Omnibus

Childhood memories woven in silken tapestry of words coming out of a master’s pen as if an artist is painting the canvas with vibrant strokes of joyful and innocent colors. Misty sometimes-cloudy

hillocks and the drops of dew frozen like pearls, captured dangling loosely off that tiny twig, birds chirping in the valley somewhere far from the humdrum of the common place, sun lazily making its way out of the cozy comforts of the clouds as if nestled in a quilt of encompassing love and warmth, overnight mist tricking down a tin shade in tiny droplets of water, ah that heavenly bliss and paradisiacal dream, who would not want to live that dream albeit how short lived it be.

That’s the carefree charm of a man possessed with his dreams, almost like a weaver skillfully carving his finest masterpiece painstakingly thread after thread, as he is alienated for that time and moment from everything else in the world and is transformed into his own cosmos where he is untouched by the vagaries, pains and concerns of the populace. Like a musician playing his chords and humming his tunes unfazed by the din around him for he is at the peak of his skill and in a state of mind one akin to mental nirvana nay moksha. These are just some random thoughts which come rushing to the mind when one talks about the works of the man from Kasauli, Ruskin Bond. Without a shade of doubt is he the foremost storyteller of our times and he has created such magic with words that I for one am a hardcore fan of his.

This review goes out very especially for my dear friends and avid book lovers Swathi aka Chimera and Saurabh aka rexsjain, both of whom are die-hard Bond fans just like me.

Nostalgia fills my mind when I read his works, for I sense a connection between his stories and my childhood memories. Most of his stories are based in the serene locales of the hills, nestled in nature’s own abode and unruffled by the vagaries of the outside world. His stories have a world of their own much like the one each of us used to have when we were child. We did not care a jack for the problems facing everyone else around for all that mattered to us was having loads of fun and having a merry time. His stories talk about those carefree days and he talks about those times which one longs for and sometimes we feel that those times are gone not to come back again. Maybe through his stories I have lived those days once again and felt that yearning again and I am sure all of us who have read his stories would echo this sentiment of mine.

Indian to the core despite Bond’s British background, he does not write about India from a Euro centric perspective. Having lived the majority of his life in India, he knows the country as an insider, writing with an authenticity and emotional engagement about the land and the people of the Himalayas and small-town India. His works highlights the juxtaposition of his protagonists’ individual dramas against larger social, moral, and metaphysical issues. Also the autobiographical and regional elements in Bond’s work provide insight into universal themes such as the tension between past and present, city life versus rural values, the dignity of ordinary folk, preservation of the environment, and living in harmony with nature. Despite of being a much sought after writer he still prefers to live in the sleepy foothills of the Himalayas and his stories are still based in the same locales and ambience.

Simplicity is thy name seems to be his motto, for what strikes one about his works is the simple yet wonderful plots he has for his stories. Be it the close bond between a young boy and his grandmother and their long trek to buy a new pair of reading glasses in a long walk with granny; a bicycle ride which becomes a nightmare for a young boy when he encounters the strange duo of a brother and sister on a lonely road in the haunted bicycle; the hilarious adventures of a family traveling on a train with their unusual pets. A rich cast of characters exert their magical spell, whether it is Uncle Ken, who flits from job to job; or Miss Mackenzie whose love for flowers become a common link between her and a young schoolboy; or Toto the little frisky monkey, whose exploits make for delightful reading.

Definitely Bond , “I know that only the more gentle kind of person is likely to care much for my stories”, wrote Ruskin Bond in the ’’Introduction’’ to the Penguin India anthology of his works, Night Train at Deoli and Other Stories. When he wrote this line in 1988 he appeared to be fairly conscious about three things: his own spirit and mood that was embodied in his works; the attributes of a gentle reader, given the reading habits of the consumer; and that he had never in the past, or would in future, compromise his attitude to life and storytelling even if it did not bode well for his success in the changing times. Perhaps this was one of many factors responsible for his popularity as a children’s writer, despite many of his stories being addressed to the child in the adult. Ironically, the adventurous pranksters who constitute the child community are anything but gentle.

His books and poems have a mellow and haunting aura. For Bond, life is not about dramatic and momentous incidents, but of tranquility lost and regained, of love and romance and nature, where time is the catalyst of change. His success as a writer lies in the fact that he writes from the heart and his stories are not based in some place outside the world and his works have a universal appeal both in geographies and age groups. He talks to the child and adults with the same tone and passion. Some of his well known stories like the woman on platform no.8, the blue umbrella, angry river, grandfather’s private zoo, the night train to Shamli, time stops at Shamli, the kite maker, the monkeys, Chachi’s funeral or for that matter his novels/novellas like The room on the roof, Delhi is not far, The sensualist, A flight of pigeons, Vagrants in the valley all conform his position as one of India’s best story tellers.

I will sum up my review on this phenomenal storyteller with these words which he wrote in his last essay in The Lamp Is Lit, “And there are many brave and good Indian writers, who work in their own language, be it Bengali or Oriya or Telugu or Marathi or fifteen to twenty others and plough their lonely furrow without benefit of agent or media blitz or Booker prize. Some of them may despair. But even so, they work on in despair. Their rewards may be small, their readers few, but it is enough to keep them from turning off the light. For they know that the pen, in honest and gifted hands, is mightier than the grave.” He then goes on to write “and these are my parting words to you, dear Reader: May you have the wisdom to be simple, and the humor to be happy.” Indeed sir your works over the years have taught us all just how to be simple and how to find humor in the simplest of things of life.

Questions
Which for you is the best story of Bond and why? Which of his novel inspires you the most to be happy and cheerful always?
Which other Indian writer would match the genius and simplicity of Ruskin Bond?
What is so different about him that other Indian writers like Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Pankaj Mishra or Arundhati Roy did not have?

Omnibus 9.9 of 10 on the basis of 2742 Review.