Is Jagan Flexible Regarding His Policies in Life, The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan

Even though Jagan in’ The Vendor of Sweets by R.K. Narayan is adamant in certain issues in life, he becomes quite flexible in his affair with his own son. This statement can be taken as a characteristic of Jagan. Although he is unshakable with regard to certain policies in his life, he had to be patient with some of the decisions taken by Mali in his life. However, he does not give consent to all the decisions made by his only son.

The protagonist, Jagan is seemingly a simple character nourished by his feeling of nationalism and Ghandian life. He has made his life shaped according to the notions of Bhagawath Geetha and teaching of Ghandhi. His lifestyle, therefore seemingly strange to a person in modern society. His simple consumption of food, nature care medicine, clothing and sanitation methods and financial matters are based on his very own policies of life and he is strict in following those rules and regulation in his life. His firm stand on education, medicine and marriage has flexibly changed because of his affectionate care for his wife and only son.

His consumption of food is simple as he concerns about his health, therefore he strictly follows an orderly pattern of food in his life:

“I have given up rice too, I cook a little stone-ground wheat and take it with honey and greens.”

“ I have discontinued sugar as you know. I find twenty drops of honey in hot water quite adequate…”

“ I don’t drink more than four ounces of water a day, … and that must be boiled at night and cooled in a mud jug open to the sky…”

“… he explained how he ate to live only on what he could cook with his own hands.”

His own words explain how he led a life based on his own rules of life. Till the end of the novel, it remains the same. His herbal medicine practices have also been strict until his wife stubbornly refuses to follow them and asked for ‘Aspirin” for her headache. As seen in the first part of the novel, his most of the health practices are woven around the Neem tree:

“ He chewed its bitter leaves once a month, as it destroyed all bacteria in the system.”

“ He collected them (yellow flowers of neem tree), fried them in ghee, and consumed the ambrosia for all its worth once a week.”

However, those health practices backfired him as his own son believes that his mother died because of his father’s ill-healthy practices. Whatever the sacrifices and flexibilities of his life have never changed the consequences of this prejudice on the side of Mali.

Jagan, though did not achieve his goal of education as he engaged in other affairs in his life, believed that one should have education in a college and become a graduate to lead a successful life in future:

“ I was always hoping that he’d be a graduate and that’s the basic qualification one should have,… If I had passed the B.A., I could have done so many other things.”

However, when Mali decides to give up his college education and opts to be a writer, he changes his mind believing that his son has made a correct decision:

“ Oh, how stupid am I? Yes, of course, ‘writer,’ I know. I’ve become illiterate I think,”

Jagan, as a father is willing to extend his help to his son’s writing career. He dreams his son to be a writer like Shakespeare or Kalidasa. He is patient enough to accept his son’s one sided decision to migrate to America to learn further about writing of novels. Jagan, though a strict follower of nationalism, does not abhor the decision of Mali learning in a foreign soil.

Marriage is a ceremonial occasion in Indian culture, in the society where Jagan lives, the decision and whole affair of the marriage are taken care by the elders. The description of the marriage between Jagan and Ambika vividly elaborates the grandness and the tedious process behind a marriage. However, Mali brings a wife into the house without a bit considering about the traditions and ethics. This could have made a huge dislocation in the household but Jagan does accept his daguther-in-law without any indifference. This explains the depth of Jagan’s care and affection towards his only son. Grace, though a cultural hybrid, could enter the traditional household of Jagan. This is a graphic example of Jagan’s flexibility of his certain policies of life with his own son. However, Mali’s violation of culture has led Jagan to lose his all relatives and to live a secluded life in his own house.

Nevertheless, Jagan does not give consent to the idea of the futile investment of a two lakhs for the novel writing machine proposed by Mali in collaboration with an American company. Though a flexible and caring father, Jagan sees the uselessness of this investment as a financial manager who possesses a vast experience by running an industry for a long period of time. However, this very decision puts an end to the relationship between the father and son where Jagan decides to leave his house to enter Vanaprahstha Ashram, a secluded life from material life.

Therefore, it is clear that Jagan is a character with different shades, though he is quite adamant in his policies of life, he is flexible enough to change them accordingly to the situation. When he realises that it is time to give up everything, he does not hesitate to leave everything and enter a life of a hermit.

You may read the characterization of Jagan to understand his character better. If you are just starting to read the novel, you may read the summery of the novel here.

Hope, you have got the answer for the question about the flexibility of Jagan’s policies of life. If you have got ideas to add to the discussion, please add them in the comment section for readers’ enlightenment. If you find this article is useful to someone, do share them the article. Subscribe to our blog and YouTube channel to stay in touch with new posts.  

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  1. You are doing a great job. I started teaching Literature for the O/L class this year and I find your blog and Facebook page enormously of use! You are such a generous teacher. I appreciate your commendable service at a time everything is commercialized. Nothing is given free. May you be blessed with good health and intellectual capacity!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. People like you are also rare who spend some time to leave a generous comment. I am happy to be a service to you.

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