By Masti Venkatesha Iyengar
About the Author
Maasthi Venkatesa Iyengar was a well-known writer in Kannada language. He was born on 6 June, 1861 at Hungenahalli in Kolar district of Karnataka in a Tamil language speaking Sri Vaishnavaite family. He spent his early childhood in Maasti village. He obtained a master’s degree in English literature in 1914 from Madras University. After joining the Indian Civil Service, he held various positions of responsibility in different parts of Karnataka, rising to the rank of District Commissioner. After 26 years of service, he resigned in 1943, as a protest when he did not get the post equivalent to a Minister, which he deserved and a junior was promoted ahead of him. He wrote some pieces in English and then switched over to write in Kannada language. He used pen name Srinivasa to write short stories and novels in Kannada.
A prolific writer, he wrote more than 123 books in Kannada and 17 in English, for over seventy years. He won the Jnanpith Award in 1983 for his novel Chikkavira Rajendra.
He died on 6 June, 1986 on his 95th birthday.
The story depicts the life in Indian villages in the past when child marriage was a common practice. Ranga’s Marriage is an interesting story of how a person manipulates to get a young boy married to an eleven-year-old girl in a village. The story dates back to the early days of British rule when English was not used in a big way. Rangappa, the son of a village accountant returns from Bangalore after his studies. His homecoming after six month makes a big event. The curious villagers gather outside Ranga’s house to see how much the boy is changed. But they see no change in the boy. The narrator discusses the issue of marriage with Ranga. He talks to him to hear his ideas about marriage. He resolves to get the boy married to a very young and immature 11-year-old girl Ratna. He seeks the support of Shastri’s astrology to bring Ratna round. And Ranga forgets his idealism and settles down happily.
1. Shyama – The narrator, lives in Hosahalli village.
2. Ranga – son of the village accountant
3. Ratna – a girl of 11, Rama Rao’s niece.
4. Shastriji – a village astrologer
Ten years ago when the village accountant sent his son Ranga to Bangalore for studies, the situation in the village was different. People never used to use English words while talking in Kannada, their mother tongue. But now they do it with an abominable pride. For instance, Rama Rao’s son was not ashamed to use the word ‘change’ while buying some firewood from a woman who knew no English, thereby creating confusion.
Now people are so fond of the foreign language and education that Ranga’s homecoming is made a big affair. People crowd his house to see if he has changed. They return home on finding no significant change in him. The narrator is particularly happy to find the boy still quite cultured as he respectfully does ‘namaskara’. The narrator spontaneously blesses him saying ‘May you get married soon.’
But the boy is not ready for marriage, he says. He is of the opinion that one should better remain a bachelor than marry a young girl, as the custom of the village is. The narrator is disappointed to hear this, but as he sincerely wants Ranga to get married and settled to be of some service to the society, he does not lose heart. He takes a vow to get him married, and that to a young girl of 11 by the name of Ratna, Rama Rao’s niece, who has of late come to Hosahalli to stay for a few days.
Now the narrator plans to make the prospective bride and the bridegroom meet each other. So he does by asking Rao’s wife to send Ratna to his house to fetch buttermilk. As Ratna arrives she is asked to sing. As planned at that very moment Ranga arrives and gets mesmerized by Ratna’s singing and almost instantly falls in love with her being oblivious of his theories regarding child marriage. The narrator, from his experience, notices this quite well but purposely disappoints Ranga saying that Ratna is married.
The next morning the narrator meticulously plots with Shastri, the fortune teller, to trap Ranga and have him marry Ratna. He tutors him in what is to be said and done when he will bring the boy to him.
The narrator finds Ranga miserable that day. The latter complains of headache and the narrator suggests that they visit Shastri. Thereupon Ranga is taken to Shastri who cleverly reacts by saying that their visit has been a surprise. The narrator acts foolishly forgetting what he is supposed to say but Shastri cleverly manages the scene.
Everything goes well as per the plan. Shyama, the narrator, asks Shastri what might be worrying the boy. Shastri calculates throwing his cowries and suggests that it is about a girl. On further calculation he suggests that the girl’s name has connection with something found in the ocean. The narrator asks if it could be ‘Kamala’. Then he suggests ‘Pachchi’, meaning moss. When Shastri hints ‘pearl’ or ‘Ratna’, the narrator becomes jubilant and Ranga is amazed. Shyama further asks if there is any chance of negotiation of the marriage bearing any fruit, to which Shastri answered affirmative. But once again the narrator pours water on Ranga’s hopes by saying that Ratna is married.
