The Guide, the book (1958) by R K Narayan, and Guide, the film(1965) were both released before my birth, so it was perhaps inevitable that I saw the movie even before I heard of the book. In fact, at my first viewing, I did not know it was the adaptation of a book. I perhaps did not even completely follow the story, I loved the film for its songs. Ah, the songs of Guide! The hair on the back of my neck stands in reverence even as I think about them. The lyrics are mind-blowing, and even if you don’t understand them, you would enjoy the melodious voices of S D Burman, Lata, Rafi and Kishore.

Anyway, I finally got around to reading the book now only – 50 years after it was first published. I believe the film has done as much justice to the book as possible (though it made the film rather too long to contain all the events of the story). True that some of the flaws of the characters in the book were straightened in the film. The heroes of a book can be defective, but not so of a movie. That part being sorted out, the only difference I could note was in the ending. The book never mentions whether it rained after all and ended the drought, or Raju survived his 12-day fasting. However in the film, it rains, and Raju dies.

The best part about reading R K Narayan’s stories (Malgudi Days, Swami and Friends, and so forth) is that the characters are quite ordinary people. There is nothing “larger than life” about them. They make mistakes that you or I could make, they sometimes fail to see life flow alongside them, and plunge into its depths, swallow a great deal of water and emerge gasping and breathless. So does Raju flow with the tide, be overwhelmed by his emotions for Rosie that he lets go of his life, his Mother and every principle he lived by, finally finds himself in jail. On emerging from the jail, he is again led downstream by the current towards a small village, where he finds himself being hailed as a saint who could work wonders and bring them rain in the severe drought of the year.

Through his thoughts, we too wonder about Life, what we do with it and where it leads us.

At every mention of Raju or Rosie, in every page of the book, I saw Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. Dev Anand, whom someone once called the “Gregory Peck of Indian cinema”, more popularly known as the “Evergreen Dev Anand”.

Beautiful book, beautiful film.