R.K. Narayan regarded as one of the "Big Three" among the Indian novelists in English has been admired for his remarkable gift for telling stories, portraying memorable people of small oddities and eccentricities, and his humour. He writes with grace and humour, about a fictional town Malgudi and its inhabitants; and their little lives. Narayan is a classic teller of tales; an enduring appeal springs from his canvas where common men and women of all times and places are joined in their simple pursuits.
Narayan's novel, The Painter of Signs is a very popular one tracing the ups and downs of its young hero Raman, a sign-painter of Malgudi who spends his day in his business rounds and his evenings with his cronies in The Boardless Hotel, falls in love with a young woman Daisy, an outsider and a family planning zealot in whom love takes the backseat. Raman is caught in the cross-currents of his love for Daisy and his familial ties with his widowed aunt who is conservative. There is a basic dichotomy within Daisy, the committed family planner and sexually repressive young woman. Similarly, Raman yearns to be a rationalist but finds himself overcome by sexual thoughts. Thus, when the two young people inevitably get together, it creates a hopeless tension that finally destroys their relationship. In the hands of Narayan this simple story of Raman's broken love for Daisy becomes a top-class entertainer with his characteristic humour and convincing characters and realistic rendering of family ties.