Explore the impact of Susila in Narayan’s ‘The English Teacher’


In ‘The English Teacher’, the most obvious impact that the character of Susila has is on Krishna’s life. Krishna’s daily routine where he “got up at eight” and returned “four hours later” to his hostel began to change radically once Susila moved into his life along with their child, Leela. As a result we see that Krishna is no longer driven by such a strict routine and instead of aligning himself to the artificial schedule of the college day Krishna’s life begins to be ruled by more naturalistic forms of time. Hence he chats with Susila late into the night and Leela is put to bed when she is sleepy rather than at a specifically allocated time.


This change to Krishna’s family life begins his journey to self-fulfillment however Narayan also suggests that another important element to becoming enlightened is becoming more spiritual and here again Susila has a strong impact on Krishna as she introduces him to ideas of faith and acceptance which Krishna’s previous life in the British influenced “Albert Mission College” has not exposed him to. Although Narayan creates the sense that some vestiges of Indian cultural beliefs and spirituality remain dormant within Krishna, an idea perhaps best depicted by the “jasmine bush” (an indigenous Indian plant) that he grows within the confines of the college, it seems that at the start of the novel Krishna isn’t prepared to embrace his cultured roots, hence he mocks Susila when she  prays by tauntingly asking her whether she was ‘becoming a Yogi!’ However, Susila has a significant impact on this aspect of Krishna’s character as we see her gradually make him more appreciative of traditional Indian practices and customs. Narayan indicates this by, for example, making Krishna treat religious behaviours with more reverence when he visits the temple with Susila after going house hunting for the second time but this is most evidence towards the end of the novel when he is desperate to communicate with Susila after her death and enlists the help of the Medium to communicate with the world of the spirits.


In addition to being religious, Narayan may have created Susila as an overall symbol of the diversity Indian culture as suggested by her spontaneous personality, creativity and individuality. She is a complete contrast to the British culture surrounding her perhaps reflecting the way in which the attitudes of a colonial Britain that was soon to lose its hold on the sub-continent were in conflict with the indigenous ideals of the Indian people. It may be argued that Narayan still depicts Susila as possessing some sense of order and precision through the fact that she is Krishna’s “cash-keeper” and made “precise” shopping lists. However, Narayan may have created this slight blend of cultures in Susila to make her have a big impact on Krishna, showing him that he must find a balance between the two cultures and find the balance which will enable him to be self fulfilled  and not just be “copying, copying, copying” the seemingly perfect British culture.


Finally, the most important impact Susila has on Krishna is how she inspires his creativity, both when she is alive and as a spirit. Krishna has “not enough subjects to write on” for his poetry however Susila challenges to “see if you can write about me” and she encourages him to play his “veena” when she is a spirit. Krishna’s creativity is another important element to becoming self-fulfilled because it is important that the “blinkers” are removed from Krishna’s mind. Narayan uses the word “blinkers” which suggests that adults have been taught only to view the world in one way from a very narrow perspective. However it seems Susila helps remove these blinkers and gives Krishna a richer view of the world which in turn is what allows him to see both British and Indian cultures around him clearly and thus enables him to make his own choices about what he wants to believe, ultimately bringing him closer to the sense of peace and fulfillment which he experiences at the end of the novel.