However, on the way the narrator enters Rama Rao’s house and comes out of the house to inform Ranga that Ratna is unmarried and the previous information about her marriage was wrong. Now visibly Ranga’s joys have no limits. When the narrator asks him whether whatever the astrologer told is right, he admits that it is true and further adds that there is more truth in astrology than he thought.
Later the narrator informs Shastri about the success story and makes a sarcastic comment about astrology. But Shastri is not ready to accept. He says that the former gave only the hints and whatever he said was the result of his calculation.
Whatever the case might be, Ranga finally gets married to Ratna and fathers two children, moreover Ratna is now eight months pregnant. The narrator is invited to the third birth anniversary of Ranga’s child, who was named after the narrator as ‘Shyama’. On finding this, the narrator mildly chides Ranga saying that he knows that it is the English custom to name the child after someone one likes, but it is not fair to name him ‘Shyama’ because he is fair complexioned.
All said and done, it is interesting to find how Ranga forgets what he learned about happy marriages in cities and gives in to the far deeper influences the village customs and traditions have on him. And why not, is it easy to do away with all that one learns so unconsciously day and night in the society one grows up in?
Short Answer Type Questions
Q1. Where is Hasahalli? Why does the author talk about Hosahally with great enthusiasm?
Ans. Hosahalli is a place in Karanataka, the Erstwhile Mysore State. The author is greatly enthusiastic about Hosahalli because it is his birthplace.
Q2. What is Dr. Gundabhatta’s opinion about Hosahalli and the world outside?
Ans. Dr. Gundabhatta speaks so much glowingly about Hosahally as the author does. He is proud of Hosahalli. Though he has toured quite a number of places outside India, he admits that there is not such a wonderful place like Hosahalli.
Q3. How does the writer describe his village, Hosahalli?
Ans. In Hosahalli, the mango trees produce very sour fruits. There is also a creeper growing in the ever-so-fine water of the village pond. The flowers are a feast to behold and the leaves can be used to serve afternoon meals.
Q4. What was special about Rangappa? How did the villagers react to it?
Ans. After his return from Bangalore where he had been studying for six months, much to everyone’s surprise, he was just the same. His homecoming became a great event for the villagers. People rushed to his door step to have a look at him. An old lady even ran her hand over his chest, looked into his eyes and remarked that the janewara was still there. He hadn’t lost his caste.
Q5. Who was Ranga? What was special about him?
Ans. Ranga was the village accountant’s son who had gone to Bangalore to study. People thought that city education would change him but they were wrong. He still showed respect towards elders in the village and wore the sacred thread. However, his views on marriage had changed.
Q6. How does the narrator give us a vague picture of Indian villages during the British rule?
Ans. During the British rule, Indian villages were poor and undeveloped. Very few people could understand or speak English. So when Ranga was sent to Bangalore to study, it w’as a great event. Early marriage was a common practice. Ratna was married off when she was just eleven years old.
Q7. Who was Ratna?
Ans. Ratna was the eleven-year-old pretty niece of Rama Rao. She had lost her parents. Since she was from a big town, she knew how to play upon the veena and the harmonium. She also had a sweet voice. Shyama played a key role in her marriage with Ranga.
Q8. How did the narrator carry out his resolve to get Ranga married to Ratna?
Ans. The narrator felt that Ranga and Ratna was a suitable match for each other. He arranged a meeting in which Ranga could meet Ratna and get impressed with her quality of singing. He manipulated things in a clever way and made Ranga fall in love with her. He finally got them married.
Q9. What impression do you form of the narrator? How does he add to the humor of the story?
Ans. The narrator appears to be a very talkative man. He jumps from one topic to another. There are too many digressions in his narration. He takes a lot of interest in village affairs. He decides to get Ranga married to Ratna as soon as he realizes that they seem suitable for each other. His narration evokes the humor in the story when he manipulates the situation in a clever way. The astrologer’s remarks and the meeting between Ranga and Ratna add to the humor of the story.
Q10. Why was Ranga’s homecoming a great event?
Ans. Ranga was the son of the village accountant. He was sent to Bangalore to study in an English school. People were very excited when Ranga returned home after six months. They expected a big change in the boy. So they rushed to his doorstep. His homecoming became a great event.
Q11. What were Ranga’s views on the selection of a bride and marriage in general?
Ans. Rangappa had no intention to marry unless he found the right girl. He wanted a mature girl and also one whom he admired. He was against arranged marriage and against marrying an adolescent girl. If he failed to find the girl of his choice, he was ready to remain a bachelor.
