Sunday, December 01, 2013
Book Review: The Best Of Ruskin Bond
The book’s blurb reads: “This volume brings together the best of Ruskin Bond’s prose and poetry. For over four decades, by way of innumerable novels, essays, short stories and poems, the author has mapped out and peopled a unique literary landscape. This anthology has selections from all of his major books and includes the classic novella ‘Delhi Is Not Far’.
What review can you write about somebody whose mere name evokes a sense of nostalgia about the hills? Whose writing transports us directly into the markets of Dehradun & Mussoorie?
This book is a collection of his writings categorized into Love and Friendship, Tales of the Macabre, From A Little Room, On The Road, Love Poems & extracts from his novels. It also includes Time Stops at Shamli & Delhi Is Not Far.
For me, personally, the best part about Bond’s writing is his focus – he is passionate in weaving stories around the hills. Pick up any story from the book and you can visualize the sun rising/setting in the mountains, the long winding roads, the smell of fresh air, the varied flora & fauna and the different types of people residing there.
Bond is a keen observer of people and he puts those observational skills to good use in his writing. In addition to the physicality of people that he so vividly describes, he also brings out their nature very well. And the way he brings to life these characters it is almost as if you are seeing a live movie.
Though the theme running through the book is common, each story is different from the other. He speaks about being a pedestrian and loving to walk, the difficulty of making new friends, spirituality at the Ganges, his love for books, the local tea-shop being the gossip spot, falling in love, etc.
And while almost all his sentences seem like poetry in motion, a few that stayed with me were: “Nostalgia is simply an attempt to try and preserve that which was good in the past. The past has served us: why not serve the past in this way?”; “And when all the wars are done, a butterfly will still be beautiful.”
I would strongly suggest reading this book to someone who wants to know what it is like to live in the hills – not as a tourist, but as a local. For someone like me who has lived pretty much her entire life in a big city, this book offered a nice contrast. For me, Ruskin Bond made the hills come alive and become more romantic. Through this book, I have tasted the local tea and snacks, had interesting conversations with strangers after the Sunday mass at the church, foraged through libraries in search of good books, taken train journeys from one small town to another and dreamt of living the big city life while sitting at a window that overlooks the valley. If a single book is able to do all that, would you not want to read it?