45 A Month

By R.K. Narayan

Chapter Summary

In 45 A Month by R.K. Narayan, the story begins with a young girl named Shanta Bai. She is in class but constantly asks her teacher and classmates what the time is. She must be home by five o'clock because on this particular evening, her father is taking her to the cinema and has told her to be ready to go at five. Finally, after many incorrect times, Shanta is given permission to leave and she runs home to get ready. She puts on a pink frock, braids her hair, attaches a green ribbon, and then finishes by powdering her face and putting a vermilion mark on her forehead. She waits and waits outside for her father while her mother consistently urges her to come back into the house. After much waiting, Shanta decides to walk to her Father's office, thinking it is right around the corner. Instead, she becomes lost and is found by a neighbor's servant who takes her home.



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The story then switches perspectives from Shanta to her father Venkat Rao. He works as an accountant, earning only forty rupees a month. Venkat Rao is enraged by his social class because he must work from morning to night and does not get a chance to spend time with his daughter or to buy her any toys. Then one morning a jutka comes to the neighborhood, passing out cinema tickets. Shanta asks her father if they can go and Venkat Rao, furious after reflecting on his job and his daughter's happiness, says yes, they will go to the cinema even if he has to resign from his job to get the time to go. He hates that his job controls his life because he works so hard and for so long with only forty rupees to show at the end of the month. Telling Shanta to be ready at five, he goes to work and is determined to meet his daughter at that time. However, Venkat Rao's workload keeps streaming in and his manager tells him that he cannot leave at five. Thus, he must watch time tick by while he knows his child is eagerly awaiting his return. After assessing his situation, Venkat Rao becomes furious and quickly writes down the resignation he had been conjuring up in his head all day. He leaves the letter of resignation on his manager's desk only to be told by his manager himself that he had recommended Venkat Rao for a raise! Venkat Rao quickly snatches his letter of resignation back from the desk and does not leave the office until nine o'clock.


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By the time Venkat Rao returns home around nine, Shanta is asleep, still in dressed and made up for her night out at the cinema.




Meaning of the Work

The meaning of 45 A Month is that to be happy and to live comfortably, one must choose between wealth and family.


Although it seems like wealth will always lead to happiness, this is not the case for Venkat Rao. Because he is a slave to his low-paying job when all he wants to do is spend quality time with his family, he resents the fact that he is not able to be a good father and husband. Venkat Rao consistently ponders the idea of quitting his job to become truly happy with his family, however, happiness and pleasant living conditions cannot coexist. Venkat Rao can only be happy once he quits his job and becomes the father and husband he dreams of being but he can only provide pleasant living conditions if he is a slave to his job.

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Quotations and Analysis


"He reproached himself for neglecting his wife and child..." (88).

This quotation shows how Venkat Rao hates himself for failing to look after his wife and daughter because he is working so hard. He almost never sees his daughter awake and only quickly spends time with his wife and for this, he is angry. He is angry at his job for controlling him because he is being forced to choose between wealth and family.


"Here was the child growing up without having any of the amenities and the simple pleasures of life...He had no time for the child" (87).

This quote illustrates how having such a time consuming job leaves no time for family at all. Venkat Rao's job does not even earn his a sufficient amount of money to buy Shanta toys and dolls. Once again, it is evident that wealth and family cannot coexist and even if they do coexist, they will be very unbalanced, ultimately bringing about the same result: unhappiness.



"If you people think you have bought me body and soul for forty rupees, you are mistaken. I think it would be far better for me and my family to die of starvation than slave for this petty forty rupees on which you have kept me for years and years."


This quotation represents the breaking point between Venkat Rao and his work life. He is full of resolve to resign from his job, choosing family over work (or so it seems). Venkat Rao feels as though he had sold himself for his job but has realized his err and is ready to show his defiance. However in the end, Venkat Rao ends up remaining a slave to his job, this time for forty-five rupees. He may not be a slave for forty-rupees, but he is a slave for forty-five rupees. Thus he has chosen wealth over family, as they cannot coexist in a balanced life.



"I don't know if it is going to be possible for me to take her out at all--you see, they are giving me an increment--" he wailed (90)

This quote shows how Venkat Rao understands that a raise means more work and less family time. He has chosen wealth over family and realizes how his choice destroys his other option.




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Irony

It is ironic that Venkat Rao blames himself for not being a loving, devoted father and husband when he is in this situation because he is working so hard to earn money to support his family and to buy his daughter toys and dolls. This is what any loving father would do, however Venkat Rao believes he is not a loving father when in actuality, all his work is done out of love.

Indian History and Culture

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India has had a caste system where people are categorized into tiers going from prosperous/good job to lower than dirt (Brahmins to Untouchables). "Membership" in each caste is based on birth and it was virtually impossible to better one's social status.


Brahmins-Priests and Spiritual Teachers

Kshatriyas- Warriors and Rulers

Vaisyas- Middle ranking farmers or artisans: barbers or carpenters

Sudras- Laborers, Servants, workers

Untouchables- work with dirt and corpses


Those of a lower class lived in a state of great penury and social disadvantage.

Venkat Rao works for more than the average Indian man. He leaves the house in the morning for work, which could be from 6, 7, 8, or even 9 o clock because these are morning hours but later than 9 would imply that he has time to spend with his daughter in the morning. The average Indian man works fro 8.1 hours in a day, however if this was the case with Venkat, he would not be returning home at such late hours.
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Indian currency is very low compared to US currency. 40 rupees converts to about $0.74 dollars.


To get an idea of how much money this is in India, one 1.5 liter water is 20Rs. That is basically half of Venkat Rao's monthly earning.

Works Cited

*Second Line Indent*


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