by Masti Venkatesha Iyengar
About the writer
Writer Name: Masti Venkatesha Iyengar
Born: 6 June 1891, Hosa Halli
Died: 6 June 1986, Bengaluru
Education: University of Madras
Awards: Jnanpith Award
Movies: Kakana Kote
The story ‘Ranga’s Marriage’ dates back to the early days of British rule when life in villages was slow and child marriage was common. It very interestingly shows the manipulations done by the narrator to bring a change in the idealistic views of Ranga about marriage and gets him married to an eleven-year-old girl, Ratna. Due to the narrator’s meticulous planning with the village astrologer, Ranga ultimately gets married to Ratna, with whom he had fallen in love on first sight.
Ranga, the son of an accountant, gets educated outside his village, at Bangalore. But he has not changed much when he returns as he follows the traditional courteous behaviour towards elders. However, Ranga’s views about marriage are non-traditional, the narrator’s strategy succeeds in making him agree to the traditional arranged marriage.
Shyama (the narrator):
He is Ranga’s neighbour He is impressed by Ranga’s cultured behaviour and plans a strategy, takes the village astrologer into confidence, and finally makes Ranga agree to marry an eleven-year-old orphan Ratna.
She is an eleven-year-old orphan girl who is staying with her uncle, Rama Rao. She is pretty and. sings very sweetly. She also knew how to play the veena and the harmonium. She impresses Ranga so that he changes his views on marriage.
He is the village astrologer who plays his role to -perfection, as tutored by Shyama. But he does not want to be treated shabbily and tries to assert his knowledge of the Shastras when Shyama tried to make fun of him.
About the lesson
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 of 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.
The narrator resolves that he will try his level best to get Ranga married. For that, he purposefully introduces Ratna, Rama Rao’s niece, an an-eleven-year-old girl who is well-versed in singing and playing musical instruments to Ratna. When Ranga sees her, he falls in love and starts enquiring about the girl. The narrator, Shyama, deliberately says that she is married to make Ranga realize and feel the importance of marriage and to change his view about marriage.
Having known that Ratna is married, Ranga feels depressed and does not talk to others for a few days. Then, the narrator takes him to Shashtri Ji, who is already foretold everything by the narrator about the girl Ranga loves and the things which Shastri Ji has to tell Ranga in order to impress him & to win his confidence. When they meet Shastri, the priest tells him that he seems to have fallen in love with a girl namely Ratna. Ranga gets shocked when he hears all about that but regrets as Ratna is already married.
But the narrator soon tells Ranga that he was unaware of the fact that Ratna is unmarried and soon they get married irrespective of their age. Now they have a son who is named after the narrator (Shyama) and they are expecting their second baby. In this way, the narrator gets both of them married.
rare-breed – uncommon persons
mill around – throng
pursue – continue
mouth-filling – long or complicated
cartographer – a person who makes or draw maps
karigadabu – sweet coconut samosas
glowingly – with much praise
annayya – respectful term for an elderly person
flea-pestered – troubled persistently by fleas
sure to go straight to your brahmarandra – very sharp
rambling – talking aimlessly
pice – a unit of coinage in India before 1957
muttering – complaining in a low tone
priceless commodity – valuable knowledge
widespread – well-known
homecoming – returning home after a length of time
his doorstep – just outside his home
courtyard – within the home’s compound but outside the home
Black Hole of Calcutta – refers to the incident in 1756 when many prisoners confined to a small cell died due to suffocation
janewara – the sacred thread worn by Brahmins
lost his caste – changed from living according to the rules of his caste
melted away – gradually disappeared
jerking – suddenly moving
wand – a slender stick or rod
pleasantries – courteous social remarks
troupe – a group of actors
admires – adores and respects
get him married – arrange his marriage
No Fancy Title of the Story
The narrator comments why he had not given any elaborate title to the present story, like ‘Ranganatha’s Vivaha’ or ‘Jagannatha Vijaya’. The reason is that the story is about a common boy, Ranga, and his marriage. He is an accountant’s son and native of village Hosahalli.
