Malgudi Days


Iswaran has a good feeling about passing his intermediate examination. His parents sympathized with him when he failed it for the first time, but years later they wanted him to do something useful with his life instead of failing the Intermediate Class examination. He was feeling good about this year and had studied very hard.

He always kept his head held high and bragged with his arms swaying, but he was only wearing a mask. Under that mask he felt like a miserable failure praying for success. He wrote a note that told his dad he was going to kill himself and he felt like a failure.

When he found out that he made it to the next class he couldn't believe it and he felt on top of the world. He rode a horse as fast as he could and did not fear anything. He was a fool and thought he could jump the river. The next day people found him dead with the same note in his coat pocket.

Meaning of the Story

In India, we seem to have very little tolerance for failure. Iswaran flunks his 12th board examinations more than once. He seems not to care and develops a tough exterior but inside feels like a failure. This story is rings true for many Indian youngsters even today. The boy failed his parents so much that he did not think he could accomplish anything. When he realized he succeeded in the exam he was so excited he ended up killing himself because he felt that nothing could stop him.

“I am not fit to live. A fellow who cannot pass an examination”

After failing the test twice his parents did not show sympathy for him and after a few more times people thought he was a failure and would never pass. When everyone around him thought he was a failure it sunk in him and he realized that his culture did not want people who failed in class.

“He was a failure and had no right to such luxuries. He was treated as a sort of thick-skinned idiot. But he did not care.”

Iswaran came from a wealthy family who expected much from him. Because of this he wanted to pass his exam very badly so that his parents didn't think he was a failure. People treated him as an idiot who did not deserve the life he was living. He wanted to prove everyone wrong.

“He came to the water’s edge, hesitated for a moment and whispered to his horse, ‘Are you afraid of water? You must swim across, otherwise I will never pay five-nought-one rupees for you.”

Once he realized he had passed the examination he thought he was on top of the world and nothing could bring him down. As he was on top of the world he had no common sense and he thought the horse could jump the river which eventually led to his tragic death.

Cultural Significance

This story reveals the expectations of Indian families and the struggle some Indians have with this. It also dives into the schooling system in India and how stressful they can be. Iswaran thought the only way to succeed in life was to pass this test and no longer be a failure but he lost sight of what was important.