Nitya by R.K. Narayan
In Nitya by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of selfishness, belief, tradition, modernity, control, respect, connection and independence. Taken from his Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of tradition. Nitya’s parents have made a promise to God for helping them when Nitya was a child. Though time has passed they have not forgotten the promise. However Nitya as a young man of twenty does not believe that the promise should be repaid. This may be important as Narayan may be suggesting that Nitya’s parents believe in not only tradition but giving thanks to God. While on the other hand Nitya has no time for God and sees the promise that his parents made as being something foolish and something which is irrelevant and has no meaning. This too could be important as it suggests that when it comes to religion Nitya is a non-believer. He does not see the importance of thanking God for having had his life saved. If anything Nitya’s logic is more like he didn’t ask to be saved when he was two so he is not responsible to God. Something which would highlight how selfish Nitya has become.
In fact Nitya is the only non-believer in the story. Something which makes him stand out. Yet he offers no alternative to his parents when they decide to go to the temple. It is as though Nitya is at a stage in his life in whereby he will disobey his parents for no obvious reason and will also not take their feelings into consideration. Nitya’s biggest fear is that when he has his head shaved he will look out of place to other people and they will laugh at him. It is Nitya’s worries about his appearance which is holding him back for getting his head shaved. Yet Nitya seems to be too proud to say this to anyone. It is also noticeable that Nitya for most of the story wishes to be in control. Something that is noticeable when Nitya tells the priest in the temple that he may cut part of his fringe and nothing else. It may also be a case that Nitya’s parents are too lenient on him and spoil him. Though he is nearly a grown man his father does still have the opportunity to force Nitya to have his head shaven. Though it is a course of action that he does not take.
What is also interesting about the story is that Nitya is not listened to. It is as though he is under the control of his parents, the priest and the barber. It is only when he decides to leave the temple and meet his parent’s at the bust stop. That there is any real sign of resolution. If anything from the moment Nitya left home till her arrived at the temple he has not being a willing participant. He also appears to find fault in everything. The bus being an example. It is as though Nitya demands better for himself yet he is making no contribution to anything he does. His way of communicating with people. Particularly his parents is to show his disapproval of how things are being done. Which may leave some readers to suspect that Nitya has no respect for his parents or the religious path they might choose to follow. If anything Nitya is independent of others. Though it might be important to remember that he is not financial independent of others.
The end of the story is also interesting as Nitya stands up for himself even though it means going against the will of his parents. However as mentioned the reader is aware that Nitya is doing so not out of any religious principle but rather due to his vanity. He is of the age in whereby he considers his physical appearance to be important. What is also interesting is that neither of Nitya’s parents stop Nitya from leaving the temple. Their reasoning most likely being that they can only do so much and that Nitya is now of the age in whereby he can make up his own mind. Nitya may have sought independence and he now has it. He is allowed to make up his own mind and as such leaves the temple. However Nitya is still reliant on his parents to pay for his bus journey home. So Nitya is not as independent as he would like to be. In fact that reader suspects that Nitya is a long way off from true independence. In whereby he can rely on himself for everything that he needs. Be it religion or money. One thing is certain though and that is that Nitya does not have the same connection with God that his parents have. Something that he may regret later in life.