Narayan’s The English Teacher came some time after Dark Room as the author had
tough time dealing with the death of his wife Rajam. This story is an autobiography of
Narayan and he has used his pain and travails into the narration. This is a unique love
story of a 30 something, English lecturer named Krishna in Malgudi’s Albert Mission
The story starts in the hostel of Albert Mission College located in Malgudi. Krishna had
been a student in the same college. Now, he is lecturer. He finds his job and life tiresome
and filled with boredom. One of the reasons being that he cannot work on his own
poems and intellectual pursuits as teaching demands its own energy and time. He is
uninterested in his students is happy to hear the bell ring to the end the class.
He is self critical compares himself to a "cow" that does nothing but ruminate on dead
grass. He is particular about his ways and almost trying too hard to fit himself in a
Western mould. This adds to his frustrations and makes him feel pessimistic about his
It is dream to become a poet even though he struggles to write voraciously. But he has a
good sense of humor and uses it cleverly to always spread a cheer in his college and
Krishna is going through a midlife crisis and feels uninspired and lonely. He is away
from his family and misses living with his loving wife, Susila and young daughter, Lela.
One day he gets a letter from his father changes about his wife and daughter. They are
coming to live with him in Malgudi.
His mother also comes to stay with them. Krishna is happy, at least for some time. He
seems to get a new lease of life.
Susila is an exact opposite of Krishna, spiritual and impulsive. The character sketch of
Susila is emblematic of Indian woman, culture and tradition.
Krishna is a dreamer and lacks a grasp of the practical life while Susila exhibits common
sense and practical wisdom. She complements and fulfills the shortcomings of Krishna.
This is what makes their bond strong and enduring.
But soon the tide turns for the worst. First, due to number of bodies, the current house
is not suited and fit for their family. Hence, they look for a new house. While they are on
their search, Susila is stung by an insect and falls sick. She gets typhoid and
unfortunately cannot recover. Tragedy strikes their home and Susila dies due to her
The loss of his beloved wife derails Krishna. He is disconsolate and stricken with
incurable grief. He becomes disenchanted with his job and personal life. His only refuge
and reason to live is his baby daughter. Therefore, he spends all his energy and affection
on her as she becomes the centre of his world.
The communication beyond the veil
Krishna often loiters around a pond. On his frequent visits, he encounters a hermit or
Sanyasi. The Sanyasi claims to necromancy or he ability to communicate with the dead
and their spirits. Unable to resist the temptation, he decides to try the spiritual route in
order to reach his beloved wife.
Krishna years to talk to his departed wife and entertains the Sanyasi’s claim. He
successfully communicates with Susila’s spirit. This acts as a shot in the arm of Krishna
who is reinvigorated to turn his life for the better.
The new beginning
Revitalized Krishna goes and interviews for a job at a new children’s school. It is the
same place where his daughter Leela studies. Interestingly the head master of the
school has a contrasting character is to Krishna. He is eccentric in his approach and
committed to his students. He has a far more optimistic outlook on life and is a lot
happier than Krishna. He knows that the beauty of life is in enjoying brief moments of
happiness. He is spiritual and pursues to obtain inner satisfaction.
But Krishna is a changed man by now. The head-master of the school is delighted to
learn about Krishna’s inspired theories and plans for imparting education to the young
kids. Krishna quits his job in the college and joins the new school.
To add another boost to his spirits he is directly converse with the spirit of his dead wife
for the first time. He forgets his sorrows and develops a fresh and positive outlook on
life, vocation and purpose.
The English Teacher is remarkably exultant account of the love shared between a man
and his wife. It honors the mundane details of a homely life infused with momentary
tiffs, activities like reading and shopping together, childcare, house hunting etc.
Narayan is able to extract and use the tranquil contentment out of his own marital
experience. He, too, was an uninspired and unsatisfied English teacher once. His wife
Rajam and their marriage transformed him both as a person and writer.
The story of Krishna’s life, happiness and grief is both relatable and inspirational for
many. Even the flirtations with the supernatural, philosophical and metaphysical are
understandable. The tragedy of human loss and the yearning to regain the lost love is
not subject to mortality of flesh and bones. Narayan gives a theory of death where it is
just the culmination of the physical existence. The soul remains eternal and preserves
the emotional synapses within it.