R. K. Narayan is Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, commonly known as R. K. Narayan, was born on October 10, 1906 in Madras (Chennai). He is popular for his stories based in the fictional town called Malgudi. Narayan used humor as an effective tool to highlight different social issues. He received the second and third highest civilian awards of India, namely the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan, for his exemplary work in the field of writing. He was also honored with the AC Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature, in addition to a Sahitya Akademi Fellowship.

Narayan breathed his last on May 13, 2001 in Chennai.


Swami and Friends is R. K. Narayan’s first published work. The novel depicts the life and adventures of young Swami and his friends. Ten-year-old Swami leads a mundane life. Like all kids his age, he hates doing homework and is afraid to go to school. Swami and his four friends – Mani, Pea, Shankar and Rajam – are the central characters in the story. The five boys live in Malgudi, a fictional town located on the banks of river Sarayu. While all of them have different personalities, the five friends are all passionate about the Malgudi Cricket Club (MCC).

Swami is especially close to Rajam, who is a new admission to the school. Rajam is a bright boy who has the guts to stand up to Mani, the overlord of the class. He can speak English like the haughty Englishmen. Swami is so bedazzled by the charisma of Rajam that his friends start calling him “the tail of Rajam”.

Swami and Rajam’s friendship is put to the test when Swami, inspired by the unrest in India in 1930, is caught throwing stones at the headmaster’s office. Rajam does not appreciate Swami’s participation in such anti-government activities and is forced to end their friendship.


The central theme of the book is childhood. The author has beautifully highlighted how children are influenced by their community and surroundings. The lighthearted take on the dual nature of human beings resonates with readers. The author’s depiction of Swami’s relations with his parents, teachers, friends and grandmother is quite endearing. Equally adorable is Narayan’s effortless portrayal of a myriad of emotions such as innocence, love, haste, naughtiness, envy and optimism.


Nothing, really. Swami and Friends is a masterpiece from R.K. Narayan. The short, crisp novel appeals to all types of readers. The book is rather perfect in almost every aspect.


Ameya Rating:

Swami and Friends is just about the ideal book for beginners. The author’s use of humor and wit make this a fairly interesting read. Even though the book is set in the pre-Independence era, the author’s clarity makes the story really relatable even in this age. While reading through the chapters, you can actually relate to each and every character. Adult readers will do well not to catch themselves recollecting their school days with a grin. All in all, this timeless piece is a perfect read for children and grown-ups alike.

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