The Man-Eater of Malgudi Summary
Table of Contents
Natraj’ the Owner of Press
The setting of the novel is done in Malgudi, South India. The press consisted of two rooms. The front room served as a parlour where the friends of Natraj visited and took rest. Customers also sat there. Between the press and the parlour there hung a blue curtain which served as a partition wall. This was seen as a sacred tradition of the Press. Natraj was a simple peace loving and self-satisfied man. He lived in an ancient home in Kabir Street with his wife and his son Babu.
Natraj’s Family and His Ancestral House
Natraj’s house was behind the press. A road, divided the press in the market road and his house in the Kabir Street. His house was an ancestral house and the legal divisions of the ancestral property occured during the lifetime of his father. After the death of his father his mother shifted to Natraj’s elder brother in Madras. Thus, Natraj, his wife and Babu became the sole occupants of the house, though Natraj never wanted his mother to shift but circumstances were such that she had to shift.
Natraj’s friends includes the poet, the journalist Sen, Sastri who typed. printed, sewed, ruled and binded Natraj had a relationship of an employer and employee. As they were discussing the mistakes of the government in the parlour, a customer came in the press with the name Vasu and gave a big order.
One day when Sastri did not come to the press. Natraj was doing all his work alone in the press. It was Vasu who broke the sacred traditions of the press by peeping through the curtain and then entering the press, Vasu wanted that Natraj should print five hundred sheets of letter heads and five hundred sheets of visiting cards. Natraj was excited to know about the past of Vasu so he asked about his past. Vasu told that though he is an M.A he was once inspired by a shadow and after having regular exercises and eating enormous food, he achieved great strength. He could break chains, twist iron bars and reduce to dust or fine powder the granite. But soon he left his Guru after quarreling with him and hurting him because he had proved him to be false. Then he got interested in taxidermy and his new Guru Suleiman, taught him the art of taxidermy and made him a real skilled taxidermist.
Aggressive Behaviour of Vasu
The attic room of Natraj consisted of old newspapers, stacks of waste-paper. There were also dust and mosquitoes. Vasu showed aggressiveness as without taking the consent of Natraj he brought four workmen to clean the floor, whitewash the walls and after a couple of days he brought a bedstead and a few pieces of furniture. The attic room was extended to the parlour where he was made fun of his friends who visited him (Natraj). Natraj was much shocked with the bullying attitude of Vasu. But he consoled himself by the thought that he will not live permanently here. He was proved wrong in his view that Vasu would not stay permanently in the attic.
Natraj came to regard him as a middle-aged man-eater who shattered his peaceful life. There was no longer any peace for him either in the press or in the home, because he was a disturbed man,
The Forest Officer’s Visit and Publications of His Book
It so happened that one day Vasu brought a forest official to the press who wanted to get his book Golden Thoughts printed, but the deal never materialised. Later Vasu received a brown envelope from the Forest Department which permitted him to shoot ducks and deer but forbidding him to shoot tiger and other larger animals. Vasu at once turned an enemy of the Forester and decided to challenge his authority by shooting animals in the Mempi Forest. He began shooting wild animals without any legal permission. This he did in a very careful manner leaving no proof behind.
Vasu’s Compulsion to Visit Mempi Village
Later Vasu forced Natraj to go with him in his jeep to Mempi village. He went with Vasu much against his wishes as he was very busy at that time. He was working at some invitation cards for the marriage of the lawyer’s daughter. He wanted to deliver these cards in time. But Vasu being aggressive took him to his jeep. At Mempi village Vasu came to know of the pug-marks of a tiger in the nearby Mempi forest. He was so happy that he left Natraj at a tea-shop and went away with the man who gave him the news. Natraj felt like a lost child as he did not have any money to go back by bus.
He asked the tea-shop owner when the next bus for Malgudi was due and gradually became quite friendly with him. The owner of the tea-stall also liked Natraj and offered him tea and when his bits came he introduced him to the conductor and requested him to take Natraj in his bus and collect the fare at his press Natraj was highly obliged to Muthu and reached Malgudi safely but late at night. The invitation cards could not be printed that day.
Killing of the Tiger by Vasu
Vasu came back and happily showed to Natraj the tiger which he killed in the Mempi forest. The tiger was ten feet long and the head alone was almost eighteen inches wide. He did this killing without any legal permission and was not at all ashamed of it, instead he felt proud that he dodged the forest department and they would not be able to take any legal action against him. He took Natraj to his room and told him how the dead animals were processed and stuffed.
Vasu’s Reluctance to Vacate the Attic
Natraj came to know the source of the smell about which everyone had complained. The room was filled with the skins of stuffed animals. Natraj wanted to turn him out but Vasu did not care for him at all and was living comfortably. He continued bringing dead animals, stuffed carcasses, packed them and sent them off to different places through the railway. While his business was flourishing, his activities created great problems for Natraj. He dared not directly speak to Vasu and his friends and others thought that he had rented his attic to Vasu. One day Natraj gathered all his courage and asked Vasu to vacate the attic. Vasu made fun of him for making such a request and told him of the expenses which he had incurred in order to make the attic habitable.
