He liked everything about her the way she played with her sister; the way she dug her hand in the sand and threw it in the air. He paused only for a moment to observe the girl. But for the presence of the people on the river bank, he would have sat there and watched her for the rest of his life.
Chandran visited the river bank in the evenings regularly and his ‘optical communion’ with the young girl became his daily habit:
However Chandran visited the river bank in the evenings regularly and his ‘optical communion’ with the young girl became his daily habit. He was able to gather several facts about the girl. She wore a dark sari and a green sari alternately. She came to the river mainly for the sake of her little companion. She was absent on most Fridays and came late on Wednesdays.
He concluded that she went to the temple on Fridays, and was delayed by music or stitching master on Wednesdays. He further gathered that she was of a religious disposition, and was an adept in music or embroidery. Her playing with her young companion showed that she had a loving disposition. He also felt that she had no brothers, since not a single soul escorted her on any evening. Encouraged by this conclusion, he thought why he should not talk to her before she left for her home.
He might even accompany her to her house. If things went well, they could even walk together under the moon or in magic starlight. His optical fulfilment gave much peace to Chandran. He went home praying to God to bless his romance with success. All night he repeated her name and fervently hoped that her soul heard his call through the night.
Chandran followed the girl and found that she was living opposite Modern Indian Lodge where Mohan was staying:
A month passed like this and Chandran decided that he should do something more practical than merely sitting and staring at her from a distance. So when she left home one day, he followed her from a safe distance. He noticed her enter a house in Mill Street. He paced before the house to see if there was any board before the house. But there was none. He then suddenly remembered that Mohan lived in that street in Modern Indian Lodge. He searched up and down the street for the lodge and found it was the building opposite the girl’s house. He went to Mohan’s room in the lodge.
Chandran was able to collect a lot of information about his darling through the help of Mohan:
Chandran was able to collect a lot of information about his darling through the help of Mohan. He learnt that her name was Malathi; she was unmarried; she was the daughter of Mr. D.W. Krishna Iyer who worked as Head Clerk in the Executive Engineer’s Office at Malgudi. Chandran was greatly relieved to learn that the girl’s was an Iyer belonging to the same caste and sub-caste as he.
If the girl’s father had been an Iyengar or Rao or Mudaliar, his father would certainly cast him off for trying to marry out of caste. In each fact, that Mohan lived opposite her house, that she was unmarried, that her father was an “Iyer”, Chandran considered that God was answering his prayers.
Chandran made bold to open the topic of his marriage with the girl, Malathi to his father:
Chandran prayed to God to give him the courage to talk this matter out to his father. Twice he approached his father but he did not have the courage to talk about his marriage. Then he chided himself for his cowardice and went to his father when he was alone as his mother had gone out and his brother Seenu had gone to school.
He told his father that he wanted to marry the girl, Malathi, the daughter Mr. D.W. Krishna Iyer who worked as Head Clerk in the Executive Engineer’s Office at Malgudi. His father asked him if he had seen and talked to her. Chandran told him that he had often seen her but not talked to her. His father asked him why he was particular about this girl and not any other. Chandran told him that he liked that girl. His father then told him that he did not know anything about these things and he had to speak to his mother.
Chandran’s mother argued with him regarding the choice of the girl for his marriage:
Later on Chandran’s mother came to his room and asked him what he meant about his talking about his desire of marrying a girl, the mere daughter of a Head Clerk. She asked him why he should not consider any of the dozens of girls that had been proposed to him. Chandran rejected the suggestion resentfully.
His mother pointed out to him that the other girls might be richer and more beautiful than the one he had chosen. He told her that he did not care for the other choices. He should marry that girl and no one else. His mother told him that they had to keep their honour and good name in the town. She further told him that marriage was not a child’s play as he took it to be. She left the room in a temper.
The hostility between Chandran and his parents did not last beyond a week as his parents could not bear the sight of unhappy Chandran for long:
The hostility between Chandran and his parents did not last beyond a week as his parents could not bear the sight of unhappy Chandran for long. For his sake they were prepared to compromise to the extent that they were ready to consider the marriage proposal if it came from the bride’s side. As they belonged to the bridegroom’s side would not make the first move on any count and make themselves a laughing stock of the community.
Chandran raved at his mother to throw their silly customs to the dust-pot. But his mother replied that they were not worse a bit than the present.
However, Chandran’s parents sought the help of their family matchmaker Ganapathi Sastrigal:
However, Chandran’s parents sought the help of their family matchmaker Ganapathi Sastrigal. He informed Chandran’s mother that they could consider the proposal from Krishna Iyer as he belonged to a noble family. He went and met Krishna Iyer and his wife and the girl. The girl was smart, tall with a good figure. She had just completed fourteen and they were going to marry her this season.
The Sastrigal then told Chandran’s mother that they were prepared to give a cash dowry of about two thousand rupees, silver vessels and presents up to thousand, a thousand worth of diamond and gold on the girl, and spend about a thousand on wedding celebration. He suggested to Krishna Iyer that he might propose Chandran. Krishna Iyer was happy to do so and agreed to send the girl’s horoscope to Chandran’s parents the very next day itself. But Chandran was disappointed as the horoscope was not sent even after two days.
