The first distinct memory of Malgudi to me is the depiction of a sleepy homely almost familiar town as shown in our black and white tv on Sunday mornings. Then there were children like me in the town doing stuff which I used to do in my childhood. There were Swaminathan and Mani and their schoolmates. They played cricket in the town’s only playground. They went together to the river side and sat on the riverbank and savoured pickles.
Incidentally, the town I lived in at that time was also beside a river. I had also friends like Mani and we also played cricket. We had teachers too like Samuel and our fathers appeared more or less like Swami’s. So watching the tv series at that time was like seeing incidents of our own lives.
Later in the afternoons when we played in the ground adjacent to our houses in our own sleepy muffassil town, we thought we were just redoing what had been shown on tv. Then when we picked up reading habits, we started exchanging between us storybooks. The books were varied- from detective and adventure novels to comic books or graphic novellas. At that time, some one got ‘Malgudi days’ from the library and as soon as we started reading we realised that the person who should be credited for creating such a wonderous town all by himself was not the director of the tv series actually but R.K.Narayan. The pictures drawn in the pages of the book as illustrations of certain episodes of the stories also moved us so much that one of my friends who had a penchant for drawing, started imitating the style of the artist who drew them. We were equally enthralled to know that the artist was also R.K.( but not Narayan , Laxman as he was , the brother of R.K.Narayan).
The town of Malgudi had that smell and flavour and ambience which could inspire any traveler to hunt for it. Infact for many years, we thought there was actually a town called Malgudi somewhere down south. We were really shocked when we were made to understand that there was no town like that. It was purely fictitious.It was really a hard pill for us to swallow . The river, the post office, the roads, the playground, the school, the whistle of train passing through the railway station, the peepul trees and mango grove- all came together in our impressionable young minds to make such an indelible mark that we sometimes even believed that our town was another Malgudi and R.K. Narayan was someone who had stayed in our town at one point of time or other.