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.