Describe the rural life as described in R. K. Narayan’s short story ‘A Horse and Two Goats’.
R. K. Narayan’s story ‘A Horse and Two Goats’ is set in a fictional south Indian village named Kritam. Kritam was a tiny village with less than thirty houses. The country people were mostly illiterate and poor. They relied on cultivating their lands or grazing domestic animals like goats and ships to earn a bare living at the day’s end. But only one family was prosperous. It was the village headman who had apparently duped those poor people by lending money and charging high interest and made a lot of money and built a brick house — the only one to be seen in the village.
The village consisted of thirty houses, only one of them built with brick and cement.
Muni, the protagonist of the story was such a poor man that he even had to stay unfed on some days. Once upon a time, he had a flock of forty sheep and goats but those days were gone now. He now grazed his two goats in the outskirts of the village near the highway. His wife sometimes worked in the Big House in the village. She ground corn or swept or scrubbed somewhere to buy foodstuffs and get a meal for her husband. Sometimes, Muni would shake down drumsticks from the tree in front of his hut and express his desire for a change of taste.
Oh, I am tired of eating those leaves. I have a craving to chew the drumsticks out of sauce, I tell you.
But his desire remained unfulfilled as there were no other food stuffs available to make a meal. The shop owner owed five rupees and a quarter to Muni and rejected to offer more on credit. Mani didn’t even see a hundred rupee note in his life. He had only earned in coppers and nickels.
He knew the five and ten by their colours although always in other people’s hands, while his own earnings at any time was in coppers and nickels.
But it was not only Muni. Hunger and poverty was rather common in the village areas. Things were worsening with time, as we see how Muni’s had become so poor from a prosperous life once. Famines were also prevalent in those days.
He always calculated his age from the time of the great famine…but who could calculate such things accurately nowadays with so many famines occurring?
People did not have high ambitions. Rather they were content with their uncomplicated life while their only concern had been to find food for their daily needs. Setting up a small shop with the capital by selling his goats was all Muni had hoped and dreamt of.
He had often dreamt how he would put up a thatched roof here, spread a gunny sack out on the ground, and display on it fried nuts, coloured sweets, and green coconut for the thirsty and famished wayfarers on the highway…
Social classes and the caste system were prevalent in the village. Only Brahmins could go to school. Only learned men and officers knew English. The village headman had hoarded all the resources to the displeasure of the poor villagers like Muni. He hated Muni and his goats and gave false allegations against him of stealing a pumpkin from his farm.
He thinks nobody knows, but dig the floor of his puja room and your head will reel at the sight of the hoard. The man disguises himself in rags just to mislead the public.
The village people were apparently peaceful. There were small incidents of theft of animals or food though. Moreover, jackals and cheetahs would sometimes carry off the goats and sheep. These were the only occasional disasters that happened to them. Otherwise things were pretty usual throughout their dull life.
People were afraid of policemen and soldiers as they either experienced or heard of disastrous consequences of messing up with them. This was mostly due to their ignorance of the outside world. They were also afraid of the village headman. Those poor people had never stepped beyond the village. They had never attended a school. They knew only their local Tamil language. And Muni stared at the busses and lorries passing by on the highway and counted himself to be a part of the larger world. They were also ignorant of the artistic value of the statue of the horse. The American man bought for a hundred rupees but Mani thought that the money was paid for his goats.
Superstitions and prejudices were rampant in those days. Muni believed in what the Pandit discoursed at the temple once — how the oceans were going to cover the earth in a huge wave and shallow all people and how the horse would grow bigger to carry off the good people on its back. People believed that the world would get destroyed once the Kali Yuga ends. Having numerous children was considered to be a blessing.
I hope God has blessed you with numerous progeny.
Thus, the author has painted a complete and vivid picture of rural India full of poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, superstition and class distinction through the life of Muni in his story ‘A Horse and Two goats’.