What makes a novel qualify as “picaresque”? The word itself refers to a story about a “rough and dishonest but appealing hero” who proceeds on a series of adventures, only to learn nothing from the experience and go back to being the same rogue-life character he has always been. This certainly defines Tom Jones in The History of Tom Jones, but it does not as much apply to Raju in The Guide.
Raju, after having an epiphany when he realizes he should fast and fast properly, is determined to complete his two-week fast. During that time, he is expected
to stand in knee-deep water, look to the skies, and utter the prayer lines for two weeks, completely fasting during the period—and lo, the rains would come down, provided the man who performed it was a pure soul, was a great soul.
On the tenth day of his fast, he is asked if he likes it where he is, but Raju confesses that “I am only doing what I have to do; that’s all. My likes and dislikes do not count.” Even before his two weeks of fasting are complete, he has already changed from the classic selfish rogue into an unselfish human, part of the larger picture on earth.
Tom Jones and other similar rapscallions do not undergo the kind of transformation Raju does, but does that necessarily disqualify The Guide as a picaresque novel? Not necessarily. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example, has many elements of a picaresque novel, but Huck experiences real growth as a human being. So even though we can conclude that because Tom Jones does not exhibit any kind of growth and thus the book bearing his name is the quintessential picaresque novel, the fact Raju does transform in The Guide not necessarily mean the novel is not picaresque. It may not be as pure as The History of Tom Jones, but an argument can nonetheless be made it is a picaresque novel.