Ranga’s Marriage – Masti Venkatesha Iyengar
This chapter is all about life in villages where child marriage is still a common practice. It is an interesting story of how a person manipulates to get a young boy married to an eleven-year-old girl.
It revolves around a boy namely Ranga, an accountant’s son, who returns back from Bangalore after six months, having completed his higher studies. A huge crowd of people gathers around his home to see whether there are any changes occurred in him or not and to see how fluently he speaks in English.
People even start touching him to make sure that he is not changed. When the narrator meets him and asks about his view of marriage. To his surprise, Ranga has a different view about marriages. According to him, one should get married to a girl who is mature enough to understand the things and the couple should look good together.
A. Hosahalli village is the scene of action. There is no mention of it in geography books written by the sahibs in England or Indian writers. No cartographer has put it on the map. The narrator highlights its importance by comparing it to the filling of the Karigadubu—a festival meal.
Q. What are the two special produce of Hosahalli and in what respect?
A. First is the raw mango. The sourness of its bite is sure to get straight to the Brahmarandhra, i.e. the soft part in the child’s head where skull bones join later. The second speciality is a creeper growing in the water of the village pond. Its flowers are a feast to behold. You can serve the afternoon meal to the whole family on its two leaves.
Q. What exactly had happened ten years ago? How important was it then?
A. Ten years ago, there were not many people in the village who knew English. The village accountant was the first one who sent his son Ranga to Bangalore to pursue his studies. It was quite an important event then. The narrator highlights it by saying that the village accountant was the first one who had enough courage to send his son to Bangalore to study.
Q. Why does the narrator refer to the Black Hole of Calcutta?
A. During the British rule, hundreds of persons were kept inside a single room. The next morning most of them were found dead due to suffocation. The narrator uses the expression ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ to suggest a large number of people who had turned out to see Ranga.
Q.Why was there a huge crowd in front of Ranga’s home? What did they find on the contrary?
Ans. The narrator was very much impressed with Ranga and his ability to speak English. He thought Ranga could prove to be a good husband for any girl. But, when he told the narrator about his views about marriage and expressed his desire to get married to a mature girl, the narrator had to give it a second thought before getting him married.
Q. Why did the narrator want Ranga to get married? What stopped him to do so for a while?
Q. What were Ranga’s views about marriage?
A. Ranga was a young boy who was against child marriage altogether. He thought that one should get married to a mature girl who understands the things and not to the one who takes the things otherwise all the times. He cites some more examples to justify his thoughts in this chapter.
Q. “Ranga was just the boy for her and she the most suitable bride for him,” says the narrator. Who is ‘she’? What led the narrator to this conclusion?
A. ‘She’ here stands for Ratna, the niece of Rama Rao. She was a pretty girl of eleven. Both her parents having died, her uncle had brought her home. Being a girl from a big town, she knew how to play the veena and the harmonium. She also had a sweet voice. All these qualities made her a suitable bride for a young, educated man like Ranga.
Q. How did the narrator let Ranga have a glimpse of Ratna?
A. The narrator arranged the meeting very systematically. First, he called Ratna on the pretext of sending buttermilk through her. Then he asked her to sing a song. Meanwhile, Ranga, whom he had sent for, reached the door. He became curious to see the singer and peeped in. His presence at the door blocked the light and Ratna stopped singing abruptly.
Q. How did Ranga and Ratna react at their unexpected encounter?
A. Ratna stopped singing abruptly on seeing a stranger outside the room. Ranga felt disappointed when the singing stopped. Ratna stood at a distance with her head lowered. Ranga repeatedly glanced at her. He blamed himself for the singing to stop and offered to leave. Ratna was overcome by shyness and ran inside. Ranga enquired about her.
Q.How did the narrator handle Ranga’s inquiries about Ratna?
A. The narrator did not give him a straightforward reply. He said casually that it did not matter to either of them who she was. The narrator was already married and Ranga was not the marrying type. This aroused Ranga’s interest and excitement. He expressed the hope that she was unmarried. His face showed signs of disappointment on learning that she was married a year ago.
