Fellow-Feeling by R.K. Narayan
In Fellow-Feeling by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of conflict, class, tension, bravery, bitterness and disbelief. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that Narayan may be exploring the theme of conflict. Rajam Iyer while sitting in the cabin on the train comes under pressure from another passenger who is trying to move his way around the compartment. If anything the other man is attempting to take over the seat that another passenger is lying on. This annoys Rajam and he gets into a conversation with the other passenger and before long they are having an argument based on the caste system that exists in India. With Rajma being deemed to be higher up in the caste system because he is a Brahmin. Something that annoys the other passenger who does not believe the Brahmin have the right to be better than others and in his eyes they are no better than him. This debate about the class or caste system heightens the argument between Rajam and the other passenger. Tensions rise to a point that both men eventually stand toe to toe ready to fight each other.
This may be important as Narayan may be highlighting the animosity that existed in India at the time the story was written between social classes or castes. With many believing possibly that the only difference between classes were through birth right. Where a member of the Brahmin class was meant to be respected this is not the case for Rajam. If anything he is treated as the enemy by the passenger in the cabin. Who also does not believe in giving any respect to Rajam. Something that is noticeable by his refusal to do anything that Rajam asks him to do. When it comes to not disturbing the passenger who is lying in his seat. It might also be important that Rajam is polite throughout his conversation with the other passenger and if anything it is the other passenger who is looking for a fight. A fight for the other passenger would exert his authority over Rajam. Which would be good enough for the other passenger. It is as though the other passenger is bitter about the caste or class system that operates in India. Most likely because he is on the lower ends of the scale and as such finds it difficult to respect those who may be considered of a better class or caste than him.
Rajam also acts bravely when it comes to his dealing with the other passenger. He knows that he is physically smaller than him but uses the education he has to outwit the other passenger. No man wants to have their mouth on the left side of their face and Rajam uses not only wit but the other passengers fear to diffuse the situation. If anything Rajam has acted intelligently and bravely. He knows that should he fight the other passenger on his terms he is sure to lose. It is also interesting that the other passenger blames Rajam on the increase in meat. Meaning others who do not have the same money as Rajam are unable to purchase meant. At no stage in the story does the other passenger show any type of liking for Rajam, his class or his caste. With his belief being that Rajam (and his classes) days are numbered. Though on this occasion Rajam has gotten the better of the passenger. It might also be true to say that the other passenger is bitter about the circumstances he finds himself in. Circumstances he sees no justification for.
There is also a sense of disbelief at the end of the story when Rajam tells his fellow passengers that the other passenger has moved down to the fourth compartment of the train. The meek passenger who had originally rolled himself into a ball on his seat believes Rajam. However one or two of the other passengers are sceptical. This may be important as Narayan may be suggesting that the other passengers who are sceptical are still in fear over what has happened. There is nothing to stop the other passenger from moving up the train and entering their cabin again. Which might be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that both the class and caste system in India may be under constant treat from others. The rules that everybody has lived by for generations may be in jeopardy. With man pitting his wits against man due to the social system that exists in India. Those at the lower end of the class and caste system may not see why they have to be treated differently to others and as such may eventually revolt against the systems that are in place. Rajam is only an example of the many different castes that exist in India and may be unique when it comes to his ability to fight back.