Critical Analysis of R K Narayan's "Leela's Friend": Socio-economic Discrimination: Comparative Study with Rabindranath Tagore’s " Kabuliwala"

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan’s Leela’s Friend included in Malgudi Days is a simple tale of Indian middle-class family. It covers wide range of themes like betrayal of trust, true friendship, poverty and exploitation, cruelty of masters etc. However, discriminatory  practices  in Indian middle class society got largely challenged in R. K. Narayan’s Leela’s Friend. Leela issues an executive voice of innocence forbidding discrimination on her servant mate.                                      

The story Leela’s Friend is a simple anecdote of a sweet –naughty relationship between the servant and the master’s little girl. Read More Indian English It reminds us of Rabindranath Tagore’s famous short story, Kabuliwala, the story of Rahmat , a middle-aged fruit seller from Afghanistan, comes to Calcutta to hawk his merchandise who befriends a small Bengali girl called Mini . Here the story focuses on Sidda, a boy simple and honest but illiterate. He had some dark history. But now he is reformed but becomes a sad victim of master's cruelty despite of being a faithful playmate of his daughter, Leela. However, Leela’s Friend is different from Kabuliwala, but the intention and message are very close thematically.

In Leela’s house there was no servant. Her parents worried about it. One day when Mr. Sivasankar was brooding about the problem someone reached their home uncalled. He was in need of a job. Read More Indian English Seeing Mr. Sivasankar in front of him he sought a job in Sivasankar’s house. But it was none easy. Mr. Sivasankar examined carefully with his quick eyes. He found that the man looked tidy and thought he could employ him as a servant. But before that he asked him some questions. He comes to know that the man was Sidda and that he has been working in a doctor’s banglo. He had to lose his job as the doctor had changed his address and left the town. But Mr. Sivasankar could not decide whether he would appoint Sidda or not. He wanted to know the opinion of his wife. She was called and she comes. Read More Short Stories She looked at Sidda. She found him acceptable. She presumes that the man was at least not worse than the others they had earlier in their house. Both of them were in favour of appointing Sidda.

Just at that momment their five year old daughter Leela comes out. She saw Sidda and liked him at once. She requested her parents earnestly to appoint Sidda in their house. Her recommendation worked and Sidda was employed. He got the job. At last, the words of the daughter triumphs over all odds. The Sivasankar family appoints him for household work.

 Sidda is a simple natured boy who arrests everybody's attention in a few months. He becomes a good friend with Leela, the daughter of Sivasankar. Sidda and Leela come to a close relationship through playing together. Sidda was a constant source of joy to Leela. His company made Leela immensely happy. When even Leela called him, Sidda had to run of her and obey her orders. Leela stood in front of the garden with a red ball in her hand. Read More Short Stories She flung the ball at him and flung back to her. Commanded by her, Sidda also threw the ball high up. Read More Indian English When the ball comes down he told her a little bit of moon sticking to the ball. He also told her that he could touch the moon if he climb the top of the coconut tree. He convinced her that the moon knew him well and also listen whatever he says.

Usually after dinner Leela ran to bed. Sidda sat down on the floor and told her incomparable stories of magicians who could create golden castles and fill them with princesses and their pets. Leela was with Sidda when he was working the garden or chopping wood and accompanied him when he was sent on errands. This is how Sidda’s company made Leela supremely happy. Rahamat too fancy stories for Mini and they both shares a happy world of innocence. But there is no such affectionate father figure in Sidda in physical appearance, whereas in Rahamat the Afghan little girl and her imaginary presence can be felt in Tagore's story.

Leela is careless about her things, bossy, hopeful and honest about Sidda. There is such fun in their relationship. At dusk when Sidda carried her inside the house, Leela held a class for him. It gave her immense pleasure to play the teacher to Sidda. Read More Indian English She had a box fill with catalogues; illustrate book and stumps on pencil. She made him sit on the floor with a pencil between his finger and a catalogue in front of him. She herself held another pencil and catalogue. She them commended him to write. Sidda had to try and copy whatever she wrote in the pages of her catalogue. 

Leela too enjoyed the playing the teacher to Sidda at dusk. His school hour would end only when Sidda find her that her mother was calling her for dinner. Leela knows two or three letters of the alphabet and would draw a kind of cat and crow. Sidda could copy none of these, but he tried his best. Leela expressed her dissatisfaction when Sidda failed in his efforts. She felt sorry for Sidda but she did not give up hope. Read More Short Stories She tried to teach him with renewed energy, but Sidda was totally incapable of using the pencil. It looked as if Leela would keep him pinned to his seat still his stiff wrist cracked. Sidda would then end tell her that her mother would calling for dinner. Leela would run up to the room and the school hour would end. Rahamat in  Kabuliwala also met an affectionate little nymph, Mini who taught him all whimsical fun and frolics. Rahamat didn't complain, neither this Sidda. Thus, in it's truest sense both are somewhere a father figure in rendering the burden of emotions.

A twist comes to the story, like that of  Kabuliwala, when Leela's necklace is found missing one day. The family thought that Sidda must be behind it. Read More Indian English Leela's mother accuses him of stealing the necklace. Her belief is so sound that she calls in the police. Sidda is arrested. She is charged with theft, though there is no proof against him. Leela is very sad. Sidda is still innocent to her. The loss of her necklace is not as pathetic as the loss of a friend to her. She longs for her friend to play with him. After a few days, Leela finds her necklace suddenly hidden in a pot. When she tells her family about it, they realize Sidda's honesty. It becomes clear that Sidda is not a thief. Sidda is released from the police custody, but he does not receive any apology from the family. Unlike the story of  Rehmat,  Leela's father gives Sidda no sympathy.

Even though the story of Sidda looks like a simple story of apathy and domestic mistrust, it also treats the subject of economic discrimination. By and large, economic discrimination by the Sivasankar family as well as society as a whole remains a free-enterprise system. R. K. Narayan’s Leela’s Friend can be read a silent protest to discriminate in emotion between masters and sellers, of labours, of like grade and quality unless prohibited by common-moral law rules or statutes. Read More Short Stories Like R. K. Narayan, we too espouse the innocence of Leelas to stop the suffering of discriminating Siddas.