A Client by Raja Rao
In A Client by Raja Rao we have the theme of class, equality, marriage, independence, tradition, modernity and control. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Rao may be exploring the theme of class. Ramu dislikes having to do work for some of his classmates. He feels as though it belittles him when the reality is he sees himself as their equal. Unfortunately for Ramu he does not have the financial backing behind him for those in his class to consider him to be an equal. He is reliant on doing odd jobs for his classmates in order that he can further his education. With the exception of Jayalakshmi Ramu does not feel as though any of his classmates treat him as an equal. This may be important as Jayalakshmi appears to take Ramu at face value. She does not judge him by his financial disposition or his class. In many ways Rao may be suggesting that Jayalakshmi is a strong independent woman. If not a modern woman. She is in control of her life and knows where she is going.
Nanjundayya’s character is also interesting as it is clear to the reader that he is preying on Ramu. Firstly he has the advantage over Ramu as Ramu does not know or recognise him and then secondly he tries to manipulate Ramu through Ramu’s weaknesses. It might also be important to remember that Nanjundayya’s number one goal is not Ramu’s well-being which Nanjundayya feigns an interest in but rather he wants to marry Ramu off. The reader aware that Ramu is no more than a client for Nanjundayya. Nanjundayya makes his money by finding young men to marry young women (or girls) often at the behest of the woman’s father. Something which is clear to the reader. Nanjundayya is simply boosting Ramu’s ego in order that he may receive payment for Ramu marrying someone. At all stages Nanjundayya’s primary interest is in receiving payment from parents for him providing a man or boy for their daughter to marry. Though some critics might suggest that Nanjundayya is a business man the reality may be that he is preying on the innocence of others. Making them believe in things that are not true. At no stage in the story does Nanjundayya suggest that Ramu must love the woman he is to marry. Whereas in today’s terms this might be seen by many to be a prerequisite.
Nanjundayya also appears to be working of an accepted traditional template. In whereby a marriage between a couple is arranged with the prospect of a dowry being paid to the groom However both Ramu and Jayalakshmi appear to be more modern. Putting their education first. Then hopefully securing a good job and then if they want marrying. This may be important as Rao may be attempting to highlight how society is shifting from the traditional view on marriage to one which is more modern and just as accepted. Apart from Jayalakshmi no other woman in the story is in control of their life or destiny. The perspective bride for Ramu is not only still a child but she appears to be subservient to others and one suspects will be subservient to Ramu. Something that may not necessarily be challenging to Ramu’s intellect. It is possible that Ramu when it comes to looking for a wife is looking for an equal. Just as Ramu wishes to be an equal to his classmates he likewise might wish to be equal to his wife or have a wife who is his equal.
It is also noticeable that throughout the story Nanjundayya wishes to be seen to be in control. Whether it is when he is taking to Ramu or the other patrons in the coffee shop. Nanjundayya likes to be in control. Which may mirror Nanjundayya’s view on marriage with the male being the one who is in control. Women in Nanjundayya’s world do not have equality and most likely do not have a voice. The young girl that is being offered to Ramu as a bride is being controlled by her father. Leaving the reader to suspect that she is being forced into a marriage, a loveless marriage. However this is the accepted practices of the time and Rao may simply be putting a spotlight on the realities of the situation. A situation that involves the female (or wife) being answerable to their husband. With little or no freedom and their lives being under the complete control of the male. It is easy to see why Jayalakshmi might prefer to focus on her education and live an independent life. One in which she is in complete control of and which she is able to determine her own destiny. Something that may be alien to many women.