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The following is from R. K. Narayan's novel A Tiger for Malgudi, to be published in summer, 1983, by Viking Press. The hero and narrator of the tale is Raja, a magnificent tiger, eleven feet from head to tail. Lured into captivity, he becomes a circus performer and film star before inadvertently gaining a reputation as a man-eater. But then he meets a holy man and teacher known only as the Master, and in the following passage escapes with him from the circus to go on a final journey into the wilderness. Copyright e 1983 by R. K. Narayan. From A TIGER FOR MALGUDI by R. K. Narayan to be published by Viking Press in August, 1983. A TIGER FOR MALGUDI / R. K. Narayan WE PASSED THROUGH many villages, big and small, towards I don't know where, as I followed my Master; everywhere people made way for us, retreated hurriedly, staring in wonder and disbelief, afraid even to breathe. Crowds which would normally be noisy and jostle looked intimidated by the spectacle, which made my Master remark, "What our country needs most is a tiger for every village and town to keep people disciplined . . ." In some places someone would call out from afar, "Tiger-man, put a collar and chain around your pet—we are terrified . . ." "Come and do it yourself," my Master said. "I will have no objection and I can tell this tiger to remain still while you collar it . . ." We passed on while I stuck close to his heels and moved along without lifting my head or looking at anyone too long. My Master told me, "The eye is the starting point of all evil and mischief. The eye can travel far and pick out objects indiscriminately, mind follows the eye, and rest of the body is conditioned by the mind. Thus starts a chain of activity which may lead to trouble and complication, or waste of time, if nothing else; and so don't look at anything except the path." Sometimes I could not resist looking at cattle or other creatures, which I would normally view as my rightful prize. But I'd immediately avert my eyes when I realized what I was doing. We were about to descend the slope of a hillock when we noticed in the valley below a procession passing. People were dragging a flower-decorated chariot with pipes and drums. The chariot carried the image of God, and there was much rejoicing and dancing and singing, and scattering of flowers. Vendors of fruits or sweets were doing a brisk business with children swarming around. But at the moment we were seen, everyone ran for safety. God's chariot was abandoned in the middle of the road; the drummers and pipers abruptly stopped their music and, clutching their instruments, ran madly. My Master said to me, "Stay here, and don't move even if people come near or touch you." He left me there and ran forward and said to those on the run, "Come, come back, don't abandon your God. Draw the chariot along. Come on, come on. My tiger is godly, and loves a procession." He went after the piper and the drummer, and brought them back forcibly, saying, "That tiger of ours is musically inclined, and won't like to be cheated out of it. Go on, play your pipes. This tiger is no real tiger at all. He just looks like one, that's all. He loves you all. Go on . . ." With their gaze fixed in my direction they played nervously. The chariot wheels moved again and the crowd followed, although in a subdued spirit. The children did not 240 · The Missouri Review laugh or dance; the sweet-sellers did not cry their wares. "This pains me very much, how can I prove you are a friend?" said my Master, falling back. We took a detour and went forward. At another place we went into a rioting mob—groups of people were engaged in a bloody strife, attacking each other with stone, knife, and iron rod, and screaming murderous challenges. In their frenzy they had not noticed us, but when they did, they dispersed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 139-154
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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