Selvi by R.K. Narayan
In Selvi by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of control, appearance, self-importance, selfishness, greed, desperation and freedom. Taken from his Malgudi Days 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 control. Mohan has absolute control over Selvi. He runs her entire life and decides upon everything she will do. He is also responsible for how Selvi looks. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Mohan chooses which make-up Selvi should wear. This may be important as due to the make-up that Selvi wears her fans can’t figure out what colour Selvi’s skin is. Mohan ensuring that Selvi looks different to others and in many ways trying to make her stand out from others. It is by playing with Selvi’s image that Mohan manages to give Selvi an allusion of being something else. Something that will make Mohan rich. Which at the end of the day is Mohan’s goal. He wants to be wealthy and liked by those who are important and he sees Selvi as being the vehicle to this goal. If anything Selvi is no more than a product to Mohan. It may also be important at no stage in the story does Mohan treat Selvi as being his equal. Even though it is her talent that has made him a rich and respected man.
Selvi herself may play a role in how she is treated by Mohan. At no stage does she speak out. The only exception being when her mother dies. Apart from this Selvi does as she is instructed to do by Mohan. It is as though her art is the most important thing to Selvi. Though it is noticeable that she has attempted to stay in touch with her family. However she does not persist when Mohan tells her that she is too busy to see her family. It is as though there is no balance in Selvi’s life. Mohan’s greed has ensured that Selvi has no free time. Not even for her family. It might also be important that Mohan sits himself in the centre of the front row when Selvi is singing. It is as though he is trying to show others that he is the most important person in the room. It was he who discovered and nurtured Selvi’s talents. However the reality is very different. Mohan saw an opportunity to make money and grabbed it at the first available chance.
If anything Mohan has built his life around Selvi’s talent and while doing so has looked out for nobody but himself. Everything that Mohan has achieved has been a result of not his abilities but Selvi’s abilities. Throughout the story Selvi has acted selfishly and is driven solely by greed. It might also be important that Mohan limits who can see Selvi when they are at home as Mohan may be trying to completely control Selvi’s life (professional and personal). Ensuring that there are no outside influences in Selvi’s life and that Mohan is the only one who gets close to Selvi. If anything Selvi is not really living her life to the fullest. She is doing as she is instructed by Mohan. He has absolute control over Selvi’s actions. Which is exactly the way the Mohan wants things to be. Selvi after all has made Mohan a wealthy man and rather than being happy Mohan wants more money. In reality Mohan is living his life based on the benefits of being Selvi’s husband and manager. He makes little or no contribution to Selvi’s life.
The end of the story is also interesting as Narayan appears to be exploring the theme of desperation. When Selvi moves back into her mother’s home. Mohan is desperate to get her back. Not so much because he loves her but because she has professional commitments that he wants her to honour. At no stage does Mohan sympathise with Selvi for the loss of her mother instead he deals with her strictly as though everything was normal. He is also shocked that Selvi would wish to live in her mother’s home rather than returning to Lawley Terrace. This may be important as Narayan may be highlighting the fact that for Selvi the only thing that matters is her roots, where she came from. Mohan on the other hand does not understand this. He cannot imagine as to why Selvi will not come home to the nicer and larger Lawley Terrace. Even more disturbing for Mohan is the fact that Selvi is singing for free. Just as she did when she was a child. If anything Selvi’s mother’s death has liberated Selvi from Mohan. She no longer relies on him and more importantly she is no longer controlled by him. Selvi’s mother’s death has brought a sense of freedom into Selvi’s life. She can now live her life as she wants.