The Man–Eater of Malgudi is a novel written by R. K. Narayan.
The story rotates around the life of an Indian printer Nataraj who lives in a massive ancestral house in Malgudi, a fictional town in South India. Surrounded by Mempi hills, the beautiful town is tranquil and pleasing. Leading a contented lifestyle along with his circle of friends, a poet, a journalist named Sen, and his single employee, Sastri, Nataraj had never suspected any kind of unnecessary intervention. Vasu, the taxidermist, comes to Malgudi with the selfish intention of exploring the Mempi hills in search of wildlife. It is with his persuasive stipulation of printing five hundred visiting cards that he barges into Nataraj’s printing press; and then onwards the love-hate relationship between Vasu and Nataraj develops. Nataraj is not very sure about Vasu’s proximity, neither is he clear about his own stance but there is a strange collaboration between them and however hard he tries to come out of it, it is beyond his capability. It is as if the bond is sanctified by a supreme force and despite Nataraj’s desperate wish he fails to tear himself apart from the strong pull.
Vasu is a torment to the simple-hearted people of the village and is even compared to Rakshasa (a Demon) by Nataraj and Sastri. He vehemently and authoritatively takes up residence in the attic of Nataraj’s press and convinces Nataraj that he would stay there as a guest only for a few days until he gets some other better place to move on. This self declaration seems unauthentic with the passing of time as, without Nataraj’s knowledge, Vasu finds the place very suitable to carry out his taxidermist plans. Vasu, the ‘pahelwan’, is proud of his strength and has an intention of doing whatever he feels like by demonstrating his muscle power and his over-imposing nature. Without Nataraj’s permission Vasu encroaches into his life casually and even bullies his friends and customers every now and then creating a state of confusion and condemnation all around. He poaches wildlife from Mempi hills and carries out the work of a taxidermist in the attic of the printing press which results in an awful stench in the neighborhood. When Nataraj questions about this to Vasu, he, on the contrary, files a complaint with the rent control authority on Nataraj, blaming him as a self declared tenant. Vasu even goes to the extent of entertaining women in the attic and this disturbs the serenity and sobriety of Malgudi. He is referred to by the narrator as “the man eater of Malgudi” as it is his coming to the town that engulfs the purity and profundity of the place.
It is Rangi, the temple dancer and one of Vasu’s women, who informs Nataraj that Vasu wants to kill Kumar, the temple elephant, which Nataraj had brought down from the Mempi Hills for treatment of some ailment as a favour to Muthu who had helped Nataraj when he had happened to meet him under unexpected circumstances owing to Vasu’s unpredicted and reckless adventures. Nataraj frantically tries to stop Vasu from this heinous crime, but in vain. He even decides for another ultimate talk to Vasu but when he goes to the attic he ascertains the sleeping profile of Vasu from the dim street light. He thinks it to be a blessing and comes down without disturbing Vasu, praying that Vasu must continue his sleep till the procession passes by. The convoy passes uninterruptedly and it is only in the next morning that Vasu’s death is discovered. Nataraj is looked down upon as many has a feeling that it might be he who had instigated the crime and Nataraj tries his best to prove his innocence. The autopsy takes place and the verdict issued is that he was neither poisoned nor were there any signs of physical injury. Though the case is closed, the reputation of Nataraj’s press is ruined and his friends and other people start avoiding him. Later, Nataraj learns, through his friend
Sastri, that Vasu was not murdered, but died in an attempt to smash a mosquito sitting on his temple. The blow was so hard that he had damaged one of his nerves leading to an instant death. The powerful hands that Vasu was so proud of finally become the instrument of his own destruction. At last Nataraj is rid of Vasu but in his heart he nurtures his attraction for the man whose courage and confidence he really appreciated. The story ends on the note that all demons or rakshashas are themselves responsible for their own downfall.