‘Another Community‘ by R. K. Narayan is the story of a man’s supreme self sacrifice to save his city from communal violence. The hero of the story is unnamed so as to keep his community and caste unidentified.
The hero worked as a clerk in the office of an insurance company for a monthly payment of Rs 100. His passage from youth to the middle age was at the same seat in his office. He lived in a little house which was sufficient for his wife and four children. Yet he felt perplexed when some guests came to stay with him. His life was on the whole peaceful and happy until the October of 1947 when people began to behave like savages. The author ironically states that some one or some body of men killed a body of men a thousand miles away and the result was that they repeated the evil here and wreaked their vengeance around. The author remarks that an evil action in a far off place always found a corresponding echo. The tempers of the neighbours rose when they read the newspaper each day. They eagerly waited for vengeance. People who were friends behaved in a new way: We are of one community and they are of another community. All these troubled the hero. He visualised the madness of communal violence unleashed on innocent lives like that of his colleagues’s little daughter. Such fantasies made the hero whisper under his breath constantly” “God forbid”. He tried to console his friends by telling them that such deeds of violence would not happen in their locality. But his men were organizing themselves for violence. All these sounded ghastly to the hero’s sensitive temperament. Life seemed to become unbearable to him. People seemed to him
secretive. Everyone seemed to him a potential assassin. The atmosphere was surcharged with fear and suspicion. The hero avoided meeting anyone lest they should spread wild stories. They always talked about someone stabbed in the street or a woman attacked. Such talks made our hero nervous and he lost his relish for food and sleep. Whenever he looked at his wife and children he was racked by the fear that some peril was in store for them. He visualised the terrified scream of his daughter and wife. He kept falling off into half sleep and kept awake. He shuddered even at the slightest sound and went up to the window to see if any violence was committed.
It was then that people mentioned the coming wednesday, the 29th of the month as a critical day. The communal issue was supposed to be settled for ever on that day. Every one spoke of the 29th. The hero’s uncle who is a leader of their community claimed that the tension would settle for ever that day. He was determined to wipe the town clean off the other community as they were only a minority. He began to make frenzied calculations. He eagerly waited for the zero hour ( i.e. the hour at which a significant event is scheduled to take place). He wondered whether one community member would slap the cheek of another. After all his community would not take the initiative. Our hero raised his doubt: “Suppose nothing happen?” But his uncle told him that it was not possible. His justification was that the other community was holding secret meetings at midnight.
The hate-charged communal propaganda went on. Our hero’s uncle said “We don’t ask for trouble. But if anything happens, we will finish them off….. It will work like a push button arrangement. But we will avoid the initiative as far as possible”.
On the 29th, most of the shops and the schools remained closed as a precaution. Children remarked with coolness that there would be a fight on that day. The hero’s wife tried to dissuade him from going to office on that day. But he laughed off her warning but suggested to her to keep herself and her children indoors.
Most of the colleagues at the office were on leave under several pretexts. The few who came discusssed the frightful possibilities of the day. Our hero hated such talks. He plunged himself in work. It was getting dark when he got up from his seat. He was anxious about reaching home. The usual route seemed to him laborious. So he took the short cut laden with gutters and and threatened by street dogs. The cyclist who came up halted his progress. He ran his wheels between our hero’s legs. The hero had to exchange words with the cyclist. The cyclist lost his temper and hit the hero on the face. Somebody among the crowd assembled shouted that the cyclist dared to attack the hero in their own locality. They decided to teach the other fellows a lesson. Shouts and screams increased. Somebody hit the hero. He saw a knife flashing out. He felt his end had come. He tried to lecture to the crowds the futility of violence and wanted them to stop the fight all at once. But it was too late. He was surrounded, His eyes dimmed and he felt very light. He mumbled that he would never tell his uncle of what had happened lest he should responsible for starting the trouble. He would tell his uncle that he fell down the office staircase and hurt himself.
The unnamed hero could not ultimately save the city from violence because the button of communal hatred got pressed by the forces of evil. If he had lived he would have spoken a lie to the leaders of the community and thereby saved them from self destruction.