Next Sunday is a collection of short essays that Narayan wrote to provide the common man a breezy relief from the languor of a lazy Sunday afternoon. It includes over 50 pieces that deal with an assorted variety of areas including politics, bureaucracy, culture, the ‘day-to-day’ hassles that beset our lives.
60 years after they appeared it is quite remarkable to see that much of it remains relevant in modern India even today and one is easily able to relate to Narayan’s narrative.
The opening essay is a novelty for sure – it talks about the need to obtain an annual licence to operate a Radio service. Well this is sometime during the 50s so TVs had not yet made their appearance on the scene. The annual fee is mentioned to be Fifteen rupees – quite a handy sum in those days and an interesting relic from the past. Narayan’s focus on the story is more about the bureaucratic process involved in getting the radio licence renewed.
Next he touches a popular choice again by talking about his aversion for Maths. He keeps it quite simple by talking about ‘Profit and Loss’ sums and does not take us further into the esoteric world of Differential Equations and the labours of Algebra & Trigonometry. Yet again the tale continues and am sure there are many sympathizers for his cause.
Narayan then takes upon himself the task of defending English and questions the need to sideline it in public discourse. He makes a lot of sense and has been prescient in understanding that the language has adapted itself well in India and will continue to flourish with the protests against it being to no much avail.
He entertains us with odd stories of Coffee, Umbrellas, Train Travel and doting parents cheering their precocious child’s talents. He provides an exquisite disquisition on why humour should never be analysed as it is a self-defeating exercise.
Yet another tale that warmed the cockles of my heart was his experience as a book lover who ends up losing his treasures to acquaintances who borrow the books but never quite return them. It seems to be a predicament that one invariably faces and it is heartening to know that there is not much that is new under the Sun. The borrowers are callous and nonchalant about our demands for restitution and usually the book lovers are not aggressive in pursuing their interest. Instead they lament their loss and make a mental resolve to not fall for this one the next time. Invariably the resolve is futile and impractical for the situation does repeat itself all over again and one watches the drama unfold with a queasy premonition that things are not quite alright in the deal.
Narayan’s tales carry a message and a ‘common sense’ approach to the diverse issues and affairs that impact the common man. We cheerfully endorse his stand on most items while also acknowledging that it is next to impossible to find a permanent cure for all that ails our lives. With a sense of pragmatism we gird ourselves to continue our battle for peace and happiness. So the next time you are a loss of ideas and the situation seems a novel one, have no worries. Just dust out this gem and the odds are in favour that you may find something in the book that will help you cope with the situation.