Ruskin Bond

Book: Collected Fiction
Author: Ruskin Bond
Rating: 4 stars
Price: Rs. 395
Publishers: Penguin

Couple of months back, I bought a book written by Ruskin Bond titled “Ruskin Bond: Collected Fiction”. Ruskin Bond, from what I know, is an author who is known to all the Indians but only occasionally do you find people who have read his works. Browsing thought the shelves in Odyssey, Adyar in Chennai, I happen to notice the thick book (900 pages). It has about 75 short stories and 5 novel/novellas. Having read a handful of stories, the book looked promising enough to give me a good time. Sure it did.

In one of my previous posts, this is what i had to say about the stories:
“Yesterday, I was going through some of the short stories of Ruskin Bond which are set on rural India. The mundane background which every Indian can connect to, in his stories, takes you into times and minds of the characters. His stories revolve around serendipitous encounters which leave a lasting impression…… The stories narrate about a chanced meeting with a stranger, finding something that fascinates him about the stranger, and in many cases the stranger is lost in the wilderness of the crowd. Anything could fascinate the narrator, from a coy smile of a little girl to benevolence of a thief.”

One word that describes his language is ‘simple’. One can effortlessly run through the pages without having to look into dictionary or pause to digest a paragraph. The hold in the language is quite apparent when you notice that stories take you into imaginations without much difficulty. One thing that he does the best is describe nature. Any reader will be baffled by his description which can boast of mind blowing personifications, metaphors and attention grasping words. Most of his stories lie around jungles, ravines, hillocks and many of gods creatures, big or small.

Many-a-times narrated in first person, the central theme of the stories is usually held by a young boy yet to be 10, or an adolescent. A child’s simple pleasures like running along a stream, watching a sunset, observing a tree tremble against gusty winds are all magically brought back to life even as we live in this material world. I shouldn’t deny the fact that all of his stories remind us to get back the excitement packed inner child in us and rediscover those simple pleasures. Some of his stories capture the youthful enthusiasm in adolescence, the desire to unravel the mysteries that lie behind the obvious. In an otherwise dull train journey, the main character, in some of his stories, decides to take a stroll outside the bound of the railway station of a forsaken village. The discovery of life and other means of livelihood brings as mush amusement to the readers as the character himself. When speaking of Ruskin Bond, ghost stories can’t be left behind. The chilling stories are sure leave you stunned for quite a while. My favorite story in the entire collection happens to be a ghost story called, ‘face in the dark.’

The collection also features two novellas called ‘Room on the Roof’ and, its sequel, ‘Vagrants in the Valley’. Based on similar genre described above, this can be seen as several short stories put together. The plot starts with a young adolescent, Rusty, escape from the stifling atmosphere of his Anglo Indian guardian. Out of the cage, he meets some Indian friends when he start indulging in their lives, tastes his first Gol-Guppa among lot of other things. The story blossoms into Rusty inching towards forming his goals. ‘Vagrants in the Valley’ picks off right where ‘Room on the Roof’ left off. Along with his friend Kishan, Rusty travels in the pains of the north India leaving a lasting impression on the reader’s minds.

I personally did not like the other three novellas written by him named Delhi is not Far, Sensualist and A Flight of Pigeons. They were based on completely different genres. A flight of pigeons narrates a story of young English girl during 1857 mutiny. In Delhi is not Far, narrator describes his relationship with a streetwise and a prostitute. Sensualist talks of an old man’s exploits of all kinds.

Short Stories that should be eagerly looked forwarded to be read are: the eyes have it, Sita and the river, time stops at Shamli, the haunted bicycle, escape from Java and many others. The final verdict: this book would make a great birthday gift to 12-15 year olds.

Trek to Tada

Earlier this year seven of us had been to trekking to a waterfall near the town of Tada in Andra Pradesh. Quite easily, we had the best time of our lives that day. What began as enthusiastic bunch of students looking for a good way to kill a Sunday, ended on a high note with memories that would last forever. We started from our hostels at 4:30 AM by a taxi to CMBT and then to Tada by a bus bound to Nellore. Tada is about 75 KM from Chennai; roughly 2 hours journey. In the town of Tada, we hired a rickety auto for Rs 400 to drop us to the base and pick us back later in the evening.

Amidst all the anticipations from the trek, we saw a temple (under construction) with a quaint architecture. It belonged to Kalki Bhagwan. We couldn’t resist making out first stop to take some pics. Couple of snaps later, we got started again and headed towards the base of the hills.

