Raja Rao was one of those three Indian English novelists who has laid the foundation of the modern Indian fiction in English. Among those, two others were Mulk Raj Anand and R K Narayan. Rajao Rao, however, had different traits than these two and he also played an important role with his pen in the independence movement of India. A rare author who, no doubt, wrote in English but kept his traditional ethos alive!
Born in 1908 in Mysore, Raja Rao was filled with nationalistic feelings in spite of his foreign alma-mater. His fictional works, initially, bore the impact of the nationalistic vigour that the author had inside. Kanthapura was the first novel that the author produced and it directly had the impact of the Gandhian teaching of simple living and non-violence. Other than Kanthapura, the long-length fiction works by Raja Rao are:
The Serpent and the Rope
The Cat and Shakespeare: A Tale of India
The Chessmaster and His Moves
Mostly popular for his celebrated novel Kanthapura, Raja Rao was equally a master in writing short stories too. He has produced many short stories collection out of which The Cow of the Barricades still remains the most popular. He also wrote nonfiction works which mostly reflected on the country’s situations – before and after the independence.
Born and brought up in a devout Brahmin family, Raja Rao was never showing the high-headedness in his writings. He wrote in a way which might well be termed as amicable because his fictions were always looking for the solutions of the problems which were prevalent at the time. Kanthapura was looking a way to unite the nation. The Cat and Shakespeare looks deep into the daily life of a common Indian and tries to reach somewhere where one can sit relax and see below. His nonfictional works also were prepared for certain purposes and you can find that once you read them.
Raja Rao had a chaotic personal life and he married thrice. It is a surprise to many of his admirers that all his wives were non-Indian! He spent his last days in the USA and died in 2006.
To his credit, Raja Rao had several notable literary awards as well the second highest civilian award of India, Padma Vibhushan. Other awards were Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Bhushan, and Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
His writings are parts of many universities’ English literature syllabus and it is a great opportunity for the students to read his writings! Raja Rao was an author who saw India fighting for the freedom and then moving towards a new era of independence and thus, his writings picture India in a moving state. To know India and Indians through different decades, reading Raja Rao will surely be useful!