Chandran was afraid that his mother might stall the marriage proposal with her bickering over the dowry and the presents:
There was good news for Chandran at home. Ganapathi Sastrigal came in the evening with the girl’s horoscope. He explained that Krishna Iyer did not send the horoscope as the two previous days were inauspicious. He took Chandran’s horoscope with him to give it to the girl’s people. So the first courtesies were exchanged. Chandran was very happy the whole of next day. But his mother constantly checked his enthusiasm.
She warned him that he must not think that the next thing now to be settled was the date of marriage. First of all Chandran’s family astrologer must see if the girl’s horoscope could be matched with Chandran’s and the girl’s astrologer must also see what their astrologer had to say. If the horoscopes were found to tally, then the girl’s people must come and invite Chandran’s family to come and see the girl. Chandran told his mother that he had already seen the girl and he liked her very much.
He was afraid that his mother would throw obstacles on his way over the question of dowry. His mother told him that they could not cheapen themselves before them. Chandran then told his mother that he would never forgive her if her bickering over the dowry and the presents stalled the marriage proposal. His mother told him that they had to keep up their status and prestige.
Krishna Iyer informed Chandran’s father that the horoscopes of Chandran and his daughter did not match:
A couple of days later Chandran’s father received a letter from D.W. Krishna Iyer. In that letter Krishna Iyer had stated that he was sorry to inform that as per the opinion of his family astrologer, the horoscope of Chandran could not be matched with that of his daughter. So he was returning the horoscope of Chandran. He had a firm opinion in horoscopes and the marriage of couples of ill-matched in the stars often led to misfortune and even tragedy.
He was sorry that he could not have an alliance with their family and he wished to be excused for any inconvenience caused to them by him. Chandran’s father read the letter and passed it on to Chandran. Chandran read the letter, returned it to his father and went to his room without speaking a word. Just when Father was dressed and ready to go out, Chandran came out of his room and in a thick voice asked him if he would still try and find out if something could not be done.
Chandran’s father wrote to Krishna Iyer the next day asking him to come and see him the next evening:
Chandran’s father wrote to Krishna Iyer the next day asking him to come and see him the next evening. Krishna Iyer came next evening as requested. After the initial courtesies of coffee and inane inquiries were over, Chandran’s father asked Krishna Iyer why the horoscopes did not match. Krishna Iyer told him that there was a flaw in Chandran’s horoscope with the presence of Mars in the Seventh House.
So it could not be matched with a pure horoscope of his daughter. He knew a little of astrology himself and he did not want to take any risk as Mars in the Seventh House of the groom kills the bride soon after the marriage. Chandran’s father wanted to drop the issue at this point, but when he remembered that Chandran had shut himself in his room, he sent for the Srouthigal, an eminent astrologer and almanac-compiler in the town.
The next day there was a conference over the question of the stars and their potency between Srouthigal and Krishna Iyer:
The next day there was a conference over the question of the stars and their potency. After elaborate study and calculations of Chandran’s horoscope, Srouthigal said that there was nothing wrong with Chandran’s horoscope. Krishna Iyer was sent for, and he came. Srouthigal told Krishna Iyer that the horoscopes of Chandran and Krishna Iyer’s daughter were well matched. Srouthigal ruled out Krishna Iyer’s objection of the position of Mars in Chandran’s horoscope.
He told the other that Mars had now become powerless as it was under the sway of the Sun, which looks at it from the Fifth House. Srouthigal further told Krishna Iyer that the evil aspect of Mars in Chandran’s horoscope lasted only up to the age of twenty.
As he was now twenty-three, Mars became powerless. But Krishna Iyer told the Srouthigal that according to his calculations based on Vakya almanac, the power of Mars lasted till the boy reached twenty five. Srouthigal wished that Krishna Iyer had better consulted the Drig Almanac. But Krishna Iyer told him that they had been following the Vakya almanac in their family for generations and nothing had gone wrong.
Krishna Iyer stuck to his guns regarding the evil aspect of Mars in Chandran’s horoscope:
However, Krishna Iyer took the papers with him promising to calculate again and reconsider. The next day he wrote to Chandran’s father that he had worked all night till dawn on the horoscopes with their family astrologer along with him. He did not find any major change from his earlier observation. Any one who was not a fanatic of the Drig system would see that potency of Mars lasted very nearly till the boy’s twenty-fifth year.
It was a question of life and death to a girl. Mars had never known to spare. He killed. So he did not want to take risk. He was sorry that he missed the opportunity of an alliance with their great house. He earnestly wished that God blessed Mr. Chandran with a suitable bride soon.
