Raju, the protagonist and occasional narrator of N.K. Narayan’s The Guide, is a character whose entire life is built upon the sins of hypocrisy and dissimulation. His multiple careers—including his work as a tourist guide in his hometown of Malgudi, southern India, his career as a “dance manager” for Rosie/Nalini (the seductive dancer he begins an affair with when she visits Malgudi with her husband, Marco), and his final reincarnation as a holy man in a small village in southern India—are all premised on deceptions and lies. The novel dramatizes the ways in which Raju’s propensity for deceit leads him into trouble. Ultimately, Narayan suggests that Raju’s deceptions not only lead to his complete corruption, but also to the destruction of everything he holds dear.
The various roles that Raju invents for himself—a tourist guide, dance manager, and holy man, respectively—all rely upon the spinning of fabricated stories and illusions. In recounting to Velan, the villager to whom Raju tells his life story, his past life as tourist guide in Malgudi, Raju emphasizes that he felt no qualms about spinning tales on a regular basis. Raju tells Velan that his lectures to the visitors about the sights depended largely on the mood he was in on the day he escorted clients. He ascribes different ages to the same site, for instance, according to his humour. He exaggerates the singularity of some of the sights, contending that a particular spot in town is “the greatest, the highest, the only one in the world,” when this is not necessarily true. He also adjusts his stories and “facts” according to his customers, depending on what he thinks they want to hear. Raju’s dissimulation and consistent misinformation is so successful that his reputation only grows as a result, leading tourists, innocent of his deceptions, to seek him out in droves, asking for him by his nickname, “Railway Raju.”
Raju’s tendency toward deceit and disguise continues when he takes on the role of promoting Rosie’s classical dance career, in his capacity as her manager. He changes his appearance—dressing “soberly” for the part of classical dance manager and sporting rimless glasses—all to play more convincingly the new part that he has assumed. Much of his work managing Rosie’s career consists of creating an illusion of importance. Raju takes to sitting in a particular spot at each of Rosie’s performances, and he inquires in great detail about the preparations for each show, so as to create a tension that further supports Rosie’s career. He speaks, acts, and moves as though he is an immensely important man, and even begins to believe in this illusion himself—taking full credit for Rosie’s immense success. It is only later, in retrospect, that he realizes that Rosie was responsible for her own success.
After being released from prison for forging Rosie’s signature, Raju reinvents himself once more, this time as a spiritual guide on a riverbank by a small village. When he finds that the villagers’ misguided faith in his spiritual powers means that he is well-nourished by the offerings they bring him, without him having to do much, he embraces the role enthusiastically, again dissimulating his true identity. He changes his appearance accordingly—growing his beard and hair long to more convincingly resemble a holy man, all the while keeping his past a secret from the villagers. He takes to uttering “mystifying statements” to the villagers who gather around him every day, and in this way manages to project an aura of wisdom and sainthood that has no basis in reality.
Raju’s dissimulation and hypocrisy is not only limited to his work, however. This tendency extends to his personal relationships as well. Raju’s hypocrisy in particular becomes apparent when he escorts Marco, the scholar of ancient civilizations who comes to Malgudi to study cave paintings, bringing along his beautiful wife Rosie. On the one hand, Raju plays the part of the consummate tourist guide to Marco, arranging his travels, showing him the sites, and organizing his comfortable stay at Peak House, the house at the top of the Mempi hills near Malgudi where Marco spends some time examining nearby cave paintings. On the other hand, Raju deceives and betrays Marco ruthlessly by courting and successfully seducing his beautiful young wife, Rosie. Under the pretence of entertaining her by showing her the sites while Marco is at work, Raju flatters and courts Rosie, taking advantage of her dissatisfaction with her husband. Raju ends up winning Rosie after Marco abandons her upon discovering her affair with his tourist guide. However, Raju’s inability to reign in his deceitful tendencies ultimately ends up destroying his own relationship to Rosie. Jealous of Marco’s reappearance in their lives after the publication of Marco’s book on ancient civilizations, Raju hides news of Marco from Rosie and lies to her about the correspondence he receives from Marco’s lawyers addressed to her.