Q.Why did the narrator tell Ranga that the girl was married a year ago?
A. The narrator had made up his mind that he would get Ranga married early. First, he brought Ranga and Ratna face to face to arouse his interest in her. In order to test the strength of his emotions, he told Ranga that she was married a year ago. The shrivelled face of the young man betrayed his feelings.
Q.What according to the astrologer was Ranga’s cause of worry? How did the name Ratna’ crop up?
A. According to the astrologer, the cause of Ranga’s worry was a girl. She probably had the name of something found in the ocean. When asked if it could be Kamla the astrologer did not rule out the possibility. When suggested if it could be Pacchi, moss, the astrologer put a counter question: “Why not pearl or Ratna, the precious stone?” Thus the name Ratna cropped up.
Q.How did the narrator test the sincerity of Ranga’s feelings about Ratna?
A. The narrator employed the age-old trick ‘temptation for the unattainable’. He first mentioned that the girl had been married a year ago. He noticed Ranga’s disappointment. Ranga’s face fell when the narrator mentioned to the astrologer that Ratna was married. When he was sure of the sincerity of Ranga’s feelings about Ratna, he disclosed that she wasn’t married.
Q.What did the narrator tell Shastri about his performance? How did the Shastri react to it?
A. The narrator told Shastri that he repeated everything he had told him without giving rise to any suspicion. He exclaimed, “What a marvellous Shastra yours is!”
Shastri did not like his berating astrology. He retorted that he could have found out himself from the Shastras.
Q.“The best way of getting to know a place is to visit it.” Which place does Masti Venkatesha Iyengar refer to? What do you know learn about it?
A. The author refers to Hosahalli, the village of Rangappa and the narrator. From the narrator’s point of view, it is an important village in the Mysore state. People may not have heard of it, as there is no mention of it in Geography books. The place has been ignored both by British and Indian authors. No cartographer has put it on the map.
The raw mangoes from the mango trees in the village are quite sour. The extreme potency of the sourness of these mangoes is amply illustrated by the comment: “Just take a bite. The sourness is sure to go straight to your Brahmarandhra.” The creeper growing in the village pond had beautiful flowers and broad leaves. The latter can serve as plates for serving afternoon meal. The village doctor Gundabhatta also speaks glowingly of Hosahalli.
Q.What was special about Rangappa? How did the villagers react to it?
A. Ten years ago, there were not many people in Hosahalli village who knew English. Rangappa, the accountant’s son enjoyed a unique distinction. He was the first one to be sent to Bangalore to pursue his studies. This was considered an act of courage on the part of his father. It was an important event in the village—a sort of first of its type.
Naturally, Ranga’s homecoming was a great event. The crowds of villagers milled around his house to see whether he had changed or not. People were quite excited because Ranga had returned home after studying English in Bangalore. An old lady ran her hand over Ranga’s chest. She looked into his eyes. She was satisfied to find the sacred thread on his body. She felt happy that he had not lost his caste. People disappeared from the scene, once they realized that Ranga had not undergone any material change.
That afternoon, when the narrator was resting, Ranga came to his house with a couple of oranges in his hand. The narrator thought that Ranga was a generous, considerate fellow. He was of the opinion that it would be fine to have him marry, settle down and be of service to the society.
During the course of the story, we find a change in Ranga’s ideas about marriage. Not only is he fascinated by Rama Rao’s eleven-year-old niece Ratna, but he also marries her in the old traditional way of arranged marriages.
He has a three-year-old son, a golden child, whom he had named ‘Shyam’ after the narrator to express his love and gratitude to the elderly person. We also learn that Ratna is about to deliver another child and Ranga’s sister has come there with his mother. They will not only look after household affairs but Ratna as well.
The scene of a toddler putting his arms around the legs of an elder and the latter kissing him on his cheek and placing a ring on his tiny little finger as a birthday gift presents a lovely emotional scene full of tender affection and love.