Chandran suggested to his father that he would wait till twenty-five when the power of Mars would be nullified and asked his father to tell the girl’s people to wait for two more years:
Chandran’s mother was terribly angry with her husband for having taken this matter thus far. They had gained a black dot on Chandran’s horoscope for associating with people like Krishna Iyer. If they went on spreading the rumour that Chandran had Mars, he would have no chance of getting a girl. They had invited all this trouble for just trying to stoop from their position. After she was gone, Chandran suggested to his father that he would wait till twenty-five when the power of Mars would be nullified.
He asked his father to tell the girl’s people to wait for two more years so that Chandran could marry their girl. Chandran’s father knew that it would be perfectly useless to reason things with him. So he simply told Chandran that he would try to meet Krishna Iyer and suggest this idea to him. Thereafter Chandran asked his father if he had met Krishna Iyer, and Father gave the stock reply that Krishna Iyer could not be found.
Chandran wrote a letter to Malathi asking her if she could wait for him for two more years:
After waiting for a few days Chandran wrote a letter to Malathi. He saw to it that it did not appear to be a love letter. According to him, it was a simple, mater of fact letter. It only contained an account of his love for her and explained the difficulties presented by horoscopes for their marriage, and asked if she was prepared to wait for him for two years.
It was enough if she expressed her reply by a single word “Yes” or “No” on a piece of paper and post it to him. He enclosed a stamped self-addressed envelope for her reply. He took this letter to Mohan and asked to deliver the letter to her. Mohan pointed out to him the difficulty of a young man giving a letter to a young girl her in her house and the consequences he had to face. But Chandran requested him to do that help for it was his last chance. He began sobbing. He said he would wait till he received a reply.
Chandran was disappointed to learn that Malathi’s people were celebrating her Wedding Notice:
Thereafter Chandran regularly went to Lawley Extension Post Office and asked the postman if there was any letter for him. This became his daily routine. A fortnight later, Chandran went to Mohan’s house on the Mill Street to ask him why there was no reply for him from Malathi yet. As he neared Mohan’s lodge, he noticed Malathi’s house being decorated with plantain stems and festoons of mango leaves. Two Kitson lamps were making the house shine in greenish brilliance. A piper was playing Kalyani raga to the accompaniment of a drummer.
As these were marks of an auspicious event, Chandran’s body trembled. He rushed to Mohan and asked him what was going in the opposite house. Mohan told him that Krishna Iyer’s family was celebrating the Wedding Notice for their daughter who was going to marry her cousin the next week. Chandran asked Mohan what happened to his letter to Malathi. Mohan told Chandran that he could not get a chance to deliver it and only that morning he destroyed it on learning that she was to be married. Chandran threw an angry look at him, bade a good-bye and left his room in a bad mood.
Chandran left for Madras for a change:
Chandran developed fever that night. He recorder high temperature and raved. When he recovered in about ten days, he requested his father that he be sent to Madras for a change. His father gave him fifty rupees. He sent a wire to his brother at Madras to meet Chandran at Egmore Station. He put Chandran in a train going to Madras. Chandran’s mother and brother were also at the station to see him off.
His mother asked him to return to Malgudi hale and healthy without any worry in his head. Father said that he could write for more money if he needed it. Seenu, his brother asked him to get him a Junior Willard cricket bat from Messrs. Binns in Mount Road, Madras. As the train started, Mother wiped her tears, and Father stood looking after the train.
The consequences of Malathi-Chandran’s love affair were the disruption of his plan to go to England for higher studies, his open conflict with his parents and his becoming a sanyasi:
Prior to his meeting Malathi, Chandran was planning to go to England to take his doctorate in Literature and return home and settle down by taking the post of a lecturer in the local college. But this plan went haywires because of his infatuation for Malathi. Everything was normal and his relationship with his parents was very warm and cordial.
But his love and desire to marry Malathi brought him into open conflict with his parents and especially his mother. He hated all the customs and conventions held sacrosanct by his mother and his own clan standing in the way of realizing his goal. Chandran’s love affair with Malathi also indicated the theme of Chandran growing up into adulthood from being a young lad at Albert Mission College.
He was able to think progressively by pointing out to his mother that asking for dowry from the girls’ parents would amount to exploitation of their anxiety to get the girls married before they attained puberty. His was the voice of reason while his mother’s was one of emotion.
Chandran who enjoyed the friendship of Veeraswami and Mohan while at college, now considered them to be a hindrance when they distracted his “optical communion” with his darling Malathi at the beach. But later on he had to depend on Mohan to gather a lot of information about Malathi as he was living in the hotel opposite her house. Finally when he learnt that Mohan did not deliver his letter to Malathi, he angrily bade a good-bye to him and retired to his house. Moreover, Chandran’s love affair with Malathi is significant from the point of view of the plot of the novel. It develops the disorder and conflict in the plot.
The harmony in the family of Chandran was lost. Everyone was unhappy. When Chandran learnt of the Wedding Notice celebration for Malathi, he became shattered. He lost savour of life and left home for Madras. The bitter experiences at Madras made him lose all interest in life and prompt him to become a sanyasi. He considered love and friendship were illusions and he had been chasing the shadows all along.