Problem of Natraj and the Attitude of the Lawyer
Vasu reacted indifferently to Natraj’s request and after five days Natraj received summons from the House Rent Controller to appear in his court at a fixed date and time. He received it officially and signed the delivery note, but on reading it he was frightened. He hid the summons and did not talk about it to anyone, but as the fixed time for appearing in the court came nearer, Natraj was much depressed and agitated. Suddenly, he remembered the ‘adjournment lawyer and went to him. Though the lawyer did not pay the cost of printing of the invitation cards, he extracted a lots of money from Natraj to help him by obtaining adjournment of the case and extension of time from the court.
Visit of the Inspector of the Municipality
Vasu and Natraj were not at all on talking terms with each other Vasu used to go to the attic as usual. One day a sanitary inspector came to the press and produced a joint petition from his neighbour complaining to the municipal authorities of the foul smell requesting them not to allow the cleaning and stuffing of skins that residential area. The inspector thought that Natraj was the tanner and so he advised him to send a reply and ask for time for shifting his tanning business. Natraj was thrown in the state of utter despair. He was helpless and could do nothing.
The Visit of the Forester and Vasu’s Insult to Him
After sometime the forester came asking for Vasu. He questioned Natraj about Vasu’s movements but Natraj did not tell him anything for he did not want to get involved in Vasu’s affairs. The forester then went to Vasu’s room and accused him of killing the wild animals which were disappearing from the forest. Vasu insulted him and asked him to leave him at once and to prove his charges in a court. The forester could not resist Vasu’s bullying and so he went away.
Vasu’s Habit of Womanising
While working in the Press, Sastri heard the jingling of bangles and saw a woman come down the steps from the attic. He recognised the woman. She was the daughter of a temple dancer and now herself was a dancer. Her name was Rangi and she was not considered woman of good a character. Natraj was shocked to see her and then later saw that there were many other women who were coming up and down frequently. He came to the conclusion that as the forester had tightened the security in Mempi forest, Vasu’s activities was neutralised there. So now he was indulging in womanizing.
Significance of Muthu’s Visit
Muthu, the tea-stall owner of the Mempi village came to visit Natraj at his press. He wanted the temple elephant Kumar to be treated there as he was sick. There was a government Veterinary hospital in Malgudi and he wanted the elephant to be treated its doctor. Natraj was ready to help him. He assured Muthu that he would do his best and let him know about the result of his efforts. Muthu went away with satisfaction.
Treatment of the Sick Elephant Kumar
Natraj got a clue with great difficulty and went to the place back again. There the doctor told him that the elephant should be brought in the hospital and then only he can be treated. Natraj knew that it was just impossible to bring the sick elephant in the hospital. Some people agreed to take the elephant to Malgudi. But others were Against the idea of taking the sick elephant to Malgudi. After a lot of discussion, at last the sick elephant with the help of mahout was taken to Malgudi.
Celebration of Marriage in the Temple and its Preparations
The poet after completing the epic reached to the stage where Krishna meets Radha. Natraj and Sastri were very excited and happy at the completion of the epic and wanted to celebrate the auspicious event. They worked hard and put a lot of efforts in the preparations for this purpose. They selected an auspicious day which coincided with the festival of spring at the temple. For the celebrations, money was needed and for that printed appeals were made. They made the city filled with notices for the celebrations. They planned a detailed ritual, a procession and a feast for a thousand people who were present in Malgudi.
Collection of Donation by Vasu
Their appeals and notices brought Vasu to the Press. He took the responsibility of collecting the money from people but he kept all the records of accounts in a green folder and also kept the cash with him. Natraj, the poet, and Sastri went to do all the other works and so they allowed Vasu to collect the donations. On the eve of the celebrations, the most important work, the printing of the last few forms of the auspicious work was still incomplete. Therefore Sastri took the job of composing each page, the poet passed the proof and Natraj printed off the page as it came through.
Evil Motives of Vasu and Role of Rangi
As the night passed Sastri and the poet were sleeping while Natraj printed the forms alone. At that moment Rangi came down the stairs from the attic and stood behind the grill, and told Natrai about Vasu’s plan to shoot the elephant as the procession passed away. He was of the view that the elephant was more useful when he was dend. Natraj was afraid of Vasu’s plan because he knew that many men, women and children would die in the stampede which would follow.
Dialogue between Natraj and Vasu
The next day the sacred book was taken by Sastri to the binder It was to be bound in the Benaras silk and kept in the temple. There were many other things in mind but Rangi’s warning made Natrai decide to talk with Vasu. After having his daily chores Natraj went hurriedly to Vasu’s room. He flattered him and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. When Natraj told him that no harm sol be done to the elephant, Vasu immediately understood that it me be Rangi who would have told him about it. He was very angry with her and told Natraj that he wanted to kill the elephant because he had an obsession of killing the elephant and this way he would be helping everyone who would want to kill the elephant.
