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We first see the circumstances of Muni's miserable life in R.K. Narayan's short story "A Horse and Two Goats" first as described in the story's first three pages. Muni and his wife are miserably poor. Having been rejected and humiliated by the "scoundrel," a local shopkeeper, when he asked for a little food to survive, Muni instructs his wife to sell the "drumsticks" (another name for a vegetable similar to a horse radish that she has shaken down to the ground) for "what they are worth," but we can assume he is willing to take whatever she can get: for it will be more than what they presently have, which is barely enough on which to survive.
He told his wife, "That scoundrel would not give me anything. So go out and sell the drumsticks for what they are worth."
The quote lets the reader know that their entire town is poor—especially compared to the overall number of villages in India...mostly in that their village is the smallest:
Of the seven hundred thousand villages dotting the map of India, in which the majority of India’s five hundred million live, flourish and die, Kritam was probably the tiniest...
In a country so heavily populated, it is no surprise that the smallest of its towns has little to boast of—certainly not financial success. In truth, Muni has almost nothing (though this was not always the case). He does, however, own two goats, but they aren't worth selling (or even eating) or they would have been gone long before.
The goats roam freely, and at times, Muni will walk to the side of a nearby highway to sit and pass the time, as he does (at his wife's insistence) on this particular day. And when the American drives by and then stops, having seen the statue of the horse and warrior, Muni (who understands nothing the English-speaker is saying) gives us more information regarding the quality of his life. He notes that the goats are his, despite what people in the town might say...
...the village is full of people ready to slander a man.
We can infer that Muni speaks from firsthand experience. We also learn from Muni that he is lonely—no one talks to him.
...you seem to be a good man, willing to stay beside an old man and talk to him, while all day I have none to talk to except when somebody stops to ask for a piece of tobacco.
Once more, we learn of Muni circumstances as he looks at the 100-rupee note, the likes of which Muni has never before seen. He recognizes the lower amounts, the five and the ten, by their color only for he has held them in his own hand. Any money he receives for working is paid to him in "coppers and nickels."
A great deal of what we learn of Muni and his greatly reduced financial circumstances comes from what he says, as we draw inferences with regard to what his speech reveals about his life.
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