Lawley Road by R.K. Narayan
In Lawley Road by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of independence, corruption, power, loyalty and identity. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the first person by the Talkative Man and after reading the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of independence and the difficulties that can come with independence. The Municipality of Malgudi though they have won their freedom from the British incur difficulties when trying to stamp their own seal on Malgudi. Not only do some of the streets have the same names which is impractical but the honesty of some of the Council members and the Chairman is in question. This may be important as Narayan may be suggesting that when a country gets its independence from another country things may not necessarily run smoothly or appropriately. If anything some of the things that happen in Malgudi when they obtain independence is ridiculous. Particularly when it comes to Sir Lawley’s statue. The Talkative Man ends up bringing the statue to his home yet the statue sticks out of the Talkative Man’s house. It is too big. Which might be the point that Narayan is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that since Lawley himself was a large presence in Malgudi (for good) it is going to be difficult for anybody to really displace him. Though it’s true he has been taken off his pedestal. He still nonetheless has an enormous presence in the Talkative Man’s home. Which in many ways mirrors the British presence in India prior to independence.
Narayan may also be exploring the theme of corruption. The Chairman of the Council rather than having to face re-election buys with his own money the Talkative Man’s house so that he can repurchase the statue of Lawley. This may be important as Narayan may be suggesting that the Chairman is abusing his power in order to remain in office. Though the Municipality of Malgudi cannot afford to buy the statue back from the Talkative Man. The Chairman and his council should have at least had a contingency plan that did not involve personal monies being used for public projects. Though it is also possible that Narayan is suggesting that at the time of Malgudi’s independence from Britain. No monies were available to the council and the only option when dealing with public matters was to use private funds. The reader also suspects that the Chairman would not be long out of pocket should prosperity return to Malgudi. If anything it is possible that the Chairman would have been at the front of the queue for a refund of monies he has invested in Malgudi.
The only loyalty that the Chairman may have is to himself and not to the general public who are living in Malgudi. Which would further suggest an element of corruption when it comes to the political activities of the Chairman. It is also interesting that the Chairman only changes his mind about Lawley’s statue when there is a national outcry and it becomes clear that the Talkative Man has mistakenly pulled down the statue of the wrong Lawley. This may be important as it is possible that Narayan is exploring the theme of identity by way of Lawley’s statue. It is also possible that Narayan is highlighting that not every British person who came to India was unfair to those who lived in India. Lawley’s statue was originally placed on its pedestal by those in Malgudi who were grateful to Lawley. It is not a shrine that Lawley himself decided on building and imposing on the people of Malgudi.
How well respected Lawley actually is noticeable by the fact that so many protestors are protesting outside the Talkative Man’s home. It is also interesting that the only one who profits financially from the whole adventure that is Lawley’s statue is the Talkative Man. It may also be ironic that the street where the statue is will now be called Lawley Road. This is contrary to the original plans of the Chairman and the Council. Who had decided when renaming all the streets to use the names of people from India. If anything the Chairman has shown that he is inefficient at his job. Reacting to each crisis in a knee jerk manner and using his own money to stay in power. Which leaves the reader wondering as to what independence from Britain really means to those who live in Malgudi. Rather than being able to make their own decisions they are still answerable to the national voice and it is only because of this voice that the Chairman on fear of losing his job decided that Lawley’s statue should be re-erected and that the road where he stands be renamed. Which in many ways mirrors the activities of the British during their occupation of India (and Malgudi). Malgudi may not be as independent as it likes to think it is.