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The Painter of Signs (1977)

by R. K. Narayan

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4341057,613 (3.49)16
For Raman the sign painter, life is a familiar and satisfying routine. A man of simple, rational ways, he lives with his pious aunt and prides himself on his creative work. But all that changes when he meets Daisy, a thrillingly independent young woman who wishes to bring birth control to the area. Hired to create signs for her clinics, Raman finds himself smitten by a love he cannot understand, much less avoidaand soon realizes that life isnat so routine anymore. Set in R. K. Narayanas fictional city of Malgudi, "The Painter of Signs" is a wry, bittersweet treasure.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A belated contribution to #NovNov (Novellas in November), The Painter of Signs is R K Narayan's eleventh of fifteen novels by this prolific Indian author. Like his early novels (including Swami and Friends (1935), which I reviewed here), it is set in the fictional South Indian town of Malgudi, at an indeterminate time but recognisably in an era when women's roles were starting to change.

Thirty-something Raman is a painter of signs for businesses in his local area, and he takes great pride in his work. He lives beside the river where occasionally a gust of wind will blow a bit of sand onto a board which is not quite dry. In the early part of the book we see him forego payment if his sign has flaws because his integrity matters more to him than money.

Raman lives with his elderly aunt, who has looked after his needs for his entire life. She is a quiet presence in the novel, spending her days sourcing and storing the best ingredients for the meals he likes best. Her sole amusement comes from visiting the temple at the end of the day and retelling her personal history. Raman takes her for granted and apart from occasional moments of guilt and resentment about her interest in his doings, does not appreciate that her life has been devoted to his. So it's not surprising that he thinks marriage is unnecessary.

Scornful about superstitions, religion and caste, Raman although conservative in his lifestyle, thinks well of himself and his modern attitude to rationality. He reads science and history books, which contribute to his sense of superiority. Although he works hard at his sign-painting, he does not recognise that he has the leisure to educate himself only because a woman is taking care of his needs.

Into this calm and settled life comes Daisy, a modern young woman whose very name signifies that she is an outsider of no caste or family. She hires Raman to make signs for her government-sponsored program to limit population growth through family planning, and her fervent attitude makes her fearless in tackling what is an intimate subject in her society, especially in remote villages. Raman is fascinated by her manner and appearance which signify her rejection of woman's traditional role. She is cagey about her past, but eventually Raman learns that she left home because she would not submit to being inspected for marriage and the inevitability of subservience to a man.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2023/12/08/the-painter-of-signs-1976-by-r-k-narayan/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Dec 7, 2023 |
What happens when a simple love story turns into a bitter ending ? Sad isn't it.
Raman, a painter of signs, living on Ellaman street, lives with his aunt. His daily life is focussed on reaching out to people for signboard orders and collecting payment for his work. Life takes a sudden turn when, Daisy enters his life. He falls in love with her but Daisy was not destined for love.

Raman decides to confess his feelings for her. What happens after his confession? Will Daisy accept him or not? Find all the answers after reading the book.

For more reviews visit my blog mybookshelf1986.blogspot.com ( )
  Sucharita1986 | Oct 27, 2020 |
Although not as good as the man-eater of malgudi this is still a great book. Beautifully told with a good protagonist who I felt sorry for because of his blindness. Narayan is one of my favourite writers. He writes in a beautiful simple way and his books time-machine me to India. ( )
  Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
R.K.Narayan surprised me with this novel. Set during the period when the Family Control propagation came into focus, this novel can shock a person as well as realize the depth of the Indian soul. Narayan in this novel tries to go with the times & is very bold in his writing. Infact, the novel involves many themes of the 1970's Indian scenario like birth control, Bollywood, dare devil women etc. Narayan also breaks his initial way of presenting his characters & uses a new technique which is refreshing. The tongue in cheek way in which Narayan analyses the 'birth control' issue is hilarious.

The author has broken down a way of thinking for us, which we have to comprehend as citizens of a nation with a lot of population related issues, as well as a nation which is steeped in what one would call skepticism against modern science. Also, through the eyes of the author, one realises how serious the problem of population explosion was (& is). the drastic & almost weird attempts to rid the masses of the 'evil' of producing more children is taken up very well by the author. He may have gone into more uncomfortable details if it were not for the fact that he was writing a novel in an India which was not yet all that fine with bold literature, though, foreign readers accepted him well. The zeal of the government workers to sterilize the whole of India may seems funny in the novel.....but the dangerous side of the way things turned out is also underlined subtly here in the story via the character of Daisy, the love of Raman who is the actual 'painter of signs'....especially the painter of the popular Family Planning Sign, the red triangle.....we two, our two !

Raman is shown as a person rooted in sexuality & intense passion, quite opposite to his lady love whose only aim in life seems to be, the sterilization of the Indian population. the author even ventures to state the various methods involved in this process, especially forced vasectomy which became very popular during that period of time. The author seems rather preoccupied with this part of Indian history as I've read about a similar story related to forced sterilization in the book 'Malgudi Days'. The author even discloses certain delicate topics in this novel which is quite commendable.

Sexuality is a main ingredient in this modern Narayan book which is presented in a very humorous way, without any hint of hesitation. The comic sexual drive of Raman for Daisy in part 2 of the novel is very comic....a novelty of the 'Grand Old Man Of Malgudi'.

In all, the book is a great read & enjoyable to the core. ( )
1 vote pathan.fiza | Oct 14, 2013 |
It's been a long time since I've read any R K Narayan--one of the superb authors I was introduced to by my favourite uni unit, Post-Colonial Lit. I'd forgotten how good he is. Moving and funny, a really enjoyable read. ( )
  Vivl | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Raman's was the last house in Ellaman Street; a little door on the back wall opened, beyond a stretch of sand, to the river.
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For Raman the sign painter, life is a familiar and satisfying routine. A man of simple, rational ways, he lives with his pious aunt and prides himself on his creative work. But all that changes when he meets Daisy, a thrillingly independent young woman who wishes to bring birth control to the area. Hired to create signs for her clinics, Raman finds himself smitten by a love he cannot understand, much less avoidaand soon realizes that life isnat so routine anymore. Set in R. K. Narayanas fictional city of Malgudi, "The Painter of Signs" is a wry, bittersweet treasure.

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