Q12. How did the narrator bring Ranga and Ratna face to face?
Ans. The narrator called Ratna to his house to take away some buttermilk. He requested her to sing a song. He also sent for Ranga, so as to know how much he liked or admired the girl. His plan was successful. Ranga fell for the sweet-voiced young and pretty girl.
Q13. Why did the narrator resolve to get Ranga married?
Ans. The narrator was pleased when Ranga brought him a couple of oranges. He thought that such a decent boy should marry and settle down. But Ranga had his own views about an ideal life-partner. He was willing to remain single until he found the right girl. So the narrator made up his mind to get the boy married soon.
Q14. What role does Shastri play in bringing about Ranga and Ratna together?
Ans. The narrator sought the help of Shastri in bringing Ranga and Ratna together. He tutored Shastri, the astrologer. He took Ranga to his house. Shastriji read the stars and made calculations. He finally declared that the girl in Ranga’s mind should have the name of something found in the ocean. It could be Ratna as well. Ranga was convinced and he agreed to marry.
Q15. Why did the narrator tell a lie about Ratna’s marital status?
Ans. The narrator noted Ranga’s growing interest in Ratna. Ranga enquired if she was married. The narrator told a lie that she was married a year ago. He said so to see Ranga’s dejection. Later on he declared that she was not married yet. Ranga was suiprised and happy to marry Ratna.
Q16. What role does the narrator play in the life of Rangappa?
Ans. Shyama, the narrator, resolved to get Ranga married. He lays a trap for it. He sends for Ratna and Ranga to his house. They see each other. Ranga after meeting Shastri, agrees to marry Ratna. Thus, the narrator plays the role of a marriage broker.
Q17. How did Ranga and Ratna express their gratitude to the narrator?
Ans. Several years passed after the marriage of Ranga and Ratna. They had a three-year-old son, now named after Shyama. Ranga visited the narrator for dinner at his house on the child’s birthday. That was how the two youngsters expressed their gratitude to Shyama.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q1. Give a brief account of Ranga’s education, his views on marriage and finally how he got married.
Ans. Ranga was the son of an accountant of Hosahalli village. He made a news when he went to Bangalore to study English. In those days, not many people could speak or even understand English. So when he returned home after six months, a curious crowd of villagers gathered at his house to see the change in the boy. They were disappointed.
Ranga was unwilling to marry a very young and immature girl. He was willing to remain a bachelor until he found the right girl. He was opposed to arranged marriage. A man should marry a girl he admired—that was his clear-cut philosophy.
But the narrator resolved to get Ranga married at the earliest. He so manipulated that Ranga saw young Ratna, got the sanction of Shastri’s astrology and married her.
Q2. Why and how does the narrator conspire to get Ranga married?
Ans. Ranga was a young, generous and promising boy. But he was adamant on not marrying a very young and immature girl, selected by his parents. He was bent upon staying single until he found the right girl whom he admired. The narrator resolved to get him married. He thought of Ratna, an eleven-year-old niece of Rama Rao. She could play upon the harmonium and even sang in a sweet voice. The narrator brought Ratna and Ranga face to face at his own house. He roused the boy’s interest in the girl. He declared that the girl was already married. But it was a lie. He conspired with Shastri to further Ranga’s interest in Ratna. With the approval of the Shastras, Ranga gave in and married the girl selected by the narrator.
Q3. This is a humorous story. Which part did you find the most amusing? Describe the narrator of the story.
Ans. Shyama, the narrator of the story ‘Ranga’s Marriage’ is also the central character. His style of narration evokes a lot of humor in the story. He is an elderly gentleman and refers to himself as a dark piece of oil cake. He is passionately in love with his village and the villagers and rambles incessantly while describing it. He is a keen observer of his surroundings and uses a colorful style of narration. He feels it is disgraceful to use English words in the native tongue. He is a good judge of people and regards Ranga as a generous and considerate fellow. He is conservative at heart and feels unhappy at Ranga’s decision to remain single. He means well and his intentions are good. He plans to get Ranga married. He calls Ranga when Ratna was singing. He also arranges a meeting with Shastri whom he had tutored thoroughly. He had decided that Ratna would be a suitable bride for him. He is a shrewd contriver as he tells Ranga that Ratna was married. This he does in order to rouse Ranga’s desire for the unattainable.
The description of the village of Hosahalli evokes some humor in the story. The narrator and Ranga’s visit to the astrologer and their conversation produce a few comic moments in the story.