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Book Review: Ranga’s Marriage by Masti Venkatesh Iyengar

Ranga’s Marriage by Masti Venkatesh Iyengar is a short story based on child marriage ideology. The story takes place in an unknown village named Hoshali in the state of Mysore. Initially the narrator spins tales about his village – he talks as why his village is hidden from the world and the British government workers as well as Indian Babus don’t care a bit to make it appear on the map.

The second part of the story features Ranga (full name Rangappa) and his ideology towards marriage. The story is set when India wasn’t independent and the culture of English-speaking was negligible. Well, the story goes back by ten years. Then, Ranga – the village accountant clerk’s son is sent to Bangalore for studies.
When he returns home after six months, people gather around his home to see changes in him. Well, they don’t find any changes, thus leave disappointed. The narrator is neighbor to Ranga’s house. Ranga does not forget his manners – he says Namaskar to the narrator. Later one day, Ranga visits the narrator’s home and there they talk about marriage. In fact, the narrator advises Ranga to get married. In reply Ranga says that he wished to get married to a mature girl whom he can admire all the time. Since in their village, child marriage is a tradition, Ranga is aware that men are being tied to immature girls of tender age, like eleven to fifteen.

Ranga’s indifference towards marriage hurts the narrator. Hence he decides to get the boy married off soon. Rama Roa’s eleven-year-old niece is a beautiful girl. One Friday when she is called to the narrator’s house, he requests her to sing a song by playing harmonium and veena, and also sends someone for Ranga. When Ranga comes, he listens to the music, and to see the singer’s face, he peeps inside only to find that beautiful girl.

From his face expressions, it becomes clear that Ranga liked the girl but the narrator informs him that the girl is married. Ranga’s face hangs down in frustration. After this, the narrator visits the village astrologer and sets him for Ranga’s marriage signs. He tells the astrologer what to tell in front of that boy Ranga.

Upon meeting the astrologer, he says that Ranga is in love and the name of the girl derives from ocean. After guessing some names, the astrologer comes upon Ratna – the girl’s name.

While going back, the narrator sees Ratna standing at the door. He goes inside for a minute and then comes back. This time he says to Ranga that the girl is not married. Earlier wrong information was passed to him. Ranga feels delighted and the narrator says that the astrologer was right about his words.

Now the story comes to the present time, Ranga has come to invite the narrator to his son’s birthday party. There he finds that Ranga has named his son’s name as Shyama – it is also the name of the narrator. The narrator mildly scolds Ranga for naming his son’s name after him. To this Ranga says that it is the English custom of naming the child after someone you like.

The story has couple of themes, like child marriage, ideology on marriage, life standard during the colonial era and how people got culturally affected by it.  


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