Chandran and his friends in R.K. Narayan’s Novel “The Bachelor of Arts”

While Chandran’s family bonds play a significant role in his growing up from adolescence to adulthood, his friendship also play a considerable role at various points of his life. While his parents offer him the protection, comfort and concern for his well-being, his friendship provides him enough leeway for sharing his emotions, feelings, his successes and failures on an equal footing. Chandran’s friends provide the proper outlet for his youthful aspirations and serve as a buffer for his emotional outbursts enabling him to share his feelings on equal footing. This he cannot hope to do with his parents whom he looks upon with filial awe and admiration.

Ramu is a very close friend of Chandran at Albert Mission College:

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Ramu is a very close friend of Chandran at Albert Mission College. He also lives in Lawley Extension and his house is adjoining to that of Chandran. Chandran and Ramu discuss their Professors and their college affairs with each other and they make a jolly good time by exchanging jokes and repartees. They occasionally quarrel but very soon they make it up because each cannot be without the company of the other for long.

When Ramu cracks a joke at the expense of Chandran connected with Professor Ragavachar’s summoning him to meet him at the end of the college, Chandran in a bad mood feels offended. Ramu also feels hurt at Chandran’s unusual behaviour and goes home without waiting for Chandran. But Chandran goes and meets him in the evening, makes up his falling-out with him. Soon the friends become their own selves. Chandran discusses the outcome of his meeting with Professor Ragavachar.

Like all human beings Chandran seeks emotional sustenance not only within his family but also outside amongst people of his own age:

Cinema watching for Chandran, as Narayan tells us, was no ordinary matter. It was an “aesthetic experience” from which the maximum delight had to be drawn and therefore it was necessary to accompany it with betel chewing and cigarette smoking.

At such times Chandran also felt that “Ramu’s company was most important to him. It was his presence that gave a sense of completion to things. He too smoked, chewed, drank coffee, laughed (he was the greatest laughter in the world), admired Chandran, ragged him, quarrelled with him,” and this made Ramu’s company invaluable to him.

Like all human beings Chandran seeks emotional sustenance not only within his family but also outside amongst people of his own age. The presence of Ramu is reassuring to Chandran. The other important factor of friendship is that they share interests and this adds to Chandran’s confidence. The quality of shared interests is absent in Chandran’s other peer group relationships such as with Natesan, Mohan and Veeraswami.

Chandran wants to celebrate his success in the Union Debate:

As is natural with the young lads of his age, Chandran wants to celebrate his success in the Union Debate by going to the night show with his friend Ramu and manages to secure his father’s permission for that. Chandran’s visit to the picture house is not a routine and mundane affair. It is a sheer aesthetic experience. Visit to the picture house is preceded by going to the hotel, having tiffin followed by a ritual betel chewing and cigarette smoking. Chandran never likes to go to a film without the company of Ramu, his dear friend, neighbour and classmate. His visits to the film in the company of Ramu are fun-filled moments for Chandran.

Narayan gives a realistic description of the visit of Chandran and Ramu to the cinema hall:

Narayan describes their visit to the cinema hall, while the film is on, pushing through the knees of those who have already occupied their seats to look up for the vacant seats through the light of the projector on the screen very realistically. He also describes the title of the two-reel comic- trailer the part of which they missed because of their late entry. He also describes the title of the main film, its lead-cast and its gist for the readers to follow it.

And then there is Ramu’s observation about Professor Brown with a girl in the first class row followed by Chandran’s flippant remarks about the Europeans’ way enjoying life. After making a damaging remark about Professor Brown and the Europeans in general, Chandran asks Ramu to sit down as it is bad manners to stare at others in the hall!

When Chandran’s college career is over and he becomes a Bachelor of Arts, he misses the company of Ramu:

When Chandran’s college career is over and he becomes a Bachelor of Arts, he misses the company of Ramu for soon after college, Ramu has left for some North Indian cities in search of employment. His walks on the sands of Sarayu without Ramu by his side and his lively comments about men matters become spiritless. When Chandran returns home after his wanderings as a sanyasi for about eight months, he wants to share his experiences with someone who is of his peer group.

He is disappointed to learn that Ramu’s family has left Malgudi and Ramu has joined the Railways at Bombay. He is pained that Ramu has not chosen to inform him of his joining in his job. He begins to feel that like love that friendship is also an illusion.

Mohan, the poet is another important friend of Chandran who plays a very significant role in the life of his friend:

Mohan, the poet is another important friend of Chandran who plays a very significant role in the life of his friend. Chandran picks up his friendship through the Historical Association at college. Mohan wants to read his poems in one of the Historical Association meetings. But Professor Ragavachar does not permit his Association to be demeaned by versifiers of all sorts. Mohan does not want to read his poems in the English Literary Association as Principal Brown is jealous of Mohan’s originality and will not encourage him.

