A Horse and Two Goats by R. K. Narayan is a story about a misunderstanding between an Indian and an American. A major theme is clash of cultures as exhibited by the wealthy American and the poor Hindu, Muni.
The story opens with a clear picture of the poverty in which the protagonist Muni lives. Only one Big House out of thirty houses in the village is made up of brick. The others including Muni are made up of bamboo’s thatch, straw, mud and other materials. There is no running water or electricity supply. Muni’s wife cooked food over a fire in a mud pot. One day Muni has shaken down six drumsticks from the tree growing in front of his house and asks his wife to prepare them in a sauce for him. She agrees, provided he can get the other ingredients like rice, dhaal, spices, oil and a potato. Muni has not been so poor since the beginning. Once he owned a flock of forty sheep and goats which he used to graze every day. But years of drought, famine and an epidemic had destroyed all and he is left with only two goats. And because he belongs to a lower caste, he was never allowed to go to school. He and his wife have no children to take care of them in their old age. They run their house from the odd jobs his wife does at the big house. Muni has taken so much credit from every shop that when he asks for the ingredients his wife requires for cooking the drumsticks, he is refused. There is nothing in the house to cook so his wife asks him to fast till evening and graze the goats. Muni goes to his usual place on the outskirts where he would sit on the pedestal of the old horse statue and his goats meandered. The horse statue is made up of clay and is brightly coloured.
As Muni waits for the evening, he notices a yellow coloured wagon from which a red faced American wearing khaki gets down and asks him for a nearby gas station. Then he notices the statue and exclaims ‘Marvelous’. Muni mistakes him as a policeman or a soldier and he wants to run away but finds it difficult due to his old age. The two starts conversing in their own language without understanding each other. The American offers him a cigarette and then gives him his business card which Muni thinks to be warrant card. He gives innocent explanation that he knows nothing about the crime the man is investigating. American put forth his desire to buy the horse statue as he thinks Muni is the owner of it. The two talk about their own life. Muni tells him about the statue what his father and grandfather had told him. The American listens with fascination and appreciates his sound. Muni tells him that he has never been to school and only Brahmins went to school in those days therefore he doesn’t know Parangi language. He further describes the horse as their guardian. At this the American replies that he assures that the statue will have the best home in the U.S.A.
This way trying to understand each other’s language, they continued their conversation. Ultimately, the American waved a hundred rupee note and hand it over to Muni. Muni thinks it is an offer for the goats. He happily runs back home leaving his goats. But his wife suspects him of theft and threatens to leave him. On the other hand, the American gets the help to detach the horse from its pedestal and place it in his station wagon.