The Vendor of Sweets, by R. K. Narayan Summary

This latest of Narayan’s novels came out in 1967. It is the story of Jagan, a sweet vendor. He is religious-minded and has been considerably influenced by The Gita. He is also a staunch follower of Gandhi and tries to live up to the Gandhian way of life. He wears khadi and spins charkha. However, he is very careful about money and keeps two account books to avoid paying income tax. He is devoted to money and he is also devoted to his twenty-year-old son, Mali. Indeed, it is Mali who is the cause of his undoing. He is a spoiled young man who does not care much for his doting father. One fine morning, he quietly announces his decision to give up his studies so that he may write a novel for a novel competition and win a prize of twenty-five thousand rupees.

However, the father soon discovers that no novel is being written; his darling Son Is merely wasting his time. Further, he comes to know from a cousin that he intends to go to America to learn short-story writing there and that he has already got a passport and booked his seat. To his great shock, he discovers that this has been done by stealing the ten thousand rupees which he had so painstakingly saved. 

Jagan makes the best of a bad bargain, and proudly tells the people that his son is in America. He fondly shows them his letters. But he receives another shock of his life, when in one of his letters his son tells him that he has started taking beef and that they, in India, should follow his example. He receives a further shock when Mali returns home not alone, but with his American wife, Grace. Later, Jagan learns to his great grief that they are not actually married but have been leading an immoral, sinful life. 

The Vendor of Sweets, by R. K. Narayan Summary

Mali now wants to set up a factory for manufacturing story-writing machines. This is to be done with American collaboration and as his share, he needs two and a half lakh rupees. He presses his father to give him the money, for he is sure he has earned that much of money by selling sweets at exorbitant rates and avoiding payment of income tax. The idea that stories can be manufactured by electronic devices is a fine piece of satire on the modern craze for machines.

 Jagan is now a frustrated man. First, he brings down the price of sweets and, thus, offends other sweet vendors of Malgudi. Then, he decides to hand over his business to his son, and free himself to lead a retired life in an ashram across the river.

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