On our way, I happened to notice an auto carrying rural folk towards the town of Tada. It was a sight begging to be photographed, but I couldn’t take the camera out in time. On the back of the auto were four middle aged women dressed in Saree. Each one of them wore a Saree of a different colour. The bright red vermilion power on the forehead, the gleaming bangles, the shiny necklace, the sitting posture and the colour contrast in their dresses gave me a glimpse of a conservative India whose sight is not common in urban India. This aesthetically rich view is perhaps the expectation from any tourist coming to our country. Inside the auto, were men folk who were carrying, from what i can guess, agricultural implements, mud pots etc. A crude turban on their head, traditional dhotis accompanying plain shirts are again instances of finding orthodox scenic beauty. The place was set against vast fields and clear blue sky. The pleasing picture lasted only a glance as our autos went fast past each other.

We made our last stop before the base to appreciate the picturesque view of the hills we were about to conquer [:-p] . The view of hut below stands out, in my opinion, among all the photographs I took. The lone tree also made a good photograph.

As we set out for our trek, the place was simmering under the hot sun, as were our expectations. We walked for quite some distance until we reached a stream which became our first resting point. The cool water of the stream so sweet to taste that out aquafina water was proved to be “no-match” to it. The water was very gentle, not turbulent, providing a wonderful ‘time-out’. Crossing the stream we reached a Shiva temple. The temple, covered with dry leaves, bared an antiquated look which stood against a sylvan background. We inquired with the priest if there is a ‘sangam‘ of two rivers for the Shiva Temple to exist, his answer was ‘no’.

Marching through muddy trails left by hundred others who had been to the ‘summit’, we reached a stream studded with several hundred boulders of different sizes. Owing to the time of the year, the stream did not carry much water. From tiny pebbles to massive boulders, each one seemed unmoved for a long time. This was of course down-stream.

Climbing higher and higher, the terrain did become steeper, waters more turbulent and hurdles more difficult to cross. Eventually, we reached the top and arrived at the first falls. Thought not exactly breath taking, we were humbled by the sheer size of the boulder and the diversity that nature had to offer.
Climbing higher, we reached a small place where the water was prudent. We had lunch and then got to the site which was out intended ‘summit’. The giant wall like hills beside us forming a ‘v’ shaped valley and a narrow but deep body of water against us led to the second falls. A striking contrast to the temperature outside and the that of cold water was unexpected. The water inviting us to swim was hard to say ‘no’ to. If there is ever a reason to learn swimming, then it is to swim to falls and feel the water pounding on you back and chest. Camera couldn’t have been taken closer to the falls.

This was not the last. We decided to climb higher upon learning that there is a bigger falls up ahead. Assisted by some signs (man-made) and some creepers hitched to trees beside steps-like-arranged stones, we made it to the most absorbing scenery of all.

We then decided to head back to the base. On the way back, I got to capture these mesmerizing photographs of water showers from top of the hills. The calm waters made a slow and continuous sound draining itself into the river below. We were right under the cold natural showers.

The way back was more arduous then we thought it would be. Tracing the way back proved more and more difficult with every step forward. The base camp did not seem that far the same day morning. Sweating profusely all through, we made it back after over 12 km of walking up and down. To make matters worse, we had stand in the bus from Tada to Chennai for over 90 minutes. It took us two days to recover from the trek.
Check this for more pics.
Trekkers: Bharath(Nama), Manohar(Muggu), Maruti (Maro), Ravi (Cavi), Ravish(Bulby), Shyam(Peter) and Yours Truly….
Also check this for a post on our trip to Hogenakkal

But, Not So Seriously…

Here are some ‘not-so-serious’ questions which i have pondered over and haven’t found answers to in quite a while. If you do know the answers, lemme know.

Where are the pretty girls in trains or buses in which i travel? I never find them. I have traveled, like a million times, between Chennai and Bangalore, never have i seen a pretty girl in my coach. How the hell do they travel? The reservation list is devoid of anyone between 18 and 25. Damn my luck! Do they always enjoy the luxuries of first class, airplane or something? It could be true, they seem to find all comforts way too easily. They jump queues, get away with parking tickets, shed some tears and ‘earn’ a free ice cream and what not. As George Costanza puts it: Pretty women; they get everything.