Natraj knew that it was effortless in changing the mind of Vasu and he tried his best to stop the celebrations but could not do so as they had gone too far in the matter.
Horrible Cry of Natraj
Natraj reached the temple and it was the Mayor who was delivering the inaugural speech. The programme had begun on time and everything was taking place as decided. There was a lot of noise, coupled with music of the brass band; the music was so loud that nothing could be heard. The fear was still being repeated in the mind of Natraj. The sight of the idol, the sound of music, the ringing of the bells and the noise of the orchestra, the scent of jasmine and incense and tiredness made Natraj sleepy. During the sleep Natraj gave a terrific cry. For that moment the sounds that were coming stopped and so did the activities that were taking place in the temple. The poet, Sen, Mayur everyone rushed to Natraj. Natraj made a sorry figure. His wife and his son also started crying. Thus when Natraj his usual self was regained, he went home, with his wife and left Balu, his son with the school teacher. He hoped and also wished that the celebration would go on as he had planned.
Vasu’s Determination to Save the Elephant
When Natraj told Muthu, Sen, the poet, and the doctor about the fear of the elephant being shot by Vasu, everyone rushed towards Vasu and were deeply shakened about it. At first Sen went to the D.S.P. but the D.S.P. showed his inability to do anything without proof though he informed the town Inspector to tackle the case of Vasu. When they reached Vasu’s attic they blamed him to be the cause of disturbance. When Vasu did not listen to them, he started making fun of them and then due to anger he dislocated his wrist with one blow of his fist. He then showed his strength by putting his palm flat down on the iron frame of the cot and cracking it. Everyone was scared of him, they warned him not to harm the sacred elephant.
Rangi’s Visit Caused Suspicion
While Natraj finished with his food and was working silent he heard the repeated sounds of the tapping of the grill. Natraj found Rangi the woman whom Natraj avoided as advised by Sastri. He was afraid and panic-stricken on the sight of Rangi. He was afraid that he might succumb to her charms but he tried to protect himself from her in a needlessly stern way, he asked her the reason she had called him. Natraj’s “stream of consciousness”, and the dialogue between which the two ensued are interesting and deserve to be quoted. Rangi herself made pulau which was the favourite dish of Vasu so that it might be that Vasu’s mind would be changed. Natraj’s wife was jealous of Rangi and so she went to the temple with her son leaving Natraj all alone in the house.
Natraj’s Visit to Vasu’s House
Natraj could not resist the temptation of visiting Vasu in the attic but when he rushed there he saw that Vasu was lying in his arm chair near the window. His gun was on the floor beside him. Natraj crawled towards the gun and raised it. Vasu was still having a sound sleep while Natraj’s gun was pointed at Vasu after the procession passed away. The noise of the drums, pipes were too much but to his surprise, Vasu still did not awake. To his disbelief the alarm clock went off, Natraj got scared and so he came out of the attic of Vasu.
After Vasu’s Death
The next day, the postman broke the news of Vasu’s death to Natraj. Natraj immediately rushed to the attic of Vasu and saw that there was a green folder in which account was kept with a small bundle of one-rupee currency notes and also discovered the tiger cub-which Vasu valued at two thousand rupees. He thought that he must have brought unnoticed to the parlour. He locked everything in his desk. Soon the news of Vasu’s death quickly spread and thus Natraj’s office become an extension of Town Police Station. A committee of five men was set up to find the cause of Vasu’s death and the person who might have killed him. His (Vasu’s) body was disposed by burial so that it might be exhumed later and cremated Even after a lot of questioning and lot of examination done by the police they were not able to find the clue or proof to anything Officially the matter was closed but the thick air of suspicion was still prevailing there. Everyone indirectly was blaming one another Sen suspected Muthu, the poet suspected Sen, but Natraj knew that behind his back everyone suspected him. Thus his wife told Natraj that everyone suspected him because of the Rent Control Case.
Despair of Natraj and Vasu’s Act of Destruction
Slowly everyone stopped talking to Natraj. Even his close friends did not bother about him. Natraj was in a deep grief and despair that he himself began to think that he was a murderer Natraj was really in deep depression and thus he burst into tears. For him, it was the most shocking experience which the man-eater performed. He himself mutilated his own name, fame, his friendships and his world.
Reasons of Vasu’s Death and Mystery of Death Solved
The truth of Vasu’s death was solved by Rangi. She told him that Vasu was lying in his arm chair and ordered Rangi to keep fanning him so that the mosquitos would go away. Vasu went into the deep sleep and so did Rangi. The mosquitoes started attacking Vasu and in rage he slapped his forehead with his open palm and this was the end of Bhasmasura, a rakshasa; a devil. The blow of his own hammer-fist killed him. This was the end of Vasu’s life, a very strong-headed, an adamant person-just the opposite to Natraj.
Harmony, Peace and Normalcy Restored
Natraj relaxed himself as he realized that he was not the killer and it was Vasu who was his own killer. Thus, he was doing his work as usual with Sastri and was sure that his friends once again would come to him. The evil was removed and normalcy in the life was restored.