Character Sketch of Ramani in The Free Radio
In The Free Radio , Salman Rushdie uses Ramani and his infatuation with acquiring a simple radio to depict the dangers of idealism. He emphasizes the seductive nature of this new radio through the story of a sympathetic narrator. The narrator clearly cares for the boy and showers him with powerful comments: “God had blessed him with God’s own looks” He begins the story with these glowing observations to give the reader a sense of the ‘old’ Ramani.
Ramani prior to his interaction with the thief’s widow appears to be innocent and sincere. He has a steady job and stunning looks. But once the thief’s widow sinks her “claws” into him, he begins to buy into the illusion of a better future. The free radio that the government promises in return for sterilization embodies this idealism. After encountering the thief’s widow, Ramani also starts to hangout with a new crowd of “cronies” His involvement with new, radical boys who “flatter him with dreams” shows this desire that the thief’s widow has sparked within him.
Then, we have Ramani, a young non-educated but good looking man, who in the beginning of the story lives his life without ambitions and works as a ‘rickshaw wallah’. Strangely he is the only one in the story who has a name. He has a stable business. He could have married someone his age, had his own children and led an average life. Unfortunately, he also happens to be very easily manipulated and thus he ends up marrying a thief’s widow and becomes the father of her five children. They made him do and even believe things he in a traditional environment ever would have done, like the vasectomy and dreaming about becoming an actor in Bollywood. All these factors lead to a change in Ramani’s perspective on life and this change symbolizes how the culture of India due to the West’s intervention fell apart.
However, the worst part about Ramani’s character is not the fact that he is easily manipulated, but the way he holds on to these newly implanted ideas which are basically the illusions of the poor. As it is the case with the“ free radio”, Ramani is made to believe that with the vasectomy he makes the thief’s widow happy, thus serves his country’s interests and on top of these he will get a free radio in return. It must be mentioned at this point that the dream of the free radio comes before the dreams of being a Bollywood actor and therefore a radio would have played a significant role in his life. It would mean entertainment and information; it represents the western world and would attract new customers to the rickshaw. So, he blindly puts all his faith into the space between his hand and ear, which represents the burden he is to carry.
However, even after he finds out that he will never receive a radio from the government, he continues to chase his other unfulfilled dream by making use of the only great thing God has given to him –his looks. He decides to sell his rickshaw, the only thing that ties him to his old self, and leaves for Bombay to make his way into the film industry. This is where magic realism really draws a line and becomes clear that this story is pure fiction because under normal circumstances there would be no way that some poor rickshaw driver, who cannot even write, would become as unsuccessful actor in an unknown city with only his good look. The narrator knows Ramani, so he lets us know that he is known for often conjuring reality, which means that his dreams happened only inside his mind and they could not be turned into reality.