What’s with the ISO9001 certificates? All it says is, “document everything you do, you will in our privileged list.” If you have knowledge about an impending disaster or of all the things that can go wrong, write it, announce it and have your fifteen seconds of fame receiving the certificate. Everybody seems to have those certificates anyway. If am not wrong, there will be a day when matrimonial sites’ profile claims, “my life is ISO9001 certified, my whole lifestyle is documented here. Interested?”

Why do drivers honk when the signal is red? Or when the LED display shows 10 seconds for the light to turn green? Which school do those people come from? I can read people, i know when to stop and when to move. Is it because of what Jerry Seinfeld claims? Men try to impress women. They call out for them. This man is running out of ideas. Look what he is doing to get attention!

When will the older generation realize that weekends are meant to have fun and not to rest? They tell me on Wednesdays after a tiring day, “you don’t stay at home on Sundays, that’s why you tired now.” Why do I need to remind my parents every time that I have ‘plans’? Just like any average, conservative, god-fearing south Indian family, my enormously inquisitive family wants me to be a ‘nice’ guy. What’s the point? It is the bad ones who get to have all the fun.

Why are the big names in bollywood movies always Malhotras, Saxenas, Sharmas, Mishras or Guptas? Its high time we have reservations for the other ‘lower’ names that are being under-represented. No wonder south Indian names don’t sound so cool! Give us a Sastry as a successful lawyer, and we will show that we can be the handsome hunks of the country. Why can’t a Murthy be a protagonist who is the apple of everyone’s eyes? More on that here (funniest blog post ever).

What is a conductor (or maestro) doing in a opera performance? What signals can he possibly send to the ones who are actually playing an instrument. To me it looks as if he is struggling to cover himself with a blanket when he lies down to sleep.

Why are all the shampoos and detergent ‘new and improved’? When were we using the ‘old and ineffective’?

Why is a couple congratulated when the wife is pregnant? I totally understand the gesture when the baby is born, it does take some effort, but not anytime before. Come on, it not like it can’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t take big efforts either. Believe me when I say it’s been done to death. **

How come some of us don’t understand that the ‘proposals’ they are talking about are actually ‘pick up lines’ and that dating doesn’t mean falling in love? In one of the threads on Orkut dating community: How did you propose the first time? Huh? First time? Dude, there aren’t many Ross Gellers in this planet you know. Orkut dating communities are treat for anyone with a great appetite for laughter.

When will Americans get rid of the notion that anti-war is anti-American and absorb the notion that George Bush is an Idiot? Perhaps George Bush himself can figure them out! Both of them. He can’t be that dumb…..or can he?

Why does Bangalore times try to spread an unrealistic culture? One of the issues spelled out, “youngsters today spend about Rs. 250 everyday on eat-out and joints like cafe coffee day.” Whoa!!!!! Not everyone is a biological offspring of a Malhotra or a Saxena. There are still those people who never find the need to fill the secret pockets in their trousers, let alone finding one of their drinks or their service appalling.

Talking about what I find, appalling, it is the grotesque paintings of Picasso. How do people find it appealing instead? Deemed ineducable, he must have spent his entire life time in solitary confinement. He absolutely had no idea what a human being looked like. The only reason the paintings remotely resembled a human being is because they walked on two legs and had exactly two eyes, a nose, a mouth and two ears, but brutally out of proportion.

Why does everyone call me coolshankin? It is not just with one friend circle but everyone. I know that the ID is pretty lame, but it is just my email address (at least before i started blogging). When people can’t get around teasing me, they just call me ‘coolshankin’ and smile. Helpless, I smile back. In my defense, it sounded “cool” way back in eight standard when i made my yahoo id.

Lastly, of many who read this post, why is it that only a few leave a comment? Every post I write, I manage to send offliners in yahoo and send messages over gtalk and spam the orkut account announcing the “publication” and asking for comments, yet only a handful leave a comment. My site meter shows over 30 visits, but only 5-6 comments.

If you have any questions nagging you or answers to some questions above, do comment. This post is no way intended to offend Picasso, his fans, Seinfeld or any other great artist in the same way as Sony did not intend to offend Christians with the release of The Da Vinci Code and as Aamir Khan did not intend to bring down the name of Gujarat with his noble request to help people which BJP has a problem with. Everything must be taken in jest. That raises a couple of more ‘not-so -serious’ questions, doesn’t it?

** “done to death” was Elaine’s reaction on having babies….as an afterthought, that paragraph was rather unnecessary