A Night of Cyclone by R. K. Narayan is the next story in the collection A Town Called Malgudi, that I have been reading for the last few days. Just like Lawley Road, this story is also narrated by Talkative Man (TM). However, this time the story is not based in Malgudi and TM is a newly married man, as opposed to the carefree bachelor of Talkative Man or the seasoned father of Lawley Road. The story is related to the time when TM was hired as a supervisor by a Sowcar in Vizagapatnam, for keeping a tab on the contractor and for ensuring smooth construction work.
TM, as exhibited in earlier stories, is an enterprising man, be it removal of a statue or looking after a stranger, he excels at everything! So, it goes without saying that he is able to keep the contractor on a tight leash, and the work is progressing at a regular speed.
In the beginning of the story, sitting in his beach facing home, TM is counting his blessings. He has an easy job. His marital life is at its most joyous juncture, ripe with the expectations of first child. And his house is situated in the finest locality, with sea not even ten yards from his doorsteps. In short, the story begins on a happy note, defying the title. And, while TM enjoys his extended honeymoon, away from the eyes of envious relations, I wondered whether a storm was around the corner.
Narayan loves to surprise the readers. His stories follow principle of ebb and flow quite diligently. There is always a sudden twist in Narayan’s stories. Amidst the peaceful existence, enters a sudden typhoon that disrupts routine life and creates utter chaos. And the present story is no different in this aspect. The blessings counted above are soon converted into curses over a period of few hours. As one fine morning, the nature decides to seek revenge for all atrocities committed by man in his blind race to achieve success. The elements unleash a hidden fury and the calm, serene sea is converted into a catastrophic expanse of dirty blood. In short, the sun filled day is exchanged for a dark night of cyclone, with a single man pitched against multitude of adversaries.
The natural calamity coincides with TM’s personal problems as his pregnant wife gets labor pains in the middle of typhoon. Stranded in a strange town, with no friends or relatives to call upon, TM comes face to face with a voluminous challenge. As the story progressed, Narayan delved deeper into TM’s agony. And, if you have read a novel by Narayan, you can readily understand that the author simply excels in the portrayal of grief. He never exhibits any external emotions, but each word acts as a pointed arrow aimed at readers’ heart. And, I must say that in just eight pages, Narayan has successfully created a dramatic tragedy.
The present story has a strange appeal. It begins on a happy note, but grows into a steady stream of hardships heaped over a single man by joint forces of nature and destiny. I noticed quite a few similarities between English Teacher and the present story. Both of them begin in a comical, easy way. A height of elation is achieved and then a sudden fatal blow is delivered to the protagonist.
However, thankfully, TM is able to save his wife from the cruel clutches of evil death unlike Krishna in English Teacher. All the problems are sorted out in the end and a happy climax is achieved. Nevertheless, A Night of Cyclone is etched as a long lasting memory in the life of TM, which he proudly displays to his guests.
The story is rich in language, garlanded with choicest of emotions. Some sentences really stand out for their sheer force and add to the charismatic appeal. I especially liked the happy ending, where TM introduces the fruit of his hard work on the night of cyclone i.e his son.
I think, this is one of those rare stories that are set out of Malgudi. Otherwise, as far as the style and narration is concerned, it is a typical Narayan work, transforming the ordinary man’s story into an extra ordinary experience!