-Masti Venkatesha Iyengar
The story is narrated by Shyama, a concerned inhabitant of Hosahalli which is located in the state of Mysore (before Independence). Shyama is enamored with the place, its beauty and its people. He loves the mango trees, the village pond and the creeper looking over it. He finds it unfortunate that both the English rulers and his own people have grown oblivious to the heart-fulfilling environment of Hosahalli, a place that finds no place on any cartographic constructions or geographical maps. He says that the doctor in the village has traveled to many places around the country and even the World and still considers the village to be uniquely special. The village speaks Kannada even though much has changed with the introduction of English in the casual conversations of the people. Many people like conversing in the foreign language or incorporating English words in Kannada which Shyama finds disgraceful and disheartening.
The return of the city boy
It all started when the village got its first English speaker, the leading male of the story, Rangappa or just Ranga. His father is the village accountant who sent him to study in Bangalore. On his return, the entire village turned up at his house to see how the city had transformed one of their own. To everyone’s surprise not much had altered. Ranga was still the same person with the same appearance, clothes, manners and etiquettes as highlighted by his sacred thread (janewara) that is sign of probity of his caste (Hindu social hierarchy). Although many people were disappointed by that, Shyama admired Ranga’s determination to stick to his own customs.
A friendly advice
Ranga often visits Shyama’s place and Shyama is always delighted to have a chat with him. So much so that Shyama encourages him to get married and start a happy married life. However, Ranga is not sure about marrying at such a young age. He does not want to marry a young woman who does not understand his words or is not mature enough to make intelligent decisions .He also want to marry somebody he admires and feels that arrange marriages do not provide the room to develop such admiration. Shyama feels appalled that such a mild-mannered and courteous boy should remain untouched by the beauty and happiness of a sacred relationship like marriage. So, he decides to find Ranga a wife.
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Shyama soon finds the right girl. Her name is Ratna and she is Rama Rao’s (friend of Shyama) niece. She is eleven years old and is well behaved and beautiful. She can play the harmonium and is a great singer. She was brought up in a big city but now lives with her uncle after the death of her parents. He instinctively thinks she will be perfect for Ranga
The rendezvous at Shyama’s place
Shyama hatches a plot to introduce Ratna and Ranga to each other. He talks to Rama Rao’s wife and incites her to let Ratna come to his house and pick up some buttermilk. It was Friday and Ratna is happy to visit Shyama. When she arrives, Shyama asks her to sing for him. She obliges. Meanwhile, Shyama calls for Ranga to visit him as well. When he reaches the threshold of the house, he is enchanted by the melodious voice and singing of Ratna. He is intrigued and peeps inside to find out. As soon as Ranga’s body breaks the light coming through the door, Ratna gets spooked and reaches for the corner. She feels shy. Ranga is also feeling coy but keeps on staring at Ratna. This makes Ratna nervous and she dashes into another room.
Ranga is truly smitten and enquiries about the girl. Shyama delights in Ranga’s anxiety and sufferance and knows he had developed a stronger liking for her. As a result, he tells him that Ratna is already married. Ranga becomes crestfallen. All his desires for Ratna come crashing down in his chest. However, his disappointment reassures Shyama that Ratna is perfect for him.
The visit to the astrologer
Shyama schemes with a Shastri (astrologer). He dictates him what to say in order to make Ranga realize his hidden love for Ratna. Now, he visits the dejected young man and seeing his dispirited look enquires about his situation. Shyama advices him to visit a doctor but Ranga says that he felt fine. He then asks Ranga to accompany him to an astrologer.
Now everything goes as planned. The astrologer sticks to the script and tells Ranga that the cause of all his worries is a woman. He predicts that Ranga will eventually marry a woman whose name refers to a thing found in oceans, like a pearl or Ratna. He also wishes for their marriage to be happy and successful.
Happily ever after
The plan goes ahead without a hitch and the next scene describes Ranga’s visit to Shyama’s house some years later. He has son named Shyama, after the narrator’s name. It is like Ranga and Ratna’s way of thanking Shyama’s matchmaking ability. It was also an English way show admiration to someone by naming a child after them.
Nonetheless, it was only due to narrator’s insight and intellect that they got married. Adding to the glad tidings, the couple is also expecting another child (8 months due). The story ends with Shyama visiting their place for the young Shyama’s third birthday. He plants a peck on the child’s cheeks and places a ring on his finger as a totem of good fortune and security from evil.
Ranga’s Marriage is a beautiful story of quaint South Indian village. It embellishes the scene with the customs and traditions of the place. It also highlights the constant struggle to preserve the endemic culture of the place against the winds of external agents and forces like a foreign language like English.
The story and its characters like Shyama, Ratna and Ranga bring the sweetness of village life to the text. The hallowed and sacred nature of marriage and companionship between man and woman is celebrated cleverly in the story.