Raju’s hypocrisy and lies ultimately lead to his complete corruption and the destruction of his relationships. This is reflected in the criminal act that Raju commits—when he forges Rosie’s signature on a document that Marco’s lawyers send to Rosie, in order to procure a jewelry box belonging to her without her knowledge. Ultimately, it is discovery of this deceit by the police—and Raju’s subsequent trial and imprisonment—that leads him to lose everything, including his reputation and the love of his life, Rosie.
The Guide takes a critical view towards the failings of its protagonist. While Raju’s deceptions and exaggerations seem harmless at first, merely a means through which he cleverly reinvents himself time and again, his propensity for deceit ends up infecting all aspects of his existence. In this way, Raju not only corrupts himself, but also destroys his most cherished relationships, and ends up losing everything that he holds dear as a result.
Hypocrisy and Disguise ThemeTracker
Hypocrisy and Disguise Quotes in The Guide
[…] the villager resumed the study of his face with intense respect. And Raju stroked his chin thoughtfully to make sure that an apostolic beard had not suddenly grown there. It was still smooth.
Where could he go? He had not trained himself to make a living out of hard work. Food was coming to him unasked now. If he went away somewhere else certainly nobody was going to take the trouble to bring him food in return for just waiting for it.
Raju himself was not certain why he had advised that, and so he added, “If you do it you will know why.” The essence of sainthood seemed to lie in one’s ability to utter mystifying statements.
Raju soon realized that his spiritual status would be enhanced if he grew a beard and long hair to fall on his nape. A clean-shaven, close-haired saint was an anomaly.
I pointed out to him something as the greatest, the highest, the only one in the world. I gave statistics out of my head. I mentioned a relic as belonging to the thirteenth century before Christ or the thirteenth century after Christ, according to the mood of the hour.
[…] he suddenly noticed at the end of the year that the skies never dimmed with cloud. The summer seemed to continue. Raju inquired, “Where are the rains?”
I was accepted by Marco as a member of the family. From guiding tourists I seemed to have come to a sort of concentrated guiding of a single family.
Rosie was lying on her bed with eyes shut. (Was she in a faint? I wondered for a second.) I had never seen her in such a miserable condition before. He was sitting in his chair, elbow on the table, his chin on his fist. I had never seen him so vacant before.
I dressed myself soberly for the part in a sort of rough-spun silk shirt and an upper cloth and a handspun and handwoven dhoti, and I wore rimless glasses—a present from Marco at one of our first meetings. I wore a wristwatch—all this in my view lent such weight to what I said that they had to listen to me respectfully. I too felt changed; I had ceased to be the old Railway Raju.
I silently fretted. I liked her to be happy—but only in my company. This group of miscellaneous art folk I didn’t quite approve.
It seemed absurd that we should earn less than the maximum we could manage. My philosophy was that while it lasted the maximum money had to be squeezed out. We needed all the money in the world.
[…] I carried [the book] to my most secret, guarded place in the house—the liquor chest, adjoining the card room, the key of which I carried next to my heart—stuffed the volume out of sight, and locked it up. Nalini never went near it. I did not mention the book to her.
I found a scrap of paper and made a careful trial of Rosie’s signature. I had her sign so many checks and receipts each day that I was very familiar with it.
Then I carefully spread out the application form and wrote on the indicated line: “Rosie, Nalini.”
I was now a sort of hanger-on in the house; ever since she had released me from police custody, the mastery had passed to her. I fretted inwardly at the thought of it. When the first shock of the affair had subsided, she became hardened. She never spoke to me except as to a tramp she had salvaged.
I felt like telling Mani, “Be careful. She’ll lead you on before you know where you are, and then you will find yourself in my shoes all of a sudden! Beware the snake woman!” I knew my mind was not working either normally or fairly. I knew I was growing jealous of her self-reliance. But I forgot for the
moment that she was doing it all for my sake.
Raju asked, “Now you have heard me fully?” […]
Raju was taken aback at still being addressed as “Swami.” “What do you think of it?”
Velan looked quite pained at having to answer such a question. “I don’t know why you tell me all this, Swami. It’s very kind of you to address at such length your humble servant.”