The story is about the discord of a trouble family. It paints a grim picture of a disturbed
household plagued with domestic conflict.
It revolves around Ramani who is a secretary in a company located in Malgudi called as
Engladia Insurance Company. He is a man who is consumed by cynicism and is very
controlling in his outlook.
In his self-interest and arrogance he runs a very tight ship in his house. Due to his
irascible and rude attitude, there is always a sense of dreadful misfortune and sadness
permeating his house. He is like a tyrant in his conduct with his wife Savitri, daughters
and the domestic help.
Savitri is antithetical or polar opposite of her husband. She embodies the characteristics
of a dutiful and faithful wife. She is immersed in the traditions of Indian womanhood
and exhibits qualities of loyalty, honesty and devotion to her husband. She suffers her
husband’s wrath I meek silence and relegates her presence to her dark room i.e. the
kitchen. Even though she is beautiful, Ramani does not appreciate her. His reaction to
her is devoid of any warmth and affection. On the contrary he abuses and condemns
here often. Even after 15 years of marriage and commitment, Ramani can only see flaws
and errors in his wife’s service to him.
Ramani is a bad husband and an even worse father. He frequently reprimands his
children even on trivial matters. He is so self-obsessed that he does not show any kind of
love and care for his own flesh and blood.
The other lady
Soon the story gets a new character named Shanta Bai. She is a beautiful, middle-aged
woman who has left her husband. She is an ambitious lady and starts work at Ramani’s
company. She has loose morals and loves to flirt with men and make them fall for her
Unable to fend off the advances and seductive ways of Shanta Bai, Ramani is transfixed
by her beauty and machinations. He starts visiting her house and starts an adulterous
and illegitimate affair.
Savitri is told about the affair by a teacher named Gangu. She is heartbroken and
devastated by the news of her husband’s infidelity. She decides to suffer the torment in
silence. Instead of rebuking her husband she wallows in self-pity. She questions her own
beauty and inability to give more children to Ramani.
The final straw
Savitri is still strong in her constitution and decides to win her husband back from the
claws of her concubine. She prepares and dresses herself in order to seduce her husband
and make him desire her as before. She is naïve in thinking that she can turn the clock
back on their relationship and get back to the amorous passions of the first week of their
Unfortunately, all her hope is ruthlessly crippled when she fails in her attempts. She is
irate and loses her calm when Ramani tries to touch her. All her deep seated and
repressed anger and anguish comes out in the form of meltdown. Charged with
emotions and pain, she leaves her husband’s house with the intention of ending her life.
Savitri reaches the river and jumps into its fast currents. However, a blacksmith and
burglar, is crossing the river at the same time. He sees and rescues her. She is saved by
the Mari’s bravery and sheer good luck. Savitri is overcome with guilt and pity and
narrates her story to Mari and his wife.
Ponni, Mari’s wife, entreats Savitri to come with them to their village and live a life
devoted to the temple Gods. Savitri agrees. In the village, Savitri becomes a Hindu nun
and starts working in the village temple. She hopes it is the start of an independent life
away from the tyranny of her husband and married life.
However, soon Savirti finds herself broken by various inner conflicts. She is perturbed
by the attitude of the temple priest who molests her and hates the fact a woman is
working in a place dominated by male Brahmin priests. She also feels homesick. Her
biggest worry, however, are her daughters whom she left at home.
She becomes more restless by every passing day and finally succumbs to her grief and
The inevitability of fate and the futility of her exile dawn on her and she decides to go
back to her family and house.
She returns to the same dark room that was her prison before. Nothing alters. Her
husband gloats in the glory of what he considers his victory. He continues to be callous
to her devotion and she continues to live a life of pain, shame, self-loathing and devoid
The tale paints the ideal Indian wife-submissive, obedient, self-sacrificial and beautiful.
The story depicts Savitri has lacking courage to leave her husband and resigned to a life
of pain and embarrassment. This is representative of so many Indian women who live
under the dominance of the patriarchical system. They sacrifice their personal destiny
for the betterment of their husband and children.
The present condition of women in India is not far from that of Narayan’s time. Even
though there are more opportunities for women and girls, there are still millions who
suffer in silence. They are victims of domestic abuse, intimidation, sexual harassment,
physical violence and materialistic greed.