There are those who love R K Narayan's Malgudi. And there are those who hate it.
For a long time I was in the latter category.
When I was in Delhi, living in a shack with a friend, an engineer by profession, I was astounded by my friend's love for Narayan's novels. That guy had bought a number of Narayan's novels, and in the dingy room, used to read them with great relish. One reason was surely the price. Narayan's novels came for less than US$1 a copy while other novels would easily cost you more than US$4. Now the prices have gone further up. The other reason, I guess, was the novels' accessible language. And Narayan's novels were never fat (as compared to, say, Midnight's Children, or Trotternama, or better still, A Suitable Boy). They were slim volumes about life in small town India, written with gentle humour. I guess my friend appreciated all these qualities in Narayan's novels.
As a kid, I had seen Narayan's Malgudi days as a television series on Doordarshan. I had liked it. The humour was lost to me but I had liked the South Indian culture wherein the stories were set. Later, I saw the Dev Anand movie, The Guide. I found it only so so. The only interesting thing for me in the movie was the character of the archeologist--It was rare kind of character in a Hindi movie--who was finally cuckolded in the story.
In those days, I was reading the novels of Krishan Chander, the Urdu writer. I used to fantasize about his stories being made into movies. For example, I was especially taken up by his novel, A Violin by the Sea. It's protagonist was a history professor in a US University. If I remember correctly, the story was based on the themes of love and reincarnation. The novel was begging to be made into a Hindi film. Alas, no one ever paid any attention to it.
One day I decided to read Narayan. I picked up his (supposedly) best work, The English Teacher. It was well-written, and I was enjoying the read until it began treading into the metaphysical world. Maybe Narayan was trying his own (Indian) style of magic realism which bored me. I guess nobody has looked at this aspect of Narayan's work and it is time someone did.
I have reserved Narayan on my reading list. Maybe with age, I will be able to enjoy his brand of homour. Something like this happened to Jaithirth Rao. Read his essay here.