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The Art of Deceiving – the Life of The Perfect Imposter

Is Raju the perfect imposter?
R.K.Narayan’s The Guide follows Raju, a corrupt tourist guide who, together with his lover, the dancer Rosie, leads a prosperous life before he is thrown into prison. After release he rests on the steps of an abandoned temple when a peasant passing by mistakes him for a holy man. Slowly, almost reluctantly, he begins to play the part, acting as a spiritual guide to the village community.
Here are some quotes from the book that showcase his mastery over the art of deception:
 
Raju himself was not certain why he had advised that, and so he added, ‘If you do it you will know why.’ The essence of sainthood seemed to lie in one’s ability to utter mystifying statements.”

~

“A clean-shaven,close-haired saint was an anomaly. He bore the various stages of his make-up with fortitude, not minding the prickly phase he had to pass through before a well-authenticated beard could cover his face and come down to his chest. By the time he arrived at the stage of stroking his beard thoughtfully, his prestige had grown beyond his wildest dreams.

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…the age I ascribed to any particular place depended on my mood at that hour and the type of person I was escorting. If he was an academic type I was careful to avoid mention of facts and figures and to confine myself to general descriptions, letting the man himself do the talking.”

~

“He had a subtle way of mentioning his special requirements…He enunciated some principle of living such as that on a special Wednesday he always liked to make his food with rice flour and such-and-such spice, and he mentioned it with an air of seriousness so that his listeners took it as a spiritual need, something of a man’s inner discipline to keep his soul in shape and his understanding with the heavens in order.”

~

They assumed that he was fasting in order to stop their fight, and he was not going to announce to them that he had already had two meals during the day. He would just leave it at that, and even if his eyes should drop a little out of seeming fatigue,it would be quite in order.”

~

“…we had surreptitious drinks too, although there was a prohibition in force —well, the prohibition law was not for a man of my influence. I had managed to get a medical certificate to say that I needed alcohol for my welfare.

~

He decided to look as brilliant as he could manage, let drop gems of thought from his lips, assume all the radiance available, and afford them all the guidance they required without stint. He decided to arrange the stage for the display with more thoroughness. With this view he transferred his seat to the inner hall of the temple. It gave one a better background.”
 


Set in R.K. Narayan’s fictional town, Malgudi, The Guide is the greatest of his comedies of self-deception. For more posts like this, follow Penguin India on Facebook!
 
 
 
 
 

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