crime that he has never committed. Though he has supposedly a criminal past he has not stolen Leela’s gold-chain. But in spite of that he is arrested and probably tortured by the police on assumption. He is humiliated and unreasonably forced to make a confession of a crime which he has not done. Though after the truth about the chain is revealed, Mrs Sivasanker, appears to be a little contrite, her husband still holds Sidda as a criminal.
THE MAGIC WORLD OF CHILDREN
Though the story presents some serious social Problems like child-labour exploitation, ruthlessness of society and crime and punishment, ‘Leela’s Friend’ minutely depicts a typical children’s world with their fantasies and myth. Thus a thrown-up ball comes down touching the moon or someone touches the full moon standing on a coconut tree and instructs it to follow him. These are not lies but the puerile fantasies, that defy reality. In Leela’s character we find the typical role-play of teacher-student, an impromptu enactment of the adult world.
SOURCE OF THE STORY
‘Leela’s Friend’ was included in the famous -story collection of R K Narayan, namely ‘Malgudi Days’ which was published in 1943 by Indian Thought Publication. It is included in the chapter called ‘Lawley Road’, ‘Malgudi Days’ was republished again outside India in 1982 by Penguin Classics.
SUMMARY OF THE STORY
The story begins with Sidda being employed by Mr Sivasanker to be a servant in their house. Sivasanker’s five-year old daughter, Leela, likes Sidda very much. Sidda has a lot of work to do and is not compensated adequately. He is also expected to play with Leela. He is a good, patient play-fellow with a vivid imagination (the games with the moon and the ball). Leela is very happy with his company.
One day, after Sidda and Leela return home buying some sugar from a shop, Mrs Sivasanker notices that Leela’s gold chain is missing. She suspects Sidda of stealing the chain and asks him about it. That night, the boy runs away. Mr Sivasanker lodges a complaint with the police. Stories about Sidda’s villainy become wilder and wilder. Finally, the police arrest Sidda who denies that he has taken the chain. Leela is also sure he hasn’t taken the chain.
She is very upset when Sidda is taken away. At the end of the story, Mrs Sivasanker finds the chain in a tamarind pot, but both she and Mr Sivasanker are still convinced that Sidda is a criminal. The themes in this story are betrayal of trust, friendship between children from different social classes, prejudice and poverty and exploitation.
STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS & STORY SYNOPSIS
The story follows a simple dramatic pattern with the exposition of Sidda’s engagement in Mr Sivasanker’s household and the subsequent frendship and intimacy of him with Leela. The climax comes with the missing of Leela’s chain and the fleeing of Sidda. In the denoue’ment part we find Sidda’s arrest and his subsequent bringing into the house of Mr Sivasanker. But after this the story takes a turn something akin to situational irony and ends with the missing chain in the tamarind pot.