So Chandran lets Mohan come to his house in the evenings and read his poems before he retires to his study. Soon they become thick friends. Mohan plays a significant role in Chandran’s love affair with Malathi. As he lives opposite to the girl’s house in the Mill Street, he collects all relevant information about her, her parents and their intention to give her in marriage that season.

When Chandran finds his marriage proposal with Malathi bogged down by his mother’s stance of protocol, status, stars, and horoscopes and so on, he resorts to the company of Mohan to unload the burden of his heart:

When Chandran finds his marriage proposal with Malathi bogged down by his mother’s stance of protocol, status, stars, and horoscopes and so on, he resorts to the company of Mohan to unload the burden of his heart. Mohan feels that money weighs much with Chandran’s parents than their concern for their son.

He shows Chandran a poem “Money Love” he has written. Chandran takes the poem with him and passes it on to his father. Chandran’s parents are very much upset that their son has not understood them properly. However, they try their best to bring about the alliance but it fails because of the girl’s father’s stance on the agreement of the horoscopes. As a final effort’ Chandran writes a letter to Malathi if she is willing to wait for two more years by when the evil aspect of stars in his horoscopes will be nullified.

He asks Mohan to deliver this letter to her. But Mohan cannot do so as he does not find a proper opportunity to give Chandran’s letter to her. When Chandran learns of the Wedding Notice celebration for Malathi, he is shocked. He is equally shocked to learn that Mohan has not delivered his letter to her. He angrily bids goodbye to Mohan and leaves for home in a huff.

It is Mohan who is instrumental in Chandran getting settled in a his career and becoming a married man by accepting the bride chosen by his parents:

When Chandran returns to Malgudi after his six month’s absence from home as a sanyasi, he takes Mohan into confidence and narrates all that has happened since he left Malgudi but he asks him to keep this information confident. He does not tell this secret to his parents; he simply tells them that he has travelled long.

He withholds this information from his parents because he is afraid that it will give them terrible mental agony. He does not want to augment the agony that he has caused already to them by his waywardness. In deciding about his career, he thinks of dropping up his proposal to go to England as he does not want to leech on his father any further.

He discusses this with Mohan and it is he who suggests to Chandran to take up the local agency of The Daily Messenger for Malgudi. Chandran with the help and approval of his father settles down as the agent of Malgudi for The Daily Messenger.

He also enlists the support and cooperation of Mohan in his canvassing for the daily. Again when Chandran is in a dilemma about the marriage proposal suggested by his parents, he discusses it with Mohan. It is Mohan who persuades him to accept the marriage proposal of his parents by making him see the advantages of it dispassionately. Chandran takes the advice of his friend and sees the girl “Susila’, finds her divine and soon becomes a married man doting on the accomplishments o his beautiful bride.

Natesan, the Union Secretary of Albert Mission College also plays a significant part in the development of the personality of Chandran as a debater:

Natesan, the Union Secretary of Albert Mission College also plays a significant part in the development of the personality of Chandran as a debater. It is Natesan who asks Chandran to be the Prime Mover of the debate that Historians must be slaughtered. Though Chandran feels diffident to undertake this job, he manages to move the topic and support his stance.

In the end the House votes in favour of the topic much to the joy of Chandran. Chandran’s success as a debater makes Professor Ragavachar invite him to form the Historical Association of the college with Chandran as its Secretary. Chandran feels helpless. He immediately seeks the help of Natesan, the Union Secretary and the other guides him properly.

He suggests inviting Principal Brown for the inaugural lecture and Professor Ragavachar for the Chair. Chandran successfully conducts the Inaugural function of the Historical Association, thanks to the guidance of Natesan. Before the academic session is over, he is able to convene a good number of meetings of his association.

Now he is able to understand the amount of hard work and dedication needed for the Secretary to conduct meetings successfully. He realizes the good work done by the Secretaries of other Association in his college. He also understands the significance of the extra-curricular activities in moulding the personality of a college student.

Veeraswami is yet another friend of Chandran gained through the Historical Association of his college:

Veeraswami is yet another friend of Chandran gained through the Historical Association of his college. Veeraswami is down and out anti- British and Imperialism. Veeraswami lands Chandran in a soup by reading a paper belittling Great Britain and thereby incurring the displeasure of Brown and embarrassing Ragavachar. Chandran goes to the extent of resigning his Secretaryship of the Historical Association but desists from doing so at the warning of Ragavachar. Veeraswami proves to be a great bother to Chandran by pursuing him like a fury. Later on Chandran meets Veeraswami in the company of Mohan, when he is having “optical communion” with Malathi.

He learns that Veeraswami has become the captain of “The Resurrection Brigade” and he is enlisting patriotic persons in his Brigade and preparing the country to throw the Imperialistic British out of India. The introduction of Veeraswami in the novel helps the readers locate the setting of the novel in the Colonial India prior to Independence. Veeraswami with his anti-British stance represents the Indian resentment against British Imperialism. He stands for the embryonic stage of the Indian Freedom Movement in the offing.

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