R.K. Narayan is so well-loved in the Indian literary scene that once upon a time, I used to be really excited to read his books. When I read Malgudi Days, I was actually really bowled over and thought, “Okay, wow, what writing! So simple and beautiful!” I was even further excited to read The Painter of Signs, a book I bought a couple of years ago and got to reading only now.
But now that I’ve read The Painter of Signs, I really, really don’t like it.
My apprehension began slightly, somewhere at the halfway point but it turned into a completely chaotic one as I ended the book. I thought that maybe I was the only one having thoughts like this. And I needed to check if there were other people like me. So I went to Goodreads and scrolled through the reviews. Imagine my relief when I saw that there are quite a few people who share my thoughts. Yeah, it’s not something to be actually relieved about but you know, the want for a sense of belonging does make you feel things at times.
The problem I had with this book was its protagonists, both being characters that I absolutely disliked. My God, both are so annoying that I cringed through the latter half of the book.
Raman is a huge, selfish prick, thinking that the world exists for his service. He thinks himself above everyone else and tries to act aloof when things don’t happen according to his liking. But also, he acts like a puppy around Daisy – a puppy who is cowed and doesn’t have opinions of his own. Not to say he doesn’t demand things of her. He becomes so desperate at times that I just wanted to jump into the pages and knock some sense into his thick head.
Daisy, on the other hand, is a strong, independent woman and I admire what she does to a certain extent. But I have almost as many problems with her as I have with Raman. She puts people down, plays around with their feelings, thinks that one talk by her and people should accept what she says and move on, and in the end, she’s all ‘I, me, myself.’ Given, the cause she works for is good but you can’t have a myopic view of the world that you cannot see anyone else. She strings Raman along, maybe because she wanted to figure things out. But in the end, she is so blasé about it and gets completely irritated. So basically she’s selfish too.
So maybe Raman and Daisy were made for each other. Doesn’t mean the story appealed to me though. So much could have been done with it, but all it did was disappoint me. I wish it had been written differently. L
Rating: 2/5 stars
Picture Courtesy: Amazon India.
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Here’s the link: The Painter of Signs