The Emerald Route
Author: R.K. Narayan
Publisher: Indian Thought Publications
Publication Date: 1977 (Non-commercial version), 1980 (first commercial edition)
Genre: Travel Literature
Pages: 184 pages
The Emerald Route is R.K. Narayan’s account of his travels across his homeland of Karnataka, from Belur and Halebid to Gulbarga and Hampi, from the hilly prospects of Mangalore to the gold mines of Kolar, from the legendary battlefield of Seringapanam—home of Tippu Sultan—to the rock formations of Bellary—supposed to be gigantic pellets thrown by Bhima at Bakasura.
As he makes his way through the shopping complexes of Bangalore and the elephant khedda at Karapur, samples the local delicacies like Nanjangud bananas and Avaraikalu beans and enjoys the sunsets and mallige (jasmine) at Mysore, the master storyteller tells us about the history and mythology that make Karnataka the fascinating state it is.
The main narrative of the 178-page travelogue is divided into 5 parts. In addition to this, the book also has an Introduction, a Preamble, a Postscript and 3 Appendices, comprising the one-act play, the folk tale and the description of taming wild elephants.
Part I of the book, also titled “The Emerald Route” covers the greenest part of Karnataka—Halebid, Sravanabelgola, Chikmaglur, Sringeri, Agumbe, Mangalore, Dharmasthala, Udipi, Pajakakshetra, Subrahmanya, and Mercara.
Talking about the title and why he thinks ‘emerald’ suits the title, he said:
“The term occurred to me when we started out on a tour of Karnataka, from Mysore, through Hunsur and Hassan, and returning to Mysore nearly one week later, having continuously journeyed up and down the ghats, the Konkan coast and Coorg, and never seeing a dry patch anywhere. Green of several shades we saw, mountain sides lightly coated with verdure and fern, the dark foliage of trees rising hundreds of feet from the valley, light green, dark green, pale green, evergreen, and every kind of green shade, were offered for our delectation all through our circular tour of approximately a thousand kilometres.”
The preamble to the book establishes the context to understand Karnataka by laying a foundation to its literary, political and mythological history. The spiritual and religious history is merged into the main narrative of the places visited, very skilfully.
Throughout describing the rich culture, flora and fauna of the state, Narayan finally concludes that if he attempted to put in any more personal experiences, the book then maybe perceived as an Autobiography which he doesn’t intent to be. So he left at that: giving out a very important message:
“Our mutual goal should be to protect and preserve our authenticity, culture, flora and fauna to the maximum extent possible.”
About the Author:
R. K. Narayan was born in Madras, South India, and educated there and at Maharaja’s College in Mysore. His first novel Swami and Friends (1935) and its successor The Bachelor of Arts (1937) are both set in the enchanting fictional territory of Malgudi. Other ‘Malgudi’ novels are The Dark Room (1938), The English Teacher (1945), Mr. Sampath (1949), The Financial Expert (1952), The Man Eater of Malgudi (1961), The Vendor of Sweets (1967), The Painter of Signs (1977), A Tiger for Malgudi (1983), and Talkative Man (1986). His novel The Guide (1958) won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country’s highest literary honour. He was awarded in 1980 the A.C. Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature and in 1981 he was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. As well as five collections of short stories, A Horse and Two Goats, An Astrologer’s Day and Other Stories, Lawley Road, Under the Banyan Tree and Malgudi Days, he has published a travel book, The Emerald Route, three collections of essays, A Writer’s Nightmare, Next Sunday and Reluctant Guru, three books on the Indian epics, and a volume of memoirs, My Days.