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Arasalu — alight here for ‘Malgudi’

A J Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on August 20, 2020

A view of the Arasalu halt station of the Railways after its renovation

Railway’s Mysuru Division has recreated RK Narayan’s fictional town in the station

If you grew up reading the Swami and Friends trilogy, you might have wondered about the little fictional town of Malgudi, where novelist RK Narayan set the day-to-day adventures of the endearing 10-year-old boy.

Well, you can now actually travel to “Malgudi’, thanks to South Western Railway, which decided to solve the mystery of the RK Narayan town. Railways’ Mysuru Division has brought the fictional station to life at Arasalu on the Shivamogga-Talaguppa line.

Since Shankar Nag,the late Kannada director and actor, who televised the Malgudi Days stories for Doordarshan, filmed the series at Arasalu, it was a good reason to choose the town. Fittingly enough, at the ticket counter there today, one can see a sculpture of Nag handing out tickets.

When Aparna Garg took charge of Mysuru Division of the South Western Railway two years ago, her interest was piqued when she learnt that the highly popular Malgudi Days series was filmed at the Arasalu station, which is the alighting point for Huncha pilgrimage centre.

Says Garg, “When we inspected the station, we found it in a dilapidated state. Then we thought, why not renovate this building as a tribute to the people who were associated in the making of this popular serial, which was so much loved by people of every generation.”

 

Behind the scenes

When the Division was scouting for an expert to undertake the restoration of the station and convert it into a museum, it chanced upon a news report in The Hindu which mentioned that John Devaraj had been associated as the art director for the serial. He agreed to take up the project.

The restoration of the crumbling old building of Arasalu station was done brick-by-brick and tile-by-tile. The lime and mortar walls were strengthened using locally available laterite bricks, following the traditional methods.

More importantly, the Malgudi project has been a labour of love for the Mysuru Division, which wanted to create an experience of the beloved stories of RK Narayan at the station. The ₹1.3-crore project includes the restoration of the station, a museum that showcases the legendary writer, the ace director and the actors, and a little replica of the steam engine that traverses Malgudi in the serial.

One can see some of the memorable characters in the stories here. For instance, the tiger that appears in the episode ‘A Hero’ and the leopard have been cast from real carcasses of animals in the possession of the Karnataka Forest Department.

The fence and the benches in the museum are made of discarded steel sleepers. An overaged wooden body narrow-gauge coach has been refurbished to house ‘Malgudi Chai’, a canteen for visitors.

Though the station is already open to the public, a part of the plans is still to be executed. The digital interactive elements are still being done.

Who wouldn’t love to journey down a literary track and hear the familiar lilting call of Swaaaami echo all around!

 

Published on August 20, 2020

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