The story is narrated by Shyama, a concerned citizen of Hosahalli village in the state ofMysore (before Independence). Shyama loves the place, its beauty and its people. Heloves the mango trees, the village pond and the creeper looking over it.
He finds it ashame that both the English overlords and his own people have forgotten of the heart-fulfilling environment of Hosahalli, a place that finds no place on any cartographicconstructions or maps of India. He says that the doctor in Hosahalli has traveled tomany places around the country and even the World and considers the village to be auniquely special place. The village speaks Kannada even though much has changed withthe encroachment of English language in the casual conversations of the people. Manypeople like communicating in English or using English words in Kannada which Shyamafinds disgraceful and disheartening.The return of the city boyIt all started when the village got its first English speaker, the protagonist of the story,Rangappa or just Ranga.
He is the son of the village accountant and went to study inBangalore. On his return, whole village turned up at his house to see how the city hadchanged him. To everyone’s surprise not much had changed. Ranga was still the sameperson with the same appearance, clothes, manners and etiquettes as highlighted by hissacred thread (janewara) that is sign of the sanctity of his caste (Hindu social hierarchy).Most of the people were disappointed by that but Shyama admires Ranga’sdetermination to stick to his own customs.
A friendly adviceRanga often visits Shyama’s place and Shyama is always delighted to have a chat withhim. So much so that Shyama asks him to get married and lead a happy married life.However, Ranga is not sure about marrying at such a young age. He does not want tomarry a young woman who does not understand his words or is not mature enough tomake intelligent decisions .He also want to marry somebody he admires and feels thatarrange marriages do not provide the room to develop such admiration. Shyama feelsappalled that such a mild-mannered and courteous boy should remain untouched by thebeauty and happiness of a sacred relationship like marriage. So, he decides to findRanga a wife.
Shyama soon finds the right girl. Her name is Ratna and she is Rama Rao’s, friend ofShyama, niece. She is eleven years old and is well behaved and beautiful. She knows howto play harmonium and is a great singer. She was brought up in a big city but now liveswith her uncle after the death of her parents. He instinctively thinks she will be perfectfor RangaThe rendezvous at Shyama’s placeShyama devises a plan to introduce Ratna and Ranga to each other. He asks Rama Rao’swife to send Ratna to his house to pick up some buttermilk. It was Friday and Ratna ishappy to visit Shyama.
When she arrives, Shyama asks her to sing for him. She obliges.Meanwhile, Shyama sends for Ranga to visit his house as well. When he reaches thethreshold of the house, he is enchanted by the melodious voice and singing of Ratna. Heis intrigued and peeps inside to find out. As soon as Ranga’s body breaks the lightcoming through the door, Ratna gets spooked and reaches for the corner.
She feels shy.Ranga is also feeling coy but keeps on staring at Ratna. This makes Ratna nervous andshe dashes into another room.Ranga is truly smitten and enquiries if the girl is married. Shyama wants him to suffer alittle and develop a stronger liking for her. Consequently, he tells him that Ratna hadbeen married for a year. Ranga becomes crestfallen.
All his desires for Ratna comecrashing down in his chest. However, his disappointment reassures Shyama that Ratnais the right girl for RangaThe visit to the astrologerShyama schemes with a Shastri or an astrologer. He dictates him what to tell Ranga inorder to make Ranga realize his hidden desire for Ratna. Now, he goes to Ranga andseeing his dispirited look enquires about his situation.
Shyama advices him to visit adoctor but Ranga says that he felt fine. He then asks Ranga to accompany him to anastrologer.Now everything goes according to what Shyama had hoped. The astrologer sticks to thescript and tells Ranga that the cause of all his worries is a woman. He predicts thatRanga will eventually marry a woman whose name refers to something that belongs tothe ocean, like a pearl or Ratna. He also wishes for their marriage to be happy andsuccessful.Happily ever afterThe plan goes ahead without a hitch and the next scene describes Ranga’s visit toShyama’s house some years later. He has a three year old son named after the narrator,Shyama.
It is like Ranga and Ratna’s way of thanking Shyama’s matchmaking ability. Itwas also a very English thing to name a child after someone they admired.Nonetheless, it was only due to narrator’s insight and intellect that they got married.Adding to the glad tidings, Ratna is also expecting another child (8 months due).
Thestory ends with Shyama visiting the couple’s house for the young Shyama’s thirdbirthday. He kisses the child on the cheeks and places a ring on his finger as a totem ofgood fortune and security from evil.Key Thoughts:The story is a beautiful depiction of a village in South India. It decorates the scene withthe customs, manners and traditions of the place. It also highlights the constant struggleto preserve the endemic culture of the place against the winds of external agents andforces like a foreign language like English.The story and its characters like Shyama, Ratna and Ranga bring the sweetness ofvillage life to the text.
The hallowed and sacred nature of marriage and companionshipbetween husband and wife is celebrated cleverly in the narration of the story.