The Village of Hosahalli
The narrator mentions that this village is very small, and it is not mentioned in geography books. Still he speaks highly. about Hosahalli. Even the local doctor, Dr Gundabhatta, who has visited many places outside India, finds it an impressive village.
The village is famous for its sour mangoes and creepers growing in the village pond. The leaves of this creeper could serve as good plates for serving afternoon meals.
But the narrator, Shyama, says that real appreciation of the village can be felt only if one visits it personally and gets acquainted with it.
Ranga’s Home Coming was a Great Event
Shyama recalls an incident that happened ten years ago. The village accountant was the first one to gather enough courage to send his son to Bangalore to study. Not many people knew English then. That was why Ranga’s homecoming was a great event. A big crowd went to greet him.
The narrator rushed to see him. Everyone was surprised to see that Ranga had not changed. Once they realised that Ranga was unchanged, the crowd of people slowly disappeared. Only the narrator continued to stand there. Ranga had a smile on his face. He still followed the rituals of his caste by respectfully touching the narrator’s feet.
The Narrator Decides to Get Ranga Married
The same afternoon Ranga went to the narrator’s house with a couple of oranges in his hand. The narrator thought that such a fine and generous boy should get married and settle down. He enquired about his plan to get married. Ranga said that he didn’t want to get married soon. He was searching for the right girl who was mature enough. Secondly, he wanted to marry a girl he admired. He was not in favour of the arranged marriages prevalent in society. Till he got a girl of his choice, he wanted to remain a bachelor.
The narrator was distressed to learn about Ranga’s views on marriage, but he made up his mind that very soon he would get Ranga married.
The Narrator Found a Suitable Girl for Ranga
The narrator found the most suitable girl for him. It was Rama Rao’s niece Ratna, a pretty girl of eleven who had come to stay with him after her parents died. She was from a big town, so she knew how to play the veena and the harmonium. She also had a sweet voice.
The Narrator Starts Playing Matchmaker
The next morning, the narrator told Rama Rao’s wife to send Ratna to his house to fetch some buttermilk. Ratna knew the narrator as he was a frequent visitor to Rama Rao’s place. Ratna came to the narrator’s house. When Ratna came, he requested her to sing a song. It was Friday, so she was wearing a saree.
Meanwhile, Ranga came to the narrator’s house and stopped at the threshold. He didn’t want the singing to stop, but he was curious to see the singer. He was enchanted by her and kept glancing at her. After a while Ranga asked about Ratna. The narrator quite cunningly told him that she was married a year ago. Ranga was extremely disappointed to hear this. The narrator noticed signs of disappointment on Ranga’s face. Ranga left after some time.
The Narrator’s Plan
The next morning, the narrator met the astrologer, better known as Shastri, and tutored him about his plan in Ranga’s case. In the afternoon, the narrator met Ranga, who appeared as disturbed as he was yesterday. The narrator suggested to meet Shastri and enquire about what was worrying him. Ranga did not protest and went to meet Shastri with the narrator. Shastri pretended surprise and spoke about meeting the narrator after a long time.
The narrator almost ruined his own plan by saying that he had already met Shastri that very morning but Shastri saved it by changing the sentence.
The narrator told Shastri that something was worrying poor Ranga and they had come to seek his help. After making a pretence of some calculations, Shastri said that it was about a girl. To the narrator’s question as to who that girl was, Shastri said that she had the name of something found in the ocean – Kamala, Pachchi, Moss, Pearl or Ratna – the precious stone.
The Narrator’s Plan Succeeds
The narrator’s plan was bearing fruit. There was some surprise on Ranga’s face and even some happiness. On their return, Shyama passed in front of Rama Rao’s house.
Ratna was standing at the door. The narrator went inside Rama Rao’s house and came back a little later. He had a surprised look on his face. He told Ranga that there was some wrong information given to him. Ratna was not married. He also enquired of Ranga whether what Shastri had indicated was true. Shyama asked Ranga that he is thinking about Ratna. Ranga admitted that whatever Shastri said about the girl was true. Now, he wanted to get married to Ratna.
Ranga and Ratna Get Married
Finally, Ranga and Ratna got married. All the idealism of Ranga was forgotten as he was totally fascinated by Ratna’s beauty and sweet voice. They named their first child Shyama, as because of Shyama’s (the narrator) efforts they had got married. Years’ later, Ranga invited the narrator for dinner on the occasion of his 3-year-old son’s birthday. The son was also named Shyama in honour of the narrator. Thus, Ranga was leading a happy married life with Ratna.
This story deals with the marriage of Ranga, a native of village Hosahalli, who had returned after being educated in Bangalore.
Hearing of Ranga’s return, the villagers came to find out whether Ranga had changed due to studying in a city school. To their surprise and pleasure, he was the same Ranga who was treating everyone with respect.
In the afternoon, during Ranga’s visit to Shyama’s house, he asked Ranga about his plans for marriage. Ranga replied that first he must find the right girl whom he admired and who would be mature.
Shyama was unhappy that Ranga, who could prove to be a good husband, had decided to remain a bachelor at present.
So Shyama made up his mind that, irrespective of Ranga’s opinion about marriage or his decision to remain a bachelor, he would try his best to get Ranga married quickly.
Shyama knew an eleven-year-old orphan girl Ratna, who was his neighbour Rama Rao’s niece and stayed with him at present. The girl was beautiful, had a sweet voice and could play musical instruments (veena and harmonium) well.
Shyama chalked out a plan to let Ranga meet the girl and see her himself, by inviting Ranga to come to his home when Ratna was called there on purpose.
When Ratna came to Shyama’s house, he requested her to sing so that, when Ranga arrived, he could hear her.
Ranga was impressed with her singing as well as her beauty and enquired about her.
Shyama lied to Ranga by telling him that she was already married, which disappointed Ranga.
Next day, Shyama tutored the village astrologer, known as Shastri, to speak as Shyama wanted when Ranga was brought to him.
Ranga, meanwhile was looking sad and so Shyama suggested to him that they should consult Shastri to find out what was worrying him, to which Ranga agreed.
Shastri pretended to make some calculations and declared that a girl was responsible for Ranga’s condition and her name was of something found in the ocean, like Kamala, Pachchi, Moss, Pearl or Ratna.
Shyama mentioned that the Ratna whom they knew was already married, but the astrologer stuck to his words.
Returning from Shastri’s house, the narrator stopped at Rama Rao’s house, went inside for some time, and then returned.
He pretended to look surprised and told Ranga that just now he had found that Ratna was not married and the earlier information was incorrect.
He now asked Ranga whether what Shastri had indicated was true. Ranga admitted that whatever Shastri said was true and he wanted to get married to Ratna.
So Ranga and Ratna got married, naming their first child the same name as that of the narrator, as he was the one responsible for them being happily married.
A. Reading With Insight
Question 1: Comment on the influence of English—the language and the way of life— on Indian life as reflected in the story. What is the narrator’s attitude to English?
Answer: The narrator says that dining the last ten years English language has made inroads into Indian countryside. Now there are many who know English. During the holidays, one comes across them on every street, talking in English. They bring in English words even while talking in Kannada. The narrator considers it disgraceful. He illustrates his point of view by giving an example. A bundle of firewood was bought at Rama Rao’s house. Rama Rao’s son asked the woman how much he should give her. When she said, “Four pice”, the boy told her that he did not have any “change” and asked her to come the next day. The poor woman did not understand the English word “change” and went away muttering to herself. Thus, the use of English language before a native Kannada speaker caused confusion.
Ranga was influenced by the English way of life. Like them he wanted to marry a mature girl and not a young present-day bride. He told the narrator that he would marry when he grew a bit older. Secondly, he wanted to marry a girl he admired. He was not in favour of arranged marriages. This shows the influence of English way of life on modem young educated Indians. The narrator did not approve of it.
Question 2: Astrologers’ perceptions are based more on hearsay and conjecture than what they learn from the study of the stars. Comment with reference to the story.
Answer: This story presents astrologers in an unfavourable light. The author seems to be having a dig at them through the words of the narrator. The story gives a graphic description of how the narrator employs the astrologer to trick an unwilling young man to agree to marry a young girl. He tutors him in all that he wants him to say.
The narrator took Ranga to the astrologer. The Shastri took out his paraphernalia. These included two sheets of paper, some cowries, and a book of palmyra leaves. He called astrology ancient science. He moved his lips fast as he counted on his fingers. He did some calculations before telling Ranga that he was thinking about a girl. She had the name of something found in the ocean. He assured them that their negotiations would definitely bear fruit. Ranga was impressed by the science of astrology.
That evening the narrator congratulated Shastri for repeating everything he had taught without giving rise to any suspicion. He mocked astrology by saying, “What a marvellous shastra yours is!” The Shastri didn’t like it and said that he could have found it out himself from his shastra.
This shows that astrologers’ perceptions are based more on hearsay and conjecture them what they learn from the study of the stars.
Question 3: Indian society has moved a long way from the way the marriage is arranged in the story. Discuss.
Answer: In the past, marriages in India were usually arranged by parents/relatives. The story ‘Ranga’s Marriage’ shows how the narrator arranges Ranga’s marriage with the help of the astrologer. After independence, certain changes have come in the economic and social set-up of the Indian society. Women empowerment has made women men’s comrades and equals and not a mere prisoner confined within the four walls. Women education and access to jobs have changed the attitude of modem males towards them. A girl is now accepted as a partner in marriage for her worth or qualities rather than the dowry. Marriageable young boys and girls have now more say in the choice of partners. Early marriages have been banned legally. The minimum age for marriage for a girl is 18 and for a boy it is 21. By this time, they attain physical, emotional, and mental maturity. Indian society has certainly moved a long way from the time of arranged marriages when the formal consent of the bride/bridegroom was taken for granted and the elders fixed everything.
Question 4: What kind of a person do you think the narrator is?
Answer: The narrator, Shyama, is dark in colour. He calls himself’ ‘a dark piece of oil-cake’. He is an elderly gentleman. He is keen observer of men and manners. He notices the influence of English—the language and the way of life on Indian society. He is a purist who is pained at the indiscriminate use of English words in Kannada conversation. He considers it disgraceful. He does not approve of the English custom of love-marriage either. He is a well-meaning gentleman who has the good of others in his heart. He learns of Ranga’s views about marriage from Ranga himself. He is a good judge of human character. He thinks that Ranga would make a good husband. The narrator is a good strategist. He cleverly calls Ranga to his home when Ratna is singing a song. He notices Ranga’s reaction and interest in her and arouses his curiosity by arranging a meeting with the astrologer. First, he says that Ratna is married, but when he finds Ranga deeply interested in her, he confesses that he was wrongly informed. In short, the narrator tries his utmost to get the marriage settled.
The narrator loves fun and humour. He has the capacity to make others laugh at him. He employs a rambling style and gives many similes and metaphors to heighten the literary value of the story. The touches of local colour make the story full of ethnic colour and authentic.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q1. Where is Hasa Halli? Why does the author talk about Hosahalli with great enthusiasm?
Ans. Hosahalli is a place in Karnataka, 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 Hosahalli 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 doorstep 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 was 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 humour 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 humour 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 humour 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 surprised 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 humour 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 colourful 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 humour in the story. The narrator and Ranga’s visit to the astrologer and their conversation produce